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cicada by mondays child used under creative commons licence
In many ways, baseball was perfectly suited to the Japanese. Before the Meiji Era, the very idea of recreational sport was nonexistent in Japan. The physical arts that were practiced were military in nature: swordsmanship, archery, horse riding, etc. Some say that these Japanese arts lacked a team element, and this new game fit well in a culture where group harmony is paramount. Maybe it helped that baseball has, at its heart, a powerful one-on-one confrontation between pitcher and batter, not unlike Kendo, Judo, Sumo and other martial arts. Perhaps it helped that the baseball bat could be handled much like the wooden swords used in Kendo. Many say that the complexity and strategy of baseball, and the time to consider strategy before and after each move, is what makes baseball so appealing to the Japanese. What is clear is that baseball has reached a place of prominence in Japan that nobody could have foreseen.
Kokoyakyu High School Baseball
a cicada shell
it sang itself
a cicada sends
its sawing song
high into the empty air
the world is
a glass overflowing
Pablo Neruda, Ode to Enchanted Light
Pigeon friend of mine,
Fly on, sing on.
Carl Sandburg, Pigeon
蝉が鳴き semi ga naki 球児が泣いた kyuuji ga naita 甲子園 koushien
and baseball players crying
their last koshien
In Japan the peak heat of summer has passed. But every morning you can still hear the cicadas. And the pigeons and crows. The other day a car alarm went off and the cicadas seemed to reply.
One of the biggest Japanese sports events of the year is held in August. It's the National High School Baseball Championship, called Koshien for short. It is always held at the Hanshin Tigers Koshien baseball stadium between Osaka and Kobe. It's the essence of sport. Full of drama and excitement yet still pure and innocent. As the first epigraph quotation explains baseball distills down to a duel. An ultimate duel between pitcher and batter. High school baseball is a team sport. But in Japan it's also a martial art.
On the last day after the final the siren sounds to end a game for the last time. Until next year. It's the sound of summer ending.