Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sparkling into the High School Baseball Nationals

High school baseball in Japan dramatic slide to base
It's so much more exciting than pro-games; the kids hold nothing back and literally go for broke(n fingers)
(photo source)
It’s high school baseball season. Unless you have been in Japan at this time of year it is a little hard to describe how important high school baseball is. A friend commented last night that the first time he came to Japan it was during 甲子園 (koshien), the nationals, and he thought a natural disaster had occurred because everyone in the airport was crowded around the televisions watching in rapt silence. Did I forget to mention that it’s televised on the national broadcaster? Restaurants bring out TVs so no one misses the score during lunch. I’ve been asked to cut a teaching seminar short because teachers couldn’t be expected to miss a game. There are magazines dedicated to profiling the players (yes, we are still talking about high school kids here) and team strategies. Some kids are recruited directly into pro teams from the tournament, making it something like college sports in the US I guess. Basically, every boy who plays baseball dreams of making it to koshien. Boys who make it take back sand from the field and treasure it forever. In the TV drama I wrote about in relation to non-biological families, the protagonists’ motivation to foster his dead friend’s children comes not from their (apparently distant) adult relationship but from memories of going to koshien together in high school. It’s that important. In fact, it seems a little sad that for the kids who make it, that’s probably the peak of their lives at the grand old age of around 17. What else is going to compare with that?
Accepting the responsibility of representing the prefecture (photo source)
So this brings me to the reason for today’s post. Yesterday, in a thrilling match (I saw this as someone with no interest in sports and the very Australian habit of referring to the pitcher as the bowler), my husband’s school won the right to play at koshien this year. The school hasn’t made it there since 1997. I hope my introductory paragraph has sufficiently backgrounded you on what a big f-ing deal this is. Obviously I am happy that his kids did well, but there’s more to it than that; some of his kids used to be my kids. I teach K-9, meaning that I have the privilege of teaching kids across their transitions between kindergarten and elementary, and elementary to junior high. Then, some kids graduate and head off to the school my husband teaches at. He has students now that I taught in elementary. It’s beyond words how lucky I am to be able to see them grow up across such a broad time period. So the baseball team’s win yesterday was pretty emotional for me, too. One boy in particular I had in JHS has always had as his dream going to koshien. I never took it that seriously, because like I said, all baseball boys dream of that. But yesterday I got to see him, now more of a man than the boy I taught, making his dream come true. That is pure magic. I’ve done my fair share of bitching and moaning about my job, but there is nothing in the world that could replace the joy I have been able to experience working with these kids. 
This kid is going to be a pro sooner rather than later (photo source)
I’m sorry for the horrible quality (filming my projector with one hand while furiously texting all the other ALTs with the other) but here’s a taste of the final moments. One of the boys on the winning team has a younger brother on the losing team, I think you can probably spot them in this video.

Not only parents but the entire school comes out to watch and cheer for these matches. The kids have synchronised cheers they do non-stop for hours in the sun, as do the parents. The school band plays a different theme-song for each player, and during the “chorus” all the kids chant the player’s name. This isn’t just for home-games; the ENTIRE SCHOOL will travel to Hyogo prefecture for the finals. It’s phenomenal. Personally everything I know about baseball comes from the drama Rookies (excerpt below). Every episode the teacher/coach tells the kids to キラキラ into tomorrow. The translation used in the except I uploaded is “shine”, which is probably more natural in this situation, but when we watched the show the man and I enjoyed translating it as “sparkle”, which is the more common meaning. Hence the title of this blog post. Rookies is well worth a watch for the high melodrama, but also for Hayato Ichihara, who I find strangely attractive.

Sparkle into tomorrow kids!  Make it count!
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  1. There are some posts of yours which really make me miss Japan (and you). This is one of those posts. I always wonder what my life would have been like had I returned to Japan to teach after Uni. I live my alternate life vicariously through you. Thank you so much for this blog.

    1. You're always so kind *sniff*. Seriously, come for a visit any time! I love the life we have here but it is a precarious one. We have nothing saved up to go "home" with and our stay is dependent on the whim of our local immigration office and the vagaries of the job market. All my friends in Australia own houses and have good long-term jobs, and I do experience envy at their security and permanency. I think we all live alternative choices vicariously ;)


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