Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

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?

Posted in History, Sports, Taiwan | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

All you have to do is look (116)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 23, 2012

Judges examining the ring to see if sumo rikishi Harumafuji stepped out with his left foot.

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, Photographs and videos, Sports, Traditions | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (99)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A commemorative photograph taken in Miyzaki after a sumo youth tournament. The former grand champion Takanohana is third from the right in the rear.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports, Traditions | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (89)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, October 27, 2012

World Boxing Association women’s strawweight (105 lbs. max) champion Miyao Ayaka, from Chikuwa, Nagano, after her title match last month. She won by a 3-0 judges’ decision. This seems to be the last round.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (88)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 26, 2012

The opening of a new curling rink in Sapporo last month. It is the first in the country to be open year-round.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (67)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To follow up yesterday’s photo of three archer/samurai, here is Kawanaka Kaori of Tottori giving an archery demonstration at the prefectural governor’s residence last month. She was a member of the Japanese women’s team that won a bronze medal in archery at the London Olympics this summer.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports, Traditions | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (60)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scenes from the National Sake Barrel Tug of War Championships held at the end of last month in Nagaoka, Niigata. The event started in 1965, and nine male and five female teams participated this year. Each match was divided into three rounds, and the winner was the first team to win two rounds.

Note the paper folded into a zigzag shape on top of the barrels. That’s called a shide, and is used to denote a sacred space in Shinto.

The photo above comes from the Hibi Zakka website

Posted in Photographs and videos, Popular culture, Sports | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

LOTS of folks enjoy testing their strength, whether in Olympic weightlifting, the grip strength machines at beachfront boardwalks, or the annual Chikaraishi Soja at Soja, Okayama. In that last event, men and women of all ages squat down and lift rocks and concrete blocks in the yard outside the Soja-gu Shinto shrine, competing to see who can hold the pose the longest.

The heavy lifting happens every year at the end of August, and this year about 200 people showed up to spit on their hands and heave away. There are 23 different weights ranging from 1.9 to 180 kilograms, which allows anyone of any age to muscle up and go. The idea is to lift it the stone 10 centimeters off the ground and hold it for 10 seconds. After that, the person who holds on the longest wins. One 74-year-old man was an inspiration for us all by successfully lifting and holding a rock weighing 135 kilograms. That’s about 50% more than I weigh.

The event isn’t a casual neighborhood affair, either. The male champion was Sugimoto Katsuhiro, a civil servant who came over from Kashihara, Nara. He’s won two years in a row, five times in all, and holds the holding record at 59.55 seconds. The women’s winner was Mitsuhata Akemi (31), a temporary employee at a local junior high. She stood up and held on to a 120-kilogram rock to win for the fifth straight year and 12th time overall.

The city of Soja has posted several pleasant Youtube videos to promote tourism, and here’s the one with scenes from last year’s event, including Mr. Sugimoto’s winning hoist. You might break into a sweat just watching it.

Posted in Popular culture, Sports | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (43)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yamamoto Mariko, the national women’s kendo champion

Photo from the Sankei Shimbun

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports, Traditions | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

How sporting of them

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 2, 2012

THE above photo showing a taxicab with the warning that the driver will refuse to accept Korean passengers was taken in Taiwan.

Unseen by the media eye in Japan and the West — but not in the Sinosphere — is that anti-Korean sentiment is ablaze in Taiwan. It’s become so heated that President Ma Ying-jeou has asked his countrymen to keep the cool head.

There’s been a long-simmering irritation in Taiwan with the behavior of Korean athletes and judges in international sporting competitions. It’s based on the widespread perception that the Koreans play and judge dirty. There is also irritation at Korean media and Net user behavior when they’re displeased by unfavorable results in those competitions. This being East Asia, there are additional complications, and one of them is the charge, even in Taiwan, that pro-PRC Taiwanese use the Koreans as a target to redirect anger from the mainland.

Emotions started to boil two years ago when Taiwanese representative Yang Shu-jun was favored to win a medal at the Asia taekwondo championships, and you can see where this is leading. The dispute arose when Ms. Yang was in the process of trouncing her Vietnamese opponent. The judge disqualified her mid-match for having one sensor too many on the backs of both her shoes. The sensors detect strikes of the opponent, and the extra sensor might have made it easier to score points.

Ms. Yang was told to remove the sensors during a pre-match inspection. After she passed the mandatory formal inspection, a judge spotted the sensors again during the match, which caused the disqualification. That touched off a Youtube link battle with videos of the match and Internet combatants insisting there was nothing extrasensory about her footwear at all. The Taiwanese were also upset because the decision was made without giving their side a chance to explain. That the match judge was a Filipino citizen of Korean ancestry and the World Taekwando Federation secretary-general is Korean made it all the more entertaining for everyone.


The most recent Taiwanese explosions started with Korean complaints of unfair judging during the London Olympics.

One incident involved South Korean fencer Shin A-lam, who lost a match against a German opponent after a dispute over whether there was a timekeeping foul-up. The South Koreans appealed and lost that too. Ms. Shin stayed on the floor waiting for the result of the appeal, because leaving would have meant that she accepted the ruling. The English-language media described this as a “sit-in protest”. She was finally led away before the decision was announced.

The call of All Hands to Battle Stations went out in the South Korean media, whose scribes make the lads of Fleet Street look like choirboys, the tabloids included. The Kyunghyang Shinmun complained that the South Koreans were a target of the judges, and they began to refer to the Olympics as the “Oshimpics”. That’s a bilingual pun using the Korean word oshim for judging mistake. (The Japanese know the same word as 誤審, or goshin.) The newspaper added:

“England is said to be the country of gentlemen, but it is being criticized for having none of the characteristics of gentlemen at all. The errors in judgment are concentrated against Koreans.”

Others pointed out the reason for all the mistakes was that the 2012 Olympic mascot had only one eye.

This being South Korea, they were most upset at three decisions in which their worthies came out on the short end in matches involving Japanese athletes. One in particular that brought forth gale-strength gusts of hot air was a judo match between Ebinuma Masashi of Japan and Cho Jun-ho of South Korea. Mr. Cho was declared the winner, but members of the Referee Commission of the International Judo Federation immediately intervened to point out that Mr. Ebinuma was not given credit for a successful attack. The decision was reversed and the victory awarded to the Japanese athlete. From the South Korean news media:

* “This favoritism for Japan was obvious.”

* “Was Japan the reason for the reversal?…Cho’s opponent was from Japan, the judo colonial power, and unseen pressure overturned the judges’ decisions.”

Yes, they said “colonial power”.

* “Overturning the decision was unprecedented. What we can understand from this is that unimaginable power was exerted by Japan, the country where judo originated…The entire world should support the victory of our South Korean nation.”

There were also complaints that a Japanese judge was responsible. No Japanese names were among the several judges and commission members mentioned in the British newspaper reports I read.

The reaction in China

This behavior piqued the interest of Chinese sports fans. A column on the Sina news network said the Koreans should stop complaining because the adverse decisions were the result of “cause and effect”. The author added that Koreans did nothing but complain and looked at things only from their perspective.

A thread on this topic began on the bulletin board connected to the Baidu search engine in China. Here’s a sample of the comments as reported in the Chinese media.

* The South Korean surefire method of victory when they lose is to blame it on the judges.

* This again? Koreans are Koreans, I guess. Frogs at the bottom of the well.

* The only thing the Koreans know how to do is blame judges.

* In other words, what they’re saying is they would have won if the judge were Korean.

* This is really tiring. Why don’t we just save ourselves all the trouble and let the Koreans win everything?

* Before long the Korean media will be saying that the Japanese winner really has Korean blood.

If you’re keeping score at home, this is touché times six.

Thus began a new game on the Taiwanese Internet: Let’s see how we can take the piss out of the Koreans by redesigning their flag. Here’s one example.

Another included replacing the blue and red circle in the middle with two pigs embracing, and yet another replaced the disc with a steaming pile of dung. More diversions were provided by launching a cyber-attack on the website of the office of the South Korean president, burning Korean flags, and throwing eggs at Korean schools. That’s when both President Ma and Yang Shu-jun asked everyone to settle down.

Little of this, as far as I’ve seen, has appeared directly in the Japanese mass media. I found most of it on the websites that offer direct Japanese translations of articles from the Chinese media and websites.

One Japanese news aggregator picked up a survey conducted by Yahoo! South Korea, which found that 62.2% of the Korean respondents thought the South Korean government should get involved to actively oppose the desecration of the national flag. They knew their readers would be amused to see the Korean response once the shoe was stuck on the other foot. After all, the Japanese have seen plenty of these photos:

Meanwhile, the South Korean news media started chewing on some bloody shirts of their own in their flag featurettes. They scrutinized KBS film from the Japan-South Korea soccer match at the Olympics until they found this one shot:

That fully unfurled the anger of the South Korean New Daily news website. They were upset because FIFA declared the Bak Jong-soo pitch trot — which they referred to as “the Dokdo ceremony” — to be political, and therefore out of bounds. New Daily agreed that what one fan does in the stands isn’t the same as what an athlete does on the playing field, BUT:

“This flag, which is strictly prohibited by the international community, was overlooked by FIFA, which thought that a reference to Dokdo of the Republic of Korea (大韓民国) was political. These people are are true Japanese sympathizers. These London Olympics have shown that FIFA has zero diplomatic ability in sports.”

That the flag in question is “strictly prohibited by the international community” will come as news to the international community. Incidentally, accusing someone in South Korea of being a Japanese sympathizer in the current climate is the rough equivalent of claiming that they read a chapter of Mein Kampf every night before bed.

That’s created some synergy with the local dish of histrionics du jour:

As always, the Japanese mass media is the epitome of sang-froid when incidents such as these arise. You don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s a clip from the Japanese broadcast of the women’s basketball match between Japan and South Korea in Ankara in June for a berth in the Olympics that Japan won 79-51. Japanese language ability isn’t required to understand the tone of voice when the play-by-play announcers watch the Korean team deploy their “boxing out” techniques. South Korea is in black and Japan is in white.

Posted in China, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, South Korea, Sports, Taiwan | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

All you have to do is look (31)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A team from Kitasuna, Tokyo, after winning the Little League World Series in Williamsport PA by beating a team from Tennessee 12-2.

Photo by AFP-Jiji

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »


Posted by ampontan on Sunday, August 19, 2012

THE middle-aged star of the regional horse racing circuit in Japan, Monakukabakichi, a 13-year-old male running out of the Fukuyama Municipal Track in Hiroshima, has hung up the silks and called it a career. He retired — or rather, his trainer retired him — after 55 wins. That’s a national record.

The track announcers should have gotten hazardous duty pay for having to say that name quickly when calling races over the past decade.

As with many aging athletes, the big guy could no longer overcome his physical problems. He finished sixth in his first race after setting the record last month, and the trainer decided that was that. His owner thinks it might have been due to all the fatigue that emerged after his prodigious win total. And to put it in perspective, he’s 50 years old in human terms. He must have been quite the magnificent specimen of horseflesh.

You’d think they’d want to create as many opportunities as possible to pass those genes into the future, but reports say the owner is thinking of sending him to a riding club for the rest of his days.

What? After years of record-breaking service, he’s being deprived of the chance to live on a stud farm?

Retired baseball and football players in the United States have special associations to look after their interests, but if no one takes up for Monakukabakichi, he’ll be nothing but an upscale beast of burden. Is that any way to treat a star?

Peter Singer would call that speciesism.

Here’s another red horse: the Red Horse Band. Be patient through the first minute and a half as they chat with the audience (or advance the video cursor). They’ve got a unique thing going. The percussionist also plays shakuhachi.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (12)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, August 9, 2012

The opening ceremony for the 94th National High School Baseball Championships at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Hyogo. It is an elimination tournament, which means that the eventual champion will have won every game starting at the prefectural championship round.

