Highlighting JAPAN Vol.121 June 2018
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HANSHIN Koshien Stadium was built in KATSUMI YASUKURA1924 to host the National Middle School Baseball Championship, which after 1has a capacity of over fifty thousand. Initially there were fears that it would never fill up, but by the third day of the tournament the stands were overflowing.Why is watching high school students play baseball at Koshien so riveting for so many?Masahiko Takenaka, the secretary of the Japan High School Baseball Federation, explains it this way. “Before and after the games, both teams bow to each other, something that appeals to the Japanese preference for respect and harmony in team sports. In addition, the desire to support your hometown, alma mater or schools you have a connection with is born out of strong Japanese regionalism. Then there are the buses that come from all over the country, carrying the players’ families, teachers, other students and alumni here to support the teams, which is a moving sight. These elements have become part of Koshien’s history and helped secure its place in the Japanese consciousness as a sacred place.”Baseball is truly Japan’s national pastime, and many pro players first gained national prominence at Koshien, high school baseball’s premier tournament.Japan’s 1948 education system reform switched to the high school level. The tournament’s popularity soared, and since 1953 NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) has shown every inning of more than eighty games in spring and summer. Although the stadium is actually the home field of the Hanshin Tigers professional team, the team gladly turns it over to high school ballplayers for about a month every year.When the tournament began in 1915, it was played in a stadium that seated five thousand people. So many fans wanted to watch the games live that Koshien was built to accommodate them. Finished in 1924, the current stadium is ten times bigger and 14Japan’s Field of DreamsKOSHIEN

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