100 years of Koshien

On the 100th anniversary of the National High School Baseball Tournament in Koshien, Kobe, Robert Whiting for The Japan Times:

The Japanese liked baseball because it was their first group sport. Most athletics in the pre-Meiji era were individual undertakings like kendo, jujitsu and sumo. It gave Japanese a chance to exercise their famed group proclivities on an athletic field. As with the rice-planting culture, everyone had a position, everyone had a role. At the same time, the Japanese also found the one-on-one battle between pitcher and batter similar in psychology to sumo and the martial arts. The Ministry of Education deemed the imported sport good for the national character and encouraged the game to be played on the high school and college level.

Ever the rebel (if she is one?), Kazama Sachiko, an artist for Mujin-to Production, wrote on her blog late last month:

昨日テレビをつけたら高校野球をやっていたので (なんとなく) 観戦した。甲子園出場をかけた二松学舎VS都立小山台の東京大会決勝戦で、これで小山台が勝てば都立高校は15年ぶり四校目の出場となるという。私も都立高校出身なので、小山台が勝てばいいなぁと思って観てたのだが、気になったのが選手たちの笑顔。2点リードしてたのに追いつかれ、二松に勝越されてしまった場面でも、投手がフニャフニャ笑っているので何だか奇妙な感じがした。そしてベンチの監督も同様に笑っていた。おそらく緊張緩和とポジティブ精神向上を狙った監督の指導なのだろうが、「これはピンチ!」と焦っていても「いかん、笑顔を維持しなきゃ」と心中とは真逆の表情を心がける意識の操作で、かえって集中力を欠いてしまうのでは無いかと推測する。何より観ていて状況と表情の不一致が不気味なので途中で応援するのをヤメた。

Yesterday I switched on the TV and since high school baseball was on I (somehow) watched the game. It was the finals for the Tokyo tournament between Nishogakusha and Koyamadai (a public school) that determined who would go to Koshien. If Koyamadai won, it would apparently be the first time in 15 years that four Tokyo public schools go to Koshien. Since I also graduated from a Tokyo public school, I also wanted Koyamadai to win as I watched the game. But there was something about the athletes’ smiling faces that bothered me. Koyamadai was leading by two points, but Nishogakusha caught up to take the lead; nonetheless, Koyamadai’s pitcher was still smiling (flabbily? フニャフニャ = lit. soft, limp), which I found to be quite weird. And their coach who was on the bench was also smiling. Maybe their coach had taught their team to de-stress and to increase their positive energy, my conjecture is that, wouldn’t people lose their concentration abilities if, even if they were in stressful situations, they had to keep smiling, an endeavour that is the polar opposite of what they thought in their minds? In any case, the disconnect between the team’s situation and the athletes’ expressions was really eerie, so I stopped supporting Koyamadai halfway through the game.

Doesn’t Sachiko’s description remind you of this comic?