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P I L G R I M A G E
T O K O S H I E N
Once strictly America's pastime, the game of baseball has exploded into a global phenomenon.
In the 21st Century, baseball enjoys amazing popularity everywhere from Central and South
America to Asia and Australia. But one nation in particular is rivaling America's intense passion
for the game: Japan.
Baseball arrived in Japan in 1872, and secured its place in
Japanese culture as a scholastic sport long before the first
Japanese professional league was established in 1936. Even the
onset of World War II could not slow the growing popularity
of yakyu ("field ball"). Today, baseball is arguably even more
popular in Japan than in America.
One event in particular truly epitomizes the Japanese culture
of baseball: the annual National High School Baseball
Tournament, known simply as "Koshien". For two weeks
every August, the nation turns its attention to Koshien Stadium,
home of the Hanshin Tigers and the oldest stadium in Japan.
60,000 fans fill the seats daily in the unbearable heat to
witness 49 teams (the finalists from over 4,000 entries) vie for
the National Championship. There can be only one winner.
Many describe Koshien as "the Super Bowl and World Series rolled
into one". Even those Japanese who are not ardent baseball fans
pay attention during Koshien. Many see it as a national treasure
- an old-fashioned showcase for the purest virtues of the nation's
youth: effort, teamwork, dedication, and good sportsmanship.
Every young baseball player dreams of (or dreads) one day competing
on the "sacred" dirt of Koshien. The history of the tournament
is replete with legends of stoic young heroes overcoming tremendous
adversity. Japan's most famous baseball legends, from Sadaharu
Oh to Hideki
Matsui to Ichiro,
were first introduced to the nation on the biggest stage of
This project is
sponsored by grants from:
The Japan-US Friendship Commission
Special thank you to our official airline sponsor:
Special thanks to all the organizations that
helped make Kokoyakyu: High-School Baseball a reality: