Via Travelreads: Chris Jones on the unique culture of Japanese baseball and 16-year-old pitching phenom Tomohiro Anraku, seen as “a real-life Sidd Finch, his story so impossible that he’s been spoken about only in whispers or exclamations”:
“There has been talk in America that Anraku’s arm had been destroyed weeks earlier, in April, stripped of its powers at Koshien — a high school tournament that happens twice a year in Japan, in spring and in summer. Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and one of the West’s principal translators of Japanese culture, has a hard time capturing the meaning of Koshien, first held in 1915. ‘It’s like the Super Bowl and the World Series rolled into one,’ he says. ‘It’s the closest thing Japan has to a national festival.’ In the spring, 32 teams from across the country arrive at Koshien, the name of a beautiful stadium near Kobe but also the de facto title of the tournament that’s played there. (In the summer, 49 teams participate, one from each of Japan’s 47 diverse prefectures, plus an additional team from Tokyo and Hokkaido.) They meet in a frantic series of single-elimination games until a champion emerges. At any one time, 60% of Japan’s TV sets will be tuned in to the drama. More than 45,000 fans will be packed into the stadium, and if the games are especially good, many of those fans will be weeping.
“‘It’s not just baseball,’ says Masato Yoshii, who pitched in two Koshiens long before he joined the New York Mets. ‘It’s something else. It’s something more.’”