(Photo by Jiji news agency)

Posted in Education, Sports | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (9)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 6, 2012

Fans in Miyoshi, Aichi, stayed up late to watch hometown boy Morofushi Koji win a bronze medal in the Olympics for the hammer throw. He won the gold medal in the same event in Athens in 2004.

(Photo from Jiji)

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sports | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Grudge match

Posted by ampontan on Friday, August 3, 2012

THE combination of the hypernationalist undercurrent endemic to the Olympic Games and the two-ton chip on the Korean shoulder almost guarantees the emergence of a certain attitude familiar to those who live in Northeast Asia.

The following newspaper article appeared in the Japanese-language edition of the Joongang Ilbo this morning. (Many Korean newspapers translate some of their articles for Japanese-, English-, and Chinese-language editions.) Here it is in English. Please keep in mind that most of it is going from Korean to Japanese to English, and the soccer manager’s comments are going from English to Korean to Japanese to English.

Great Britain’s team in Olympics men’s soccer has again wounded the pride of the South Korean team coached by Hong Myung Bo.

Early in the morning of the 3rd (Korean time), Great Britain’s manager Stewart Pearce continued his dialogue with the British media at an official news conference at Cardiff Millennium Stadium that had the nuance of ignoring South Korea.

The news conference was about the quarterfinal round, but no questions arose about South Korea. The only questions were about those that had no direct relationship with the next match, such as the significance of playing with a unified British team (it combines players from England and Wales), the meaning that appearing in the Olympics has for the younger players, and the potential for a medal.

Watching this, the South Korean media could not remain indifferent, and asked the British manager to evaluate the South Korean team that his team would be playing in the quarterfinal. It was the first time that Pearce opened his mouth, and it was clearly lip service. As if he had been waiting for the question, he was enthusiastic in his praise for South Korea.

“In the three matches of the first round, South Korea gave up only one point. They have exceptional organizational strength. They are well prepared, and are a very complete team. They present a new look in technique and strategy in every match.”

But his attitude changed when he was asked to select a South Korean player that should be marked in particular. With a somewhat confused expression on his face, Pearce said, “I know South Korea only as a team. I am not as familiar with the individual players.” It was a string of excuses that didn’t rise to the level of excuses.

It isn’t only Pearce. The overall atmosphere of British soccer is much the same. They seem to be more concerned about whether they will beat Brazil, who is likely to be their opponent in the semifinal match, rather than South Korea in the quarterfinal match.

The objective of the South Korean team is not only to win their first soccer medal ever in the games. A compelling situation has now arisen for a victory to take down a peg soccer’s colonial power that disrespects South Korean soccer.

The newspaper’s tone was a bit different when their players got thrown out for trying to throw a two Olympic badminton matches. This is the extent of the admonitions I could find in Engish:

Korean head coach Sung Han-kook said after the match that he was fed up with the Chinese players’ actions, saying “it’s not in the Olympic spirit to play like this.”

However, it turned out that Korea is not in position to blame the other teams as Ha and Kim apparently tried to throw a match against Jauhari and Polii of Indonesia. The two teams also purposely gave up points and made mistakes in an attempt to avoid world No. 1 Wang and Yu in the quarterfinals.

“This is a shame and disappointment,” a netizen wrote on Web portal Naver. “What about other players who put their efforts forward to advance? It is right for these players to be disqualified.”

Some local badminton officials said that the Korean team’s actions weren’t proper, but they could understand why the badminton crew committed such an act since getting good results matters at the Olympics.

And some people wonder why Japan has a difficult time establishing stable diplomatic relations with South Korea.


To those who wonder if the tone of Japanese newspapers is the same, I offer this from 2008.

They get excited about soccer in South Korea.

Posted in Mass media, South Korea, Sports | Tagged: | 2 Comments »