One evening not too long, my daughter surprised me an unlikely question about, of all things, Japanese baseball. I am keenly interested in Japan and always enjoyed attending baseball games during my many visits to that country, but still the question came out of left field.
“What is baseball to the Japanese?” she asked, explaining that “during the Second World War, Japan’s military government suppressed all things American, even the English language, but the Japanese continued to play baseball, even professionally.” She then added, almost innocently: “Didn’t they know it was an American game?”
I assured her that Japanese people knew the game’s origins well. Other than that simple fact, I had nothing specific to offer her. In the back of my mind, I sensed that the answer somehow connected to a broader mystery about the Japanese – how they can so readily adopt so much from abroad and never for a moment lose their sense of self or their commitment to steward Japan’s unique culture and values. Americans, when they adopt something foreign, often feel a tension between their identity and the new practice as if somehow indulging it makes them less American. Not so the Japanese.
Continue reading “Guest Post: Japanese Baseball: Fun, Modern, Sacred”