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Another Mirror: Abusive Training in Japanese Baseball
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|Subject: Another Mirror: Abusive Training in Japanese Baseball Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:20 pm|| |
As we have discussed, religion does not exist in a vacuum. There was never any pure Zen and Buddhism completely adapted and merged with the various states and cultures as it moved around the world. Samurai zen / the way of the sword and then Imperial Zen are important mirrors to understand what happened to Zen in Japan and how severe training, humiliation and unquestioned devotion are used and abused in all kinds of situations. Japanese baseball is a good mirror to understand group-mind also, how you can train people to submit to brute force and bullying and get them even to be grateful for it.
Here are three articles on how Japanese train their baseball players.
July 5, 2012 - NYTimes
Yankees’ Kuroda Was Molded by Pain in Japan
By DAVID WALDSTEIN
As a boy, he sneaked away from an abusive high school coach to gulp water from a polluted river. He saw some of his teammates, desperate with thirst, drink from a puddle, and he heard of others who would do so from a toilet.
Now, 20 years on, Hiroki Kuroda shook his head and actually laughed a little when recalling — and trying to explain — the hardships he endured as a boy trying to follow his father’s footsteps and play professional baseball in Japan.
“It was a generation,” Kuroda said through an interpreter, “when coaches believed you should not drink water.”
Born in 1975, Kuroda is one of the last of a cohort of Japanese players who grew up in a culture in which staggeringly long work days and severe punishment were normal, and in which older players could haze younger ones with impunity.
Summer practices in the heat and humidity of Osaka lasted from 6 a.m. until after 9 p.m. Kuroda was hit with bats and forced to kneel barelegged on hot pavement for hours.
“Many players would faint in practice,” Kuroda said with the assistance of his interpreter, Kenji Nimura. “I did go to the river and drink. It was not the cleanest river, either. I would like to believe it was clean, but it was not a beautiful river.
“In order to play,” he added, “you had to survive. We were trained to build an immune system so that we could survive and play.”
Although never considered a top prospect, particularly by his high school and college coaches, Kuroda has come to be one of the most successful Japanese-born pitchers in baseball. His career earned run average of 3.41 is the lowest of any Japanese pitcher with more than 12 major league starts, and that includes the more-heralded Hideo Nomo, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish.
On Friday, Kuroda, with a 3.17 E.R.A. and 8-7 record this season, will take the mound against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Yankees, hit with injuries, have effectively asked Kuroda to elevate his game to compensate for the suddenly absent starters Andy Pettitte and C. C. Sabathia. He seems, perhaps not surprisingly given his life story, undaunted.
Jokingly asked if he could throw 200 pitches in a game if asked, Kuroda did not exactly dismiss the notion.
“I am a human being, so of course I get tired,” he said. “But if someone asks me, I would probably do it because that is how I was taught. Everything happens for a reason, and maybe it helped me to get here now.”
Kuroda, reflecting for another moment on his ordeals as a child, then added, “But if none of it happened, I would have enjoyed baseball a lot more.”
One day in the summer of 1990, when Kuroda was 15 and playing summer baseball for his select high school, Uenomiya High, he had a bad outing, the latest in a string of them. Controlling the location of his pitches was a persistent problem, and even when he could throw strikes, opponents hit them hard, and to all fields.
Before long, Kuroda’s manager approached him and another offending teammate, a boy a year older, and issued them the dreaded order: Run.
As usual, it was an open-ended command, and every player, particularly the struggling ones like the teenage Kuroda, knew the meaning: go to the outfield, and run from foul pole to foul pole — the longest part of any baseball field — without water.
Kuroda changed out of his uniform and began a four-day ordeal that still haunts him and still fuels his desire to perform well — and not make mistakes.
The story, as he tells it, sounds implausible. But Kuroda, over the course of five interview sessions, told it again and again, and insisted it was so.
Under orders, he ran from 6 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m., depending on when the coach went to bed. Obviously, he could not jog for 15 straight hours, but he had to do his best to make it look that way. When his coach, known as the kantoku, was not watching, he would walk.
When the kantoku went to his office for lunch, Kuroda said, his teammates left water or a rice ball for him in the woods.
“That water was the greatest tasting thing I have ever had,” he said, “better than any five-star restaurant.”
At night, when the kantoku had retreated for the evening, Kuroda could at last stop running and would return to the dormitory. But he was not allowed to bathe.
Bobby Valentine, the Boston Red Sox’ manager, spent seven seasons managing in Japan, including one in 1995, and was astonished by the work and routines that so many players were accustomed to. When Kuroda’s punishment was explained to him, he was not remotely surprised.
“How come they let him stop at 10?” Valentine said. “What, did he have a particularly liberal coach?”
After four days and nights of this treatment, the parents of Kuroda’s teammate intervened more directly. They took the boys back to their house, gave them water and food, and bathed them. They called Kuroda’s mother and told her the situation.
“She said to send me back,” Kuroda said, laughing. “At that point, I knew I had an enemy in my own house.”
Kuroda said his father, a onetime outfielder for the Nankai Hawks who opened a sporting goods store after retiring, believed that his son had made a commitment when he went to that school to play baseball, and that that meant obeying the coach.
But his mother, if firm, seemed more open to reason — at least insofar as she allowed him to spend the night with his friend and return to the coach and the team the next morning.
In the United States, such treatment might be considered criminal. And today in Japan, lawsuits from parents have drastically changed what is considered acceptable.
“I know there are cultural differences across international boundaries,” said Jim Thompson, the founder and chief executive of Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting a positive method of coaching. “But it’s hard to come to any other conclusion but that it’s child abuse and his coach was a bully.”
That was not the only time Kuroda had to run the poles, just the most extreme. Even without that kind of punishment, life for Japanese high school baseball players was demanding. On most days they would wake up at 5 a.m., go to practices and school, and get home at 10 or 11 p.m.
“Attending class was the only time I was able to relax,” Kuroda said, “and sometimes sleep.”
Kuroda’s first formal introduction to the old-school culture of Japanese baseball came when he was in first grade. After he had made a mistake, the coach administered a punishment known as ketsu batto. He got whacked with a bat (batto) on his backside (ketsu).
“Starting in elementary school, it was like the military almost,” he said. “If you did something wrong in a game, you’ll get a certain number of spanks with a bat. The next day, you couldn’t even sit in a chair in school.
“When I gave up a hit, ketsu batto. That was my first experience in baseball with a team. In first grade to fourth grade.”
Everything changed in fifth grade, when his father, Kazuhiro Kuroda, took over and began coaching his team. For the first time, Kuroda saw the joy in baseball, and he longed for each day that he could play for his father.
“Reflecting upon my baseball life, that was the time that I had the most fun playing baseball,” he said. “I was able to experience baseball without discipline. It was the pure joy of playing baseball. But when I got back to high school, it was back to the torture.”
The coaches were not the only ones meting out punishment in high school. Hazing was a consistent threat, too. Kuroda declined to reveal some of the tactics used against him, calling them too grotesque. But he recounted how older players would make the younger ones kneel with their bare legs on hot pavement and then hit them.
This was a practice that was repeated by upperclassmen when he got to college. Unlike Matsuzaka, Darvish and other stars, like Koji Uehara, Kuroda was not good enough to be drafted out of high school. So he played for Senshu University.
As Kuroda recalls it, scouts never saw him pitch because he was always running or pitching in mop-up situations and practice games.
At Senshu, players lived in four-man dorm rooms, which Kuroda hated. Freshmen had to wake up long before their roommates and do the other boys’ laundry. By the time the older boys awoke, their clothes had to be folded and stacked — in the order they would put them on — and their socks had to be washed by hand.
“Freshmen were basically slaves,” Kuroda said. If they did not live up to their duties, they would have to endure the kneeling treatment again. This time it was on the hot roof of the dorms with a beautiful view taunting them.
“After a while,” Kuroda said, “the view was blurry and distorted. Your legs would go numb, and you had to crawl back to your room.”
And there was always running. When the running was not under a hot sun, it might be in the rain. But the coaches told the players not to worry. Their bones, they were told, would stay dry.
Because of his strong arm, Kuroda was drafted by the Hiroshima Carp in 1996 and made his debut in 1997. Life was much easier in the pros. They worked hard, but the running was less severe, and there was no such punitive conditioning. He spent nine years with the Carp before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, where he continued to thrive.
Although Kuroda would never recommend the treatment he received for anyone else, he struggles to put it into proper perspective. It almost drove him out of the game in high school, but it may have ultimately helped him surpass all expectations and become a good major league pitcher.
Kuroda is considered among the hardest-working players in baseball. He still runs, but instead of doing endless poles, he does what Dana Cavalea, the Yankees’ strength and conditioning coordinator, prescribes.
Kuroda accepts his past ordeals as part of the fabric of his life and character.
“It was all so ingrained in me that I still have a fear of giving up hits and runs,” he said while sitting in the Yankee Stadium dugout before a game last week.
Then, fiddling with a bottle of clean water, Kuroda asked through Nimura if the interview was over. He had to go run.
Baseball / Japanese Baseball
Severe sports training methods became taibatsu in time
by Robert Whiting - Special To The Japan Times - Jun 2, 2013
Second in a two-part series
The martial arts were the inspiration for the famous baseball team at the First Higher School of Tokyo, a late 19th century powerhouse that helped make yakyu, as baseball came to be known, the national sport of Japan.
Ichiko, as the First Higher School of Tokyo, was also known, was an elite prep school, with its students in the 18-22 age range. There were five such Higher Schools in Japan. Graduates went on to the Imperial University, from which the future movers and shakers of Japan emerged. The majority of the students in these school came from samurai families.
Ichiko’s practice regimen, developed by the students themselves, included year-round training every day and intensive summer and winter camps.
It was nicknamed “[banned term] urine” for it was said that the players practiced so hard they urinated blood at the end of the day.
On the Ichiko practice field, it was forbidden to use the word itai (ouch) because that was considered a sign of weakness. If you got whacked in the face with a ball and it really hurt, then you were allowed to use the word kayui (it itches).
In one drill designed to hone fighting spirit, which, as we have seen, would be carried down through the ages a pitcher stood a mere 6 meters away from home plate and fired fastballs with all his might at a catcher who wore no protection. By the end of the exercise, the pitcher was exhausted and the catcher’s body black and blue.
Students wrote in their memoirs that they were channeling the spirit of the samurai warriors of old.
It is also worth noting perhaps that the Ichiko students in the general student body had their own kind of taibatsu (corporal punishment).
If a student behaved in a way that disgraced the school by, say, public drunkenness or paying too much attention to his looks so as to attract a member of the opposite sex, he was called to an evening torchlight council of his peers where he was punished with a severe beating. Fellow students lined up and took turns punching him in the face.
In 1918, famed Waseda manager Suishu Tobita incorporated the Ichiko way of endless training and development of spirit into his practice routine and won many championships. He was famous for saying, “Student baseball must be more than just a hobby. In many cases it must be a baseball of savage pain and a baseball practice of savage treatment.”
Tobita would make his players field ground balls until they dropped, or as Tobita himself described it, “until they were half- dead, motionless, and froth was coming out of their mouths.” His system came to be known as shi no renshu (death training).”
Said Tobita, whose managerial methods greatly influenced the way baseball was played in Japan for generations to come, “A manager has to love his players, but on the practice field he must treat them as cruelly as possible, even though he may be crying about it inside. That is the key to winning baseball. If the players do not try so hard as to vomit blood in practice, then they cannot hope to win games. One must suffer to be good.”
In this way the line between hard training and taibatsu in Japanese sports was blurred. Which was worse, a slap on the face or being forced to field ground balls to the point you were half-dead and froth was coming out of your mouth?
The use of taibatsu was also reinforced by the militarists who assumed control of the school system in the decades leading up to World War II, instituting aspects of martial arts training into the education of Japanese students, including a more militaristic senpai-kohai (upperclassmen-lowerclassmen) system, military music and army-style training for everyone.
This issue of violence of sports has popped up periodically since I first came to Japan.
I remember when the big sports story at that time was of the coach of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic women’s volleyball team, Hirofumi Daimatsu of the national champ Nichibo Spinning Co. team, known as the “ogre” for his savage training methods.
He worked the girls every evening, making them practice after office hours from 4:30 p.m. to midnight with only one 15-minute break. A typical practice routine was the “receive,” a tumbling acrobatic maneuver where the girls had to dive to the floor to retrieve the ball and keep doing it, again, and again, and again, until they couldn’t get up anymore.
When they reached the point of exhaustion, the coach would say, “Dame. Omae wa yameta hoo ga ii.” (“You’re no good. You ought to quit.”) Everyone seems to agree it was a form of torture, whether or not slaps and kicks were included, but the “Witches of the Orient” as Daimatsu’s girls were known, won a gold medal with that method and Daimatsu became a national hero.
Captain Masae Kasai, a 31-year-old who broke her engagement to train for the Olympics, led the charge, as the women’s team beat Russia so badly in the finals that the Muscovite ladies locked themselves in their dressing room for a good cry.
One of the most popular TV shows of the late 1960s and early ’70s was the animated series “Kyojin No Hoshi” (Star of the Giants) about an impoverished boy named Hoshi Hyuuma who undergoes years of brutal daily training and beatings by his father during Japan’s postwar years in order to develop the physical skills and, more important, the spirit required to be a pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants.
Konjo was, and is, the sine qua non of a good athlete for it was (and still is) believed that superior mental strength and willpower could overcome any perceived deficiencies in physical power, and no measures in the pursuit of that end were considered too extreme, including beatings for they helped a player overcome his “natural predilection for laziness,” as Tetsuharu Kawakami, who managed the Giants to nine straight Japan championships 1965-73, liked to put it.
The harsh training methods of the Giants, featured in a positive light in the “Kyojin No Hoshi” series, received a black eye in 1973 because of the death of a 20-year-old pitcher name Toshiko Yuguchi. Yuguchi, unable to tolerate the daily physical and verbal abuse he underwent as a farm team player in the Kawakami system, suffered a nervous breakdown and entered a mental hospital where he suddenly died.
The cause of death was ruled heart failure, but the magazine Shukan Post conducted an investigation and concluded it was a suicide.
Although Kawakami and Giants farm team pitching coach Hiroshi Nakao were heavily criticized in some media outlets, neither resigned and the Giants’ system of “education” went on as before.
In soccer, it was much the same. Sadao Konuma was the coach at Teikyo High School, and was very successful in that role.
He wrote a book called “Learn From Soccer,” published in 1983 by Kodansha Ltd., in which he wrote, “When I was young, I used my hand before my mouth . . . and my fist used to be swollen from punching them so much. . . . Admonishment is education and hitting is education. Even if the means are different, the aim of correcting the students is the same. But I am not good at arguing verbally why things are right and wrong — like why cigarettes are OK for adults but not for schoolboys.”
To punish older boys who beat up younger ones, he would force them to sit in the seiza position, and then he would hit them in turn. On one occasion he broke his hand doing this. He recalled that after a while his reputation was such that no one dared misbehave and he was only hitting boys once a year or so.
A major story during the 1980s involved the Totsuka Yachting School, a private institution designed to improve the antisocial behavior of children with emotional problems enrolled in the school by their parents through the use of extreme discipline. The school’s founder and headmaster was a former top yachtsman named Hiroshi Totsuka. After two children died and another two went missing, presumed drowned, because of harsh treatment, Totsuka was sent to prison for injury resulting in death.
But when he emerged, six years later, he picked up right where he left off, insisting his method of education was not abuse. The only change in his operating method is that now he lets the older trainers beat younger students rather than do it himself. In the past seven years, there have been three suicides and one drowning at his school.
Then there was the 2007 case involving sumo stablemaster Tokitsukaze, who was sentenced to prison for five years for ordering the use of violence on a 17-year-old wrestler named Tokitaizan to “educate him” and instill some spirit in him.
As a result, three senior sumo wrestlers took to beating the young wrestler regularly. They would strike him with beer bottles, a metal baseball bat and other objects. He was beaten so badly that he eventually died of a heart attack.
The media attention and public concern that surrounds these such cases invariably dies down, however, and life goes on as before. Taibasu continued.
A great many Japanese have experienced taibatsu in one form or another while growing up and they say, “I went through it.” “I turned out OK.” “It’s good.” “It will help my kid grow up.”
Tokitaizan, in fact, complained to his parents about the abuse and twice ran away from the stable, but in each case they persuaded him to go back.
In “Discourses of Discipline: An Anthropology of Corporal Punishment in Japan’s Schools and Sports,” anthropologist Aaron Miller writes of a 52-year old Kyoto volleyball coach who once threw a chair at his players yet was named “Super Teacher” by the Kyoto volleyball coaches.
As a detective in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and himself a martial arts expert, told me last month “You can’t teach kendo, judo or karate without taibatsu. That’s how you reprimand students for poor performance.”
“But,” he said referring to the recent well-known case involving Japanese women’s judoka who complained of taibatsu against them at a training camp prior to the London Olympics, “you should never hit a girl.”
Most recently in baseball we have had the story of Dave Okubo the former Seibu Lions coach.
Okubo was fired by Seibu in 2009 because he assaulted 19-year-old pitcher Yusei Kikuchi while coaching him on the farm team.
Okubo had roughed Kikuchi up because Kikuchi had the effrontery to complain about being fined ¥100,000 for showing up late to the “early work” segment of a joint voluntary training session.
(As Okubo explained to the young pitching prospect, in Japanese pro baseball the word “voluntary” usually means compulsory.)
Upon being fired, Okubo sued Seibu, insisting that his method of teaching was entirely “appropriate” and did not warrant his dismissal. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Okubo lost at each step in the process and after the final ruling was handed down, according to the Shukan Post, tried to commit suicide as a result but was saved by his wife and children.
Now, interestingly, he is at Rakuten, managed by Senichi Hoshino, known for his tough training and, of course, his own history of abuse.
Many analysts I know believe that the taibatsu system is too deeply ingrained in Japan to be rooted out. A recent NHK survey found that 40 percent of all secondary schools in Japan have experienced violence, while a survey taken in February this year by the former Giants pitcher Masumi Kuwata of 270 active professional baseball players revealed that 46 percent had been physically punished in high school by their managers and 45 percent in junior high school.
Fifty-one percent had been punched or hit by their senpai in high school and 36 percent in junior high school. What’s more, 83 percent said it was sometimes necessary.
As former pro ballplayer Kazushige Nagashima put it, somewhat awkwardly, “We may have been smacked in the [banned term] by bats and bottles and otherwise physically disciplined at those levels. But we felt there was real love there.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives Bunmei Ibuki, 75, declared recently, in a lecture to a study group of LDP politicians in Gifu City, “If we forbid corporal punishment, education becomes impossible . . . in order to raise a human being, there are times when, from the time of childhood, beatings must be administered.”
But change does occur, as the above-mentioned Okubo case would indicate.
In truth, there have been no reports of either he or Hoshino slugging anyone in Sendai recently.
Trey Hillman and Bobby Valentine, former managers of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Chiba Lotte Marines, have shown how to win championships in Japan with a softer, gentler approach, as have mangers in J. League.
The use of the 1,000-fungo drill has decreased. And I am told by reporters who cover sumo that the use of the shinai (bamboo stick) and bokuto have been eliminated from the sumo stables in the wake of the Tokitaizan death.
Said a veteran Tokyo-based lawyer, an acquaintance of mine with long experience in social litigation, who prefers to remain anonymous, “What’s different is not the taibatsu level — that’s existed for decades. What’s changed is the recipients. Japanese males today are being feminized. They carry around handbags with as many cosmetics in them as women do. They use eyebrow liner, curl their hair in the gym and remove facial hair through electrolysis.
“There is an over-sensitivity to physical contact and they have lost the ability to take punishment and fight back. Maybe it’s because people are having smaller families. One or two kids instead of four or five. Little Taro is overprotected.
“A 50-year chart of the Japanese male will show, I believe, a decline of testosterone. Maybe what Japan needs is conscription.”
Moreover, while Japanese have traditionally eschewed litigation in such matters, in contrast to Americans, that too has been changing.
There may also be more traction now because of the recent well-publicized incidents of taibatsu involving the female judoka, which came on the heels of the suicide in December of the Sakuranomiya Senior High School basketball captain in Osaka who had been repeatedly beaten by his coach.
But I have a suspicion that the increased attention on the part of the authorities is mainly because Japan’s bid for the 2020 Olympics has put the issue and the nation under international scrutiny. So has a recent report by the Japan Judo Accident Victims Association showing that over a 29-year period from 1983, 118 students died as a result of judo accidents in Japanese junior and senior high schools (60 percent of them from brain injury). This is six times higher than any other sport in Japanese high schools and compares most unfavorably to zero judo deaths in sports clubs in the U.S. and Europe.
Whether this will lead to permanent change remains to be seen. But for now, I remain cautiously pessimistic.
The trick is to determine in modern society where hard training ends and assault or violence, which is and always has been a criminal offense in Japan, begins. And that is not an easy thing.
KenjiAd • a month ago
Excellent report, Mr. Whiting. I am a 53-yr Japanese man and went though the taibatsu system you described.
I can tell you that I really hated it. It wasn't just me, but everyone on the receiving end of this punishment hated it. The senpais, teachers, and coaches who did this to us were hated, often very intensely. Most of us didn't show the frustration (fear actually) at that time, because if we had shown it, more punishment would have resulted. Why would anyone do that?
So it is a myth that the receivers of taibatsu appreciated the fact that we were beaten. I think this myth was created by the aggressors to justify their sadistic acts. These people didn’t love us. They loved glory. If we were seen not helping them to get _their_ glory, they got frustrated and vented their frustration on those of us who couldn't fight back. They did this usually along the line of bushido spirit, which they intentionally distorted to justify what was essentially abuse of their power.
As you observed, many of us the receivers of taibatsu might tell years later that the taibatsu was good for us. But please note, saying otherwise would be to admit that we were physically and emotionally abused for nothing and didn't have guts to fight back. That would be very painful. At least we want to feel that it had some positive, toughened us up or something. In reality, however, I made us timid when facing with power abuse. We are trained to just put up with it.
Baseball / Japanese Baseball
Corporal punishment has long history in Japanese sports
by Robert Whiting - Special To The Japan Times - May 26, 2013
First in a two-part series
Getting slapped by a coach has always been, as far as I could see, simply another aspect of sports training in Japan.
I remember being invited to see a practice session at the Isenoumi sumo stable in eastern Tokyo back in the early 1960s shortly after I arrived for my first stay in Japan. Obese young sumo wrestlers grappled with each other and a rikishi (senior wrestler) corrected their form by issuing violent blows across their back and thighs with a shinai (bamboo stick), resulting in cries of pain from the participants.
“Physical punishment is part of their education,” I was told. “It makes them better wrestlers.”
It was standard operating procedure.
When I got to know the imported Hawaiian wrestler Takamiyama (a.k.a. Jesse Kualahula) he told me how much he had hated being hit as a young, up-and-coming wrestler. Yet when he retired and became a stablemaster himself, he did the same thing, occasionally using a baseball bat as well as the shinai.
He even punched one of his wrestlers, Akebono (Chad Rowan, a fellow Hawaiian import), in the jaw, when he grew incensed at what he perceived as Akebono’s laziness and lack of a killer instinct.
“Without the shinai,” he said, “sumo wouldn’t be sumo.”
Taibatsu, or corporal punishment, was just as common in some professional wrestling organizations, as I discovered. The famed professional wrestler of the 1950s and 1960s Rikidozan would hit his younger wrestlers with sake bottles and other objects to toughen them up.
And when I started researching pro baseball in Japan I realized how ordinary it was for coaches to slap younger players for making a mistake or not demonstrating proper fighting spirit. The Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s oldest and winningest team, have one of the more colorful records in this regard, despite their public image as “gentlemen,” starting with the manager of their farm team during much of the postwar era (1953-1973), Yoshiaki Takemiya.
Takemiya was famous for using his fists on those players violating the 10 o’clock curfew of the farm team dormitory and disciplining those players exhibiting bad manners with blows from a wooden sword.
Giants farm team pitching coach Hiroshi Nakao was known to have slugged recalcitrant members of his mound corps.
Then there was Giants coach Yutaka Sudo, who once hit infielder Kono Kazumasa so hard in the rear end with a bat, after Kono had run off the field during an inning when there were only two outs mistakenly thinking the side had been retired, the player was unable to sit for three days.
This became known as the ketsu batto jiken (“[banned term] Bat Incident”) in Yomiuri Giants lore.
One of the more memorable incidents involved Scott Anderson, an American pitcher who joined the Chunichi Dragons in 1991. He related to me an episode involving a young rookie infielder who had made two errors and was consequently removed from the game.
Afterward, Dragons manager, Senichi Hoshino, a hugely popular figure in Japanese baseball, ordered everyone on the team to [banned term] at a spot underneath the stands and commanded the rookie to drop to his knees in front of the group. Then Hoshino proceeded to hit the young player in the face with his open hand until the player’s face was red and swollen and Hoshino’s hand began to hurt so much that he could not continue.
Anderson thought this was assault, pure and simple. He pulled the player aside with an interpreter and said he would go with him to the police station to file charges and would testify as to what he saw.
“It was intolerable,” he said, “You can’t let the manager treat you like that.”
The player said, “No, no. It was an honor to have such a great man as Hoshino educate me. It means he thinks I am important for the team.”
In 2003, when American Trey Hillman managed his first season for the Nippon Ham Fighters, he was shocked to hear that his farm team manager, Tetsushi Okamoto, had beaten up one of his players.
As I wrote in the 2009 updated edition of “You Gotta Have Wa,” Okamoto had angrily slugged a rookie shortstop for making an error that let in two runs, knocking him to the ground. As the player curled up into a ball on the dugout floor, the farm team manager continued to beat him and the youth simply accepted it because that was the way things were done.
Hillman went to the Nippon Ham GM threatening to resign if the organization continued to tolerate any more of that type of behavior. The next day, the farm team manager appeared in Hillman’s office, bowing deeply, apologizing.
He told Hillman that he hadn’t been able to help himself, that his behavior was the result of the way he himself had been trained in high school.
In 2008, the aforementioned Hoshino, who was then managing the Japan Olympic baseball squad, was interviewed on CNN about his methods of disciplining players.
He was asked, “Is it true you once hit a player so hard he couldn’t eat for a week?”
Hoshino replied, “Yes. But it was necessary. . . . It’s a kind of tough love. . . . We are a family. If you look at a certain incidents, you may see some unbelievable violence, but you must look at the whole picture. There is a tremendous deep love that is shown above anything else. I admire the American way. Their coaches are very cheerful and encouraging. . . . But in Japan, we have our own way.”
Not all professional coaches in Japan abuse their young players this way. Taibatsu is, in fact, illegal. However, it is unfortunately quite common throughout the school system in Japan.
More than once I have seen a manager line up his players after a game, make them remove their caps and cuff the ones who had made mistakes in the game.
I wrote about a couple of memorable incidents in You Gotta Have Wa. One was about a regional high school game, in the summer of 1983, in which a manager went out to the mound and slapped his pitcher for giving up a couple of runs. “Pull yourself together,” he growled.
Later the youngster thanked the coach in front of the TV cameras for having brought him back to his senses.
“Being hit by my manager made me realize the situation we were in,” he said, “so I was able to throw my best for the rest of the game.”
Another occurred during the 1987 National High School Baseball Tournament at Koshien Stadium when the manager of the Saga Prefectural High School of Technology and Engineering team discovered several of his players up late at night past the curfew talking in the kitchen of the ryokan where the team was staying. He whacked each of them over the head with the grip end of an aluminum bat, cutting the scalps of two of the boys.
It was a big story in the media for a time. The principal apologized to the Japan High School Baseball Federation and the manager was suspended for a year. But he came back to his job as powerful and respected as ever.
Every year, it seems, there are similar occurrences. In February, the Japan Student Baseball Association handed down suspensions for 20 different acts of violence in high school baseball clubs. One of them involved the manager of the Fuji Gakuen High School team in Yamanashi Prefecture, who was found to have whacked players over the head with helmets, slapped them in the face and employed the ketsu batto technique.
Said the manager, to reporters, “I was just trying to teach them something.”
Another high school baseball manager, this one at Kashiwanittai High School baseball team in Chiba, slapped several first-year students for committing crimes such as arriving late to practice and riding two on a bicycle.
The suspensions ranged anywhere from one month to six months and not one manager lost his job.
Well-known sportswriter Masayuki Tamaki has called taibatsu “the disease of Japanese baseball.” He said, “The worst thing I ever saw was a high school manager explode at an infielder during a practice session for making several errors.
“The coach made the player stand 10 feet (3 meters) away and drop his glove and then hit a barrage of screaming line drives at him, 19 in all, I counted, that ripped into his chest, abdomen and legs. When the coach was finished, the player bowed and said thank you to him, which was the typical reaction in such cases. It made me sick.”
Hazing by senpai (upperclassmen), who often act as surrogate disciplinarians of their kohai (lower classmen) is also systemic and involves a variety of tortures.
Ichiro Suzuki, as a 10th-grader on his high school club, was forced to kneel on the rim of a lidless garbage can for an extended period of time as punishment for overcooking the rice in the team dormitory.
On other occasions he had to kneel with a bat between his calves and buttocks. He described these sessions as unbearably painful.
Such practices may continue into the pros. In last year’s Japan Series, we were treated to the sight of Giants catcher and captain Shinnosuke Abe striding out to the mound and slapping second-year pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura in the head to scold him for a lapse in control.
“Snap out of it!” he yelled. It was all on nationwide TV.
An embarrassed smile.
Such occurrences are difficult to imagine in the United States, where the inevitable result would be a fistfight. But in Japan they have been a part of many a team’s standard operating procedure.
Taibatsu in baseball starts early. Star slugger Hideki Matsui once said that one of the most valuable experiences of his school days was when a junior high school coach slapped him for throwing his bat.
I live right across the road from a Little League field in Toyosu, and while I have yet to see any physically abuse behavior, I have seen coaches will shout out insults like “Omae wa dame da!” ([banned term] you) “Bakayaro!” ([banned term]) as part of the daily routine.
Former Giants pitcher Masumi Kuwata, now an outspoken opponent of taibatsu in Japanese sports, said that he had been hit by coaches during his elementary school career more times than he can remember.
Of course, the United States has had its share of abusive coaches. I remember my high school baseball coach would hit us in the crotch with a baseball bat to see if we were wearing our protective cups.
Our football coach used to slap his players. This was in a small town in Northern California before the 1986 law prohibiting corporal punishment was passed. California is now one of 31 states to have such a law. Nineteen states, in the southern U.S., from Arizona to Florida, have yet to pass such a law.
Indeed, anthropologist Aaron Miller argues in his new book, “Discourses of Discipline: An Anthropology of Corporal Punishment in Japan’s Schools and Sports,” that Japan is no more, or less, a violent culture than anywhere else in the world.
There is no single view of violence in Japan. Japan has as much diversity of thought opinion and practice in Japan as in any other nation and to say the Japanese are violent — or non-violent — is erroneous.”
What makes Japan different from the U.S., if I can very loosely generalize here, is that Japanese coaches are more militaristic.
As the aforementioned Tamaki says, “In Japan, regardless of whether the coach and player are professionals or amateurs, their relationships in the Japanese sports world are characterized by a strong top-down hierarchy of command and obedience.”
Thus the coaches tend to put themselves above the players and act like drill sergeants, demanding uniformity from their charges while with Americans (again to generalize), the coach is more of an instructor or adviser — someone who works with and alongside the player and who allows more freedom and flexibility in an individual athlete’s routine.
This is why you can see even the youngest rookie in America address his MLB manager by his first name.
“Hey Davey, how is it going?” you might hear a rookie say to Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson.
Seldom in Japan. It is usually with hat off and (often shaven) head bowed that rookies address the manager. Similar behavior is seen in relationships between senior and junior and relationships between teacher and pupil.
There is another difference as well. Whereas in the U.S. sports were traditionally played for enjoyment and release of tension — at least on an amateur level — in Japan, generally speaking, the idea of athletics for fun was a foreign concept.
The martial arts, which were the primary form of athletics in Japan before the introduction of foreign sports in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), were a tool of education, designed to build physical strength and character, based on the idea that one must suffer to be good.
There were 200 samurai academies at the time of the Meiji Restoration teaching the martial arts, among other things.
Taibatsu was also a feature of the apprenticeship system in old Japan and of Zen Buddhism as well, if not necessarily a feature of society in general.
But taibatsu in Japanese sports is a legacy of the martial arts which date back to the 16th century and which by their very nature involved a lot of physical punishment.
Do the kata wrong in kendo practice and you could get a crack on the head with a bamboo sword. Do the kata wrong in jujitsu practice and you got boxed in the ear. In sumo, of course, it was the same, with its use of the shinai. And in Zen Buddhism as well.
There was also a focus on endless training that was designed to make one surpass the bounds of one’s physical and mental endurance, and this could also be viewed as a kind of taibatsu.
Swordsmanship master Tesshu Yamaoka, a former samurai who was an official in the court of Emperor Meiji, opened a kendo school in Tokyo in 1880, in which students had to fight two consecutive full days of 200 matches each to reach the first level.
The day was 16 hours long, starting at 4 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. They fought against 20 opponents who were permitted to rest and attack in rotation. Three such days of 200 matches each were required to reach Stage 2, seven days of 200 matches each to reach Stage 3 and 1,000 days of 100 matches each to reach Stage 4.
Judo clubs held month-long winter camps where participants rose at 4 a.m. for a barefoot run of several miles on frozen ground, followed by several hours of workouts.
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|Subject: Re: Another Mirror: Abusive Training in Japanese Baseball Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:39 am|| |
Kawakami was Japanese baseball’s first Zen master
by Robert Whiting - Special To The Japan Times - Nov 26, 2013
First in a three-part series
Most foreign fans of baseball in Japan may not know the name Tetsuharu Kawakami, who passed away recently at the age of 93, but perhaps it’s time they did.
He was a huge cultural icon to many Japanese, particularly those of the World War II generation, but more important, he was a transformational figure, who greatly influenced the development of the sport and the way it is played today.
In a 19-year career as the first baseman for the Yomiuri Giants, interrupted for three years by the war, Kawakami became the first player in the professional game in this country to amass 2,000 hits and earned the nickname “The God of Batting” from reporters, while helping to establish his team as a national institution.
He then went on to manage the Giants, during the era of superstars Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh, and guided them to a record 11 more Japan Series championships over 14 years, including an unprecedented nine in a row from 1965-1973. In the process, he perfected a widely-copied managerial philosophy called kanri yakyu (controlled or managed baseball) that combined Zen Buddhist principles with Machiavellian tactics.
In his later years as a TV commentator and lecturer, he transmogrified into a behind-the-scenes wirepuller, known widely by the sobriquet “The Don of Japanese Baseball.”
Kawakami was a high school pitching star, a farmer’s son from Kumamoto Prefecture, who signed with the Dai Nihon Yakyu Kurabu (as the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants were originally known) in 1938, when professional baseball was still in its infancy. He received a record signing bonus of ¥300, enough to buy a house back home, and a monthly salary of ¥110.
After walking 11 batters in one game, however, he was converted to first base, and in 1939, hit .338 to win the Japan League batting title. He was 19, the youngest player ever to accomplish such a feat, and that record still stands. He squeezed in a second batting title, along with a home run crown and an MVP award before the attack on Pearl Harbor and was called to military duty.
During the ensuing war, Kawakami was a drill instructor for the Japanese Imperial Army at an installation in Tachikawa, where his trainees included a young Tetsuro Tamba, an actor who would later play Tiger Tanaka in the 1966 James Bond film, “You Only Live Twice.” Kawakami was a demanding taskmaster, by all accounts, and was widely hated by those under him.
Soldiers grumbled that if he led them into battle, Kawakami would be the first to die, not by enemy fire but by a hand grenade thrown from behind by one of his own men. But Kawakami never saw action.
He stayed where he was until 1945 when Japan surrendered, then returned home to Kumamoto to work on the family farm. The Giants asked him back for the 1946 season, but Kawakami demanded a signing bonus of ¥30,000.
It was an outrageous sum given the grinding poverty and economic chaos of the time in general (the prize for All-Star MVP that year was a live goose) and at first the Giants refused. The standoff continued until midseason when the Giants relented and agreed to terms with Japanese professional baseball’s first ever hold-out.
Using a distinctive red bat presented to him by a regional bat maker, Kawakami returned and picked up where he had left off, hitting .305 with 10 home runs for half a season’s worth of play.
At 175 cm and 75 kg, Kawakami had developed into a taut, muscled level-swinging hitter whose trademark was low screaming line drives to the outfield fences. He was also a perfectionist who did shadow swings late into the night at the team dormitory.
Kawakami’s postwar rivalry for batting honors with Tokyo Senators outfielder Hiroshi Oshita, who used a distinctive blue bat, helped greatly to reignite interest in the professional game and simultaneously lift people’s spirits, as the city of Tokyo struggled to climb out of the ashes caused by B-29 incendiary bombs. The two captivated the nation in 1947 by staging a thrilling battle down-to-the- wire battle for the batting crown, with Oshita pulling ahead in the final days to finish at .315 to Kawakami’s .309.
Kawakami would then come back to win the home run crown with 25 in 1948, while Oshita would take another batting title in 1950 with a .339 average.
The 173-cm, 72-kg Oshita, son of a Taiwanese mother and a Japanese military officer, could not have been more different than Kawakami. He had served in the Japanese Army Air Corps and was assigned to a Kamikaze Squadron, escaping deployment only when the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings brought the war to a sudden end.
He swung with an American-style uppercut, hit soaring fly balls into the stands, once hitting a home run in Hokkaido’s Maruyama Stadium that traveled 170 meters.
And while Kawakami was doing his solitary late night batting practice, Oshita was out hitting the bars and chasing women, often stumbling back to his room drunk at four in the morning.
Legend has it that Oshita set a record by getting seven hits in a game in 1949 while suffering from a severe hangover after drinking all night; he had expected the scheduled day game to be rained out.
A teammate once asked him, “Don’t you ever practice?”
The insouciant Oshita replied, “If you’re a real pro, never let anyone know how hard you are trying.”
* * *
During the 1950 off-season, at the suggestion of Tokyo Giants owner Matsutaro Shoriki, founder of the mass circulation daily Yomiuri Shimbun, Kawakami took up Zen, spending days on end at unheated Buddhist temples, meditating, chanting, reading scriptures, and doing supplicant drills, in an effort to conquer his inner self and perfect his concentration. He had his best season in 1951 when he hit .377 to lead the newly-formed Central League, with 15 home runs and 81 RBIs, and was selected CL MVP.
Kawakami struck out only six times the entire season, something only a handful of hitters in Japan or America have accomplished. In September that year, he said his powers of concentration had developed to such a point where the ball would “stop” for him as it came across the plate.
Ironically, Oshita’s best season was also in 1951. He hit .383 for the Tokyu Flyers of the opposing Pacific League, also newly created, eclipsing Kawakami again and setting a new Japan batting record, one that would last for 20 years.
The Zen of Kawakami served him well throughout the next decade. He averaged .334 over eight consecutive seasons starting in 1949, winning additional titles in 1953 (.347) and in 1955 (.338).
He led the Giants to eight Central League pennants and four Japan Series titles in the 1950s, capturing two more MVPs. He reached the 2,000-hit mark in 1956 in his 1,646th game, which remains the fastest pace in Japanese baseball history.
The era of TV had begun with Yomiuri-owned NTV televising games nationally and further increasing Kawakami’s popularity and that of the Giants, whose home attendance exceeded two million a year. In 1957, he played himself in a movie about his life, “Sebango 16,” (Back No 16).
Rival Oshita had failed to win any more batting titles, albeit he did win a Most Valuable Player award in 1954 and helped the Nishitetsu Lions defeat Yomiuri in both the 1957 and 1958 Japan Series.
However, a new Kawakami nemesis appeared in the form of the Japanese nisei from Hawaii, Wally Yonamine, the first American to play in Japan after the war.
Yonamine won three batting titles during the ’50s and an MVP, overcoming initial hostility from those who regarded him as a traitor for having served in the enemy U.S. Army during the war and those who did not appreciate his flashy, hard-sliding American style aggressiveness. He was called a “dirty player” and a “showboat,” and cries of “Yankee Go Home” could be heard in the stands.
Although fans and fellow teammates eventually warmed to the interloper, Kawakami kept his distance. A very cool distance.
According to Hirofumi Naito, an outfielder on the team, “Kawakami was an old-fashioned guy, who felt that titles should be won by Japanese players.” Indeed if it hadn’t been for Yonamine, Kawakami would have had another batting title in 1957 when he hit .327, trailing only Yonamine’s .338. The two men never had a heart-to-heart talk in all the years they played together.
Said Yonamine’s oldest son Paul, “It was a real respect-hate thing. But my father used to always say that Kawakami made him better because of that.”
Age finally caught up with Kawakami in 1958, when his batting average sagged below .250. Midway through the season, he surrendered the cleanup spot to the wildly popular rookie Nagashima, who dazzled Japan with movie star good looks, bubbly Type A personality and his dynamic swing, which was so fierce it would cause his batting helmet to fly off.
The God of Batting retired at the end of that season, with a lifetime tally of 2,351 hits and a batting average of .313 — both Japan records at the time. Yomiuri permanently retired his uniform No. 16.
* * *
In 1961, Kawakami was installed as manager of the Giants and one of his first acts was to send the American Yonamine packing, trading him to the Chunichi Dragons. Kawakami announced he intended to build a team of pure-blooded (and therefore supposedly pure-hearted Japanese), although in Kawakami’s lexicon, the definition of the term was flexible enough to include Oh, who had a Chinese father and a Taiwanese passport, but enjoyed the mitigating benefit of having a Japanese mother, having been born and raised in Japan, and having become a nationally known high school star, single-handedly leading his hometown squad to victory at the country’s all-important Koshien summer tourney as 25 million viewers watched on NHK.
Kawakami instituted the controlled/managed system of baseball cited above (kanri yakyu), and he controlled every aspect of a player’s life both on and off the field. In spring camp, he established a taxing dawn-to-dusk regimen of practice, including at its extreme, 1,000-fungo drills, 100-fly drills and marathon runs. with burly Takehiko Bessho, former Giant pitching star who had won 310 games, acting as in-house drill sergeant, hurling insults at recalcitrant players and kicking rear ends when necessary.
It was an approach that was termed karada de oboeru (learn by the body) in Japanese, designed to teach muscle memory through constant repetition, but also to build fighting spirit by teaching players to reach and surpass their physical limits.
“If you dive at the ball in practice and fail to catch it, keep diving and sooner or later you will catch it,” Kawakami liked to say.
The day’s work was followed by indoor workouts in the evening and baseball lectures and Zen meditation sessions. Other teams in Japan trained hard, including previous Giants teams, and far harder in fact than MLB teams typically did.
Baseball in Japan had essentially been a martial art — based on endless training and development of spirit — since the late 19th century. But Kawakami took spring training and elevated it to a another level.
Breaking that first camp, Kawakami took the Kyojin — as the Giants were called in Japanese — to train with the Los Angeles Dodgers in Vero Beach, Florida. There he incorporated the Dodger Way in his approach to baseball, adopting Dodger-style sign systems, defensive formations and outfield relay plays.
He became the first manager in Japan to do that. He also became a believer in the downswing tactic, employed by Dodgers that year to produce more ground balls and capitalize on the foot speed of Maury Wills, Willie Davis and other fast runners in their lineup.
When the regular season started, however, the Kawakami system required more than the Dodgers or any other MLB could imagine: sweat-inducing workouts before every game, as well as intense off-day and travel-day practices.
There were also daily meetings — pre-game skull sessions to go over the opposition, meetings during the game where Kawakami would gather the players in a circle and give them up-to-the-minute advice on wind conditions, the opposing pitcher’s curve ball and other matters of importance, and finally post-game hansei-kai (self-reflection conferences) where criticism and fines were handed out and extra practice ordered next morning for those players who had done particularly badly during that day’s game.
At season’s end there was a bone-numbing autumn camp and immediately after the New Year holiday there were joint “voluntary training” get-togethers to prepare for the start of camp on Feb. 1 and everyone was expected to attend. Kawakami instituted strict curfews, instructed his players on proper dress and manners and forbade them to read comic books in public for fear it would spoil the team image.
He even instructed players’ wives on diet and health maintenance and cautioned them against allowing their husbands to watch TV late into the night for fear it would hurt their eyes and not get enough sleep as well. “You’re part of the Giants, too,” he would tell them.
He established a strict system of fines and condoned the systematic use of physical force on younger Giants players to keep them in line. Those who broke curfew in the Giants dormitory, where the young, single players stayed, were punished by the dormitory superintendant’s tekken (iron fist).
Discourteous players were smacked on the back and legs with a bamboo stick. Teen-age players who smoked had to write every day 100 times, “I will not smoke until I am 20 years old.” There were many episodes like this.
Finally, there was the press, the last piece of the Kawakami domain to be brought under control. He barred reporters from the field during workouts, making them stay by the third base dugout and forbidding them to talk to the players without first obtaining permission from the team, and otherwise limited access. He introduced the position of koho, press liaison, a person whom reporters had to go through if they wanted to talk to a player.
A fee, payable to the Yomiuri Giants, was charged for extended interviews. This became an unfortunate part of the overall pro baseball system in Japan that is in place today.
Reporters dubbed these restrictions, the “Tetsu Kaatan” or Iron Curtain, a play on Kawakami’s nickname “Tetsu” which means iron in Japanese.
* * *
The Kawakami system worked. The players were schooled in the fundamentals of the game. They were slick, sure-handed fielders, sharp contact hitters skilled in the bunt and hit-and-run and whenever Nagashima and Oh came to bat there always seemed to be runners in scoring position.
Giants pitchers had superb control of a variety of breaking pitches. The Giants won Central League pennants and Japan Series titles in 1961 and 1963. The only trouble was with the Giants veteran All-Star shortstop Tatsuro Hirooka, who chafed at the new restrictive system of rules which dictated through signs what a batter, pitcher or fielder as the case may be, had to do on every pitch.
Japanese baseball, heretofore, had been much simpler and much freer. Hirooka had begun writing a diary for the weekly magazine Shukan Besuboru, in 1964, in which he voiced opposition to the new way of doing things, but Kawakami intervened and ordered a halt to the series after two issues.
In August, with Hirooka at bat and Nagashima on third, Nagashima took it upon himself to steal home. Hirooka, mistakenly thinking Kawakami had ordered the steal, interpreted the move as a statement of lack of faith in his batting — something which, truth be told, did not inspire a great deal of confidence given that Hirooka’s average was in the low .200s.
Embarrassed, he struck out on the next pitch and threw his bat angrily to the ground. Then, in a rare display of defiance, he strode to the locker room, changed into his street clothes and went home.
Shoriki had decreed at the time of his team’s foundation, “May the Giants always be gentlemen.” The Hirooka walkout was one of the most scandalous episodes in the long proud history of the organization and it naturally made headlines in the sports dailies the following morning.
Most newspaper editors, unhappy about the limitations Kawakami had put on their reporters, supported Hirooka and blasted Kawakami. Hirooka survived Kawakami’s immediate attempts to trade him, but his days were numbered. He retired in the spring of the following year, and went on to become a commentator, but when the Dodgers went to Vero Beach again in 1967 and Hirooka showed up as a member of the press, Kawakami refused his repeated requests for an interview and ordered his players not to speak with him.
Kawakami, meanwhile, continued to practice Zen as a manager. He said it took on new meaning and heightened his awareness of his new environment.
“For me Zen was everything,” he later wrote in his book “Zen to Nihon Yakyu.”
“Through Zen I was able to see myself and the world in a different perspective. It helped me realize how insignificant I was as an individual and how much I was indebted to others.”
Kawakami believed that everything was connected and preached that belief to his players. He said that stars like Nagashima and Oh, who hit home runs, did not hit those home runs by themselves. They were helped by their teammates who got on base first, by fellow batters who sacrificed themselves to advance the runner on base to get him in scoring position and thus put pressure on the pitcher.
Without such teammates, without such pressure, there would be no stars. Nothing.
He also believed in a Zen way of baseball just as there was a Zen way in kendo and judo, a yakyu-do, as it were. The idea of applying zen to baseball was not new.
It went all the way back to the 19th century and had been popularized by famed Waseda University manager Suishu Tobita in the 1920s. Among Kyojin players, perhaps the foremost proponent of yakyu-do was Sadaharu Oh. A high school pitching star who, like Kawakami, had struggled in the beginning and was converted to first base.
As is now well known, Oh overcame a serious drinking problem to become the most dedicated worker on the team, spending his mornings with a batting coach, a martial arts specialist named Hiroshi Arakawa, who helped Oh correct a flaw in his batting form by teaching him to hit with a bizarre one-legged “flamingo” style.
He also practiced swinging a heavy samurai long sword, learning to perform the extremely difficult task of slicing in half pieces of paper suspended from the ceiling. In the process, he developed exquisite timing and powerful wrists.
Oh burst forth in 1962, hitting 38 homers to capture the first of 13 Central League home run titles he would win in a row. He averaged 45 homers a year and won seven (of a total of nine) MVP awards during the Kawakami regime.
Golden Boy Nagashima, who won five MVPs and 444 homers during his career, had his own Zen-like approach to the game, drawing spiritual sustenance from solitary sojourns to Mt. Fuji and mountain retreats in the Japan Alps. He believed that a perfect shadow swing produced a uniquely identifiable auditory “whoosh” and said he could tell by the sound alone whether a bat swing was defective or not.
Editor’s note: The second part of Robert Whiting’s look at the legacy of Tetsuharu Kawakami focuses on Kawakami’s role as leader of the Giants’ V-9 dynasty. It will run in tomorrow’s print edition.
Another Mirror: Abusive Training in Japanese Baseball