Central to Japanese culture is the idea of ‘kata’, or ‘form’. In the tea ceremony, for example, the actual drinking of the tea has been relegated to what seems like an almost disposable step in the rigmarole of correctly placing the bowl, correctly making the tea, correctly observing the bowl, correctly raising it to your lips, and correctly returning it.
Add to that the infamous lack of space in crowded Japan and the lack of free time its workforce is permitted, and in sport repetition of form, as opposed to actual play, becomes the rule. Old men practicing sidewalk golf swings are ubiquitous, school tennis club practice more often involves endless hours hitting balls thrown at you by the coach than actually playing your teammates, and in like manner baseball ends up being, in practice if not in spirit, more about practicing your hit than making homeruns.
Baseball is traditionally as close to a national religion as you will get in Japan. For the time- and space-pressed devotee, there is the batting center. Few, if any, areas in Japan are without one. They are at least as busy at night as during the day, full of men thwacking balls pitched at them mechanically at various speeds.
Listