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Noriko Named Raiderette of the Week





Eleven years ago, after a chance meeting in Hawaii, Raiderette Noriko made a decision that changed her life.

After growing up in her native country of Japan, the dancer and cheerleader decided to pursue a dream that she had been harboring for nearly a decade.

Still living in Japan, Noriko headed to Hawaii in 2003 for the Pro Bowl as part of a tour for Japanese cheerleaders to meet their American counterparts, and it was there that she met a Raiderette named Jeanette Thompson.

"She inspired me to be an NFL cheerleader," Noriko said when describing her first interactions with Thompson, who is now the Director of the Raiderettes. "It was a big thing in Japan, and also here of course. I wanted to be like her."

After the week's festivities, the pair went their separate ways; Thompson back to California and Noriko back to Japan. However, the Japanese national returned home with a new dream- to become a Raiderette and cheer on the Oakland Raiders.

Five years later, she took the next step in making that dream a reality when she permanently moved to the United States.

Noriko arrived in a new land, unsure of many things, but still fiercely determined to cheer for the Silver and Black.

The next three years tested Noriko's resolve as she auditioned to become one of Football's Fabulous Females, but came up just short in each of her first three attempts. However, she never gave up on her aspirations, and was named to the team after her fourth season's attempt.

Now entering her second season cheering on the Raiders, Noriko is becoming more accustomed to life as an NFL cheerleader.

"I'm much more comfortable," she said, describing the differences between her first and second seasons. "I know what's going on."

That being said, she still struggles at times grasping what the coaches and director are saying in English and relies on the help of her teammates to communicate to her what needs to be done.

"I know some stuff from last year, but I still feel like I'm a rookie," she said. "I still don't understand what they say sometimes so I have to ask the captains or the line captain to make sure of what they're saying. I still feel new."

Regardless of the language barrier, Noriko is a tireless worker, and her work didn't go unnoticed during her rookie campaign, as she was named the Raiderette Rookie of the Year for the 2013 season.

"It was amazing. I didn't expect it at all," she said. "I didn't always know what was going on, I had to ask everybody, but I was chosen as Rookie of the Year and it was amazing."

After a long journey, Noriko is finally getting the opportunity to live out her dream, and she is relishing every moment of it. As much as she enjoys the thrill of game day and cheering on the Raiders at Coliseum, the most valuable part of the job to her is what she is able to give back to others.

"Many people tell me that I inspire them because I came all the way from Japan," she said. "I accomplished what I wanted to be and won Rookie of the Year at the same time. I inspire them to pursue their dreams and that's the most exciting feeling."

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