Saturday, August 06, 2005


The Koshien, Japan's equivalent of the University Boat Race, is on our screens at the moment.

I say it is like the Boat Race in that it is the country's main televised non-professional scholastic sports event but there are some important differences. The glaring distinction is that it is far less elite than the UK equivalent. It is not a mens' university rowing contest but a boys' high school baseball competition. All high schools in Japan can enter (if they have boys) and the pre-qualification tournaments are broadcast on local television.

It is the dream of many a young lad to play in one of the nationally televised rounds. I've just watched a very unfancied high school beat Tenri high school, one of the powerhouses, in the stage before the quarter finals. (The pic shows supporters of Tenri, a cultish religious school which uses the competition as a way of promoting itself, with purple fans behind pink hatted supporters of an unknown previous opponent.)

The play looks of a pretty high standard, although there are obviously plenty more errors than in the adult professional game. The charm, though, is in the atmospherics. The cameras constantly pan the audience to find love-lorn schoolgirls crying their eyes out because their hero is getting smashed around the ground.

This year, one of the big sports schools, a perennial player in the final stages of the event, did not take part because older boys had been bullying younger pupils and smoking. The coach admitted that he had been aware of the bad behaviour but had not taken any strong action to stop it. The head withdrew their entry, causing a bit of a stir, although I am not positive whether this was done at the sole initiative of the head or because of some outside pressure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some distant similarities to the rugby schools'cup in northern Ireland - not televised of course but lots of enthusiastic supporters young and old...and of course some what sectarian