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Beyond Baseball: The Spirit Behind Japan's Favorite Pastime

  • 20 Aug 2020
  • 6:00 PM
  • Online
  • 64


Beyond Baseball: The Spirit Behind Japan's Favorite Pastime

Discussion panel between Mikio Yoshimura and Yoshinobu Sawai

Thursday, August 20 at 6:00 PM EDT

(Friday, August 21 at 7:00 AM JST)

Hosted online via Zoom

Baseball, or yakyū (野球), has become Japan’s most popular sport, and the summer Kōshien (national high school baseball championship tournament) is an important summer tradition for many Japanese, just like the famous Gion Fesitval in Kyoto.

Speakers Mikio Yoshimura, JSB Board Member, and Yoshinobu Sawai, Representative Director of Sportsbacks, a Japanese athlete management agency, will discuss Kōshien's significance to Japan. Learn from Sawai, himself a runner-up in Kōshien in 1998 and Kansai Student League Best Nine at his university baseball club, why baseball is more than a simple sport for him but a way of life. 

Baseball was introduced to Japan in the Meiji period and promoted by American soldiers occupying Japan after WWII. It took off in popularity and has become deeply entrenched in Japanese culture. The sport relies heavily on teamwork, perseverance, and discipline, qualities highly valued in Japanese work ethic. In Japan, winning is second to one’s character and honor, and the process of training is more valued than the final result. Some even refer to the Japanese approach to baseball as “Samurai baseball,” given its focus on rigorous training, self-sacrifice and submergence of ego, and development of inner strength, principles adopted from the samurai warrior code of bushidō (武士道). 

These philosophies extend not only to professional athletes, but to high school players as well. High school baseball in Japan, or kōkōyakyū (高校野球), is highly revered by the nation as a representation of Japan’s values, not just a popular event. When the summer Kōshien (national high school baseball championship tournament) was canceled this year due to the pandemic, all of Japan felt the disappointment. 

We hope to pay tribute to the kōkōyakyū players who were unable to compete this year, and honor their dedication to their sport, their teams, and their development of spirit. This will be an enlightening topic for those interested in Japanese culture and sports fans alike.

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