Japan from the inside out

The year Kano almost won the pennant

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 25, 2012

MANY people know of Japan’s National High School Baseball Championship, a single-elimination tournament held every August at Koshien Stadium in Hyogo. The largest amateur sporting event in Japan, it has been held since 1915 and is commonly referred to as Koshien for the park where it is played.

Not as well known, however, is that a team from Taiwan reached the finals in 1931, during the imperial era, and almost won the championship.

That might change soon — the Taiwanese are making a movie about it set for release in 2014, as Dan Bloom reports in the Taipei Times. He explains:

Imperial Japan in those days had colonies in Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria, and teams from those regions were invited to Koshien if they made the grade. But only the Kano team from Taiwan was invited to the all-Japan championships, and not just once, according to Masato Fujishima, a Japanese reporter for the Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, but five times. However, it was only the 1931 team that played their hearts out all the way to the Koshien finals.

Other sources say the team was viewed at the time as a symbol of integration because its members included the children of Japanese settlers, aboriginal Taiwanese, and Han Chinese. Their success helped popularize the sport in that country.

On the other hand, Dan tells me that the Koshien appearance came one year after the Wushe massacre, in which a Taiwanese indigenous tribe killed 134 Japanese. That resulted in the Japanese killing about 1,000 of them. Thus, there were still internal tensions on the team. The director of the movie about Kano also directed a movie about the massacre last year.

You can read Dan’s article here.

And you can see a Taiwanese news program feature on the team here, with the bonus of contemporary films and photos. Ain’t the Internet grand?

5 Responses to “The year Kano almost won the pennant”

  1. Yes, the internet IS grand! thanks for this post. More in 2014….!

  2. Re: Baseball movie about 1931 Japan HS finals on tap in Taiwan for 2014 release

    Need to remember that this hero baseball team in colonized Taiwan of 1931 was doing their thing just ONE YEAR after the 1930 Wushu Uprising and Masscare in central Taiwan where a band of local Aborines, angry at the way their japanese colonizers were treating them, rose up in rebellion and massaced 124 Japanese men woman and kids in broad daulight during a sports day event in Taiwan, A year later, KANO high school is fielding a team of 4 Abogine boys, 3 Han Chinese Taianese boys and 2 Japanese boys. OUCH? How did the Aborigines REALLy feel about playing baseball for their oppressors?

    An academic PHD bloke tells me: ”Some 134 Japanese — men, women and children, in cold blood, in broad daylight — were massacred in what came to be known as the Musha (Chinese: Wushe) Incident (霧社事件), before the J-military brutally quelled the rebellion with aerial attacks and poisonous gas. Leo Ching has documented very skillfully how this violent uprising “deeply shook, [and] momentarily destabilized, Japanese rule” in Taiwan Island Colony and how Japanese cultural producers reacted by creating stories and films in subsequent years that reordered the relationship between colonizer and “savage.” An example was the propaganda song and film “The Bell of Sayon,” about an Aboriginal maiden who dies helping her Japanese teacher (and local police officer) carry his luggage down a steep mountain pass. Like the British mythologization of Pocahontas, this discourse was meantto “[transform] the aborigines from an unruly population to patriotic subjects in the post-Musha era.”While Ching’s reading of these cultural productions is astute, the time lag between Musha and these works – for example, the film “Sayon” was released 13 years later, in 1943 – complicates notions of directly causal connection. The realm of baseball, by this time crucial to notions of modernity and nationalism in Japan, is another cultural space in which both colonizer and subject addressed much more immediately the implications of the bloodshed of October 1930′.’

  3. Leinad Moolb said

    I was speaking emailing with a student of Asian baseball history, an academic, and he told me this, when I asked if he thought the NEW movie set for 2014 would be TRUE to the reality of what Taiwan 1931 was really like under the colonial HEEL, almost wrote HELL, of Imperial Japan. He told me:

    “I think we can all more or less guess how Producer Wei’s film
    directed by UMIN BOYA will look when it is released in 2014. — lots
    of Japanese ”toughness” and ”discipline”, the three ”races” —
    ethnic groups — Japanese, Aboriginal and Han Chinese/Taiwanese facing
    tough challenges and prejudices from each other but ultimately coming
    to respect each other and working together to win out, and of course
    some love stories (probably also cross-ethnic) complicating things
    along the way.

    But another way to look at the concept of making a feature movie about
    KANO in 1931 would have to start with the marginality of the Kano
    team. This was the ”out-of-the-way” school for the
    ”’lesser-talented students” in an ”’out-of-the-way town”, in South
    Taiwan, farmer’s country, rural and isolated, and KANO at the time in
    1931 was one of the very few secondary schools that seemed to be
    admitting Aborigine students. It’s was long way from that other elite
    local school across town, Kagi High, where all the ”good” Japanese
    students and ”elite Taiwanese” went, and of course this was a long
    way from the “good” schools in the bigger cities. The real Japanese
    disciplinarian and very strict Coach Hyotaro KONDO seems to have been
    a miserable ”hard-ass” dick who put up with all sorts of ”violent
    behavior” toward his players in the name of ”discipline”. He may
    have used racist words out loud to his players ”sardonically” but at
    the same time as a Japanese colonial master, he related to Taiwanese
    and Aborigine students via ”racist names” and labels. It seems an
    ultimate cliche, but his singular focus on baseball and teamwork does
    seem to have won many of his KANO players over to his way of doing
    things. We today have no way of knowing if the “tri-racial
    cooperation” thing — with the three ethnic groups working at a TEAM
    — actually worked in reality. The Taiwanese, Japanese and Aborigine
    players may very well have despised each other in the year of 1931.
    Remeber: that’s history back then, not some Hollywood
    romantic baseball movie! But on the other hand, one must admit that
    Coach Kondo seems to have been a very fine coach who, in another
    cliche, really did ”turn this little school’s team into a
    powerhouse” that, in yet another cliche, became a ”fan favorite” in
    Japan of 1931 for what they represented — the victory of Japanese
    colonialism!. See!
    In 1931, the Japanese people were ”desperate” for some sign of
    colonial success and the KANO team does seem to have been it. That’s
    the REAL story but it will never be told in this 2014 Taiwanese flick.
    It will be a romantic love story baseball movie, and it will be very
    successful. Because MYTH trumps REALITY everytime!

  4. Leinad Moolb said

    and BTW, not for public disclosure yet, but you remember MYSTERY TRAIN movie by Jim Jarmusch in 1989, starring
    Masatoshi Nagase and Yuki Kudoah and produced/funded by JVC a Japanese firm? Well, Mr Nagase, no longer 22 years old but now 46 has been trapped to play the strict Japanese COACH KONDO in the new movie. I met him on the set yesterday, and said hello but he was surrounded,. read PROTECTED on set, by his translator and his Japanese agent, and when I later asked the crew if i could have a short chat with him, they told me, the taiwanese crew told me after conferring by walkie talkie with their boss, also Taiwanese, that I would first have to contact Mr Nagase’s agency in Tokyo and submit my questuions by fax first. IMAGINE, how insane Japan is, even when its stars go overseas….!

  5. It’s official now, Masatoshi Nagase will appaer in the movie KANO for release in 2013 as the strict coach Hondo, and 3 other J actors will be in the movie too, Maki Sakii as Coach’s wife, and also Tako Ozawa as the famis enginner Hatta Yoichi in the 1930s, and also Last of the Samurai actor Toko Izawa as well. The weird thing is that the Taiwanese TV media and local people when speaking of these actors do not pronounce their actual names in Japanese or even romaji sounds, but instead they read the kanji characters in the Chinese Mandarin pronounciation style so Nagase Masatoshi is know in Tawian as Yinpoo Goopee and the others are called Inchnee Toopure and Anchi Growpun and Unto Magpie. I have tried to ask the Tawianese media to write the names in roman letters in the newspapers and to say the real Japanese names. but nobody is listen to me. Namie Amuro is called AN SOO NE MAY in Taiwan and PUNCHI POO is Ayuki Hamayaki the singer. Oi.

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