It’s August in Japan, and to millions of Japanese sports fans that means — high school baseball! High school baseball is really big in Japan, and teams from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures try all season long to win the right to go to Koshien (koh-SHE-en) Stadium near Osaka, where the national championships are being held right now. To go to Koshien is the dream of every young ball player, and it has a positive effect on the future careers of thousands of young men every year, whether they go on to play professional baseball or not. The drama of a Koshien race is captured in manga and anime such as the classic Touch, a comic I used to study Japanese with while at college. By an amazing coincidence, J-List is based in the city where Touch creator Mitsuru Adachi was born, and this year our prefecture is represented at Koshien by Maebashi Commercial High School, Mr. Adachi’s old alma mater (and also the school that our own Yasu graduated from). We’ll be rooting for them this year!
August is also the season of matsuri, or festivals, and each town in Japan hosts at least one wild festival, closing off streets to allow its citizens to dance through the town in celebration of summer. I went down to check out our city’s festival, which was on last night, and had a great time. There were a dozen floats filled with children playing taiko drums and banging on gongs, and groups of men carrying omikoshi, which are portable Shinto shrines that you parade around on your shoulders while shouting washoi, washoi, washoi. All around us were young people wearing new yukata, cotton kimonos for summer, while they enjoyed the chaos all around them. Beer flows quite freely at these festivals, and more than once we were approached by inebriated Japanese men who wanted to practice their English with us. Although I could do without the heat, I sure like summer in Japan because of the festivals.
On a sadder note, Saturday was the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and a very solemn ceremony was held in the city to honor those killed on August 6, 1945. In April, I took my mother and kids to Hiroshima to see the city and experience the Peace Park, the area above ground zero that has been converted into a beautiful place to reflect on the past. The museum was especially moving, filled with displays of objects recovered after the blast, such as melted glass bottles, children’s tricycles, and the famous Hiroshima Watch, stopped forever at 8:15 am. Since my children are part of both Japan and America, I wanted them to see the images or Hiroshima and know how different things had been during that terrible time. Despite being completely destroyed, the city of Hiroshima has been rebuilt into an amazing and vibrant city that all Japan can be proud of.
J-List carries hundreds of hard to find items from Japan, including cool accessories for your iPod made by Elecom, a popular maker of computer peripherals. From cool cases with carabiner clips to interesting headphones and speakers, if you’ve got an iPod or similar music player, there are some really unique products on our site for you. See the newly created iPod products page (under Computer Peripherals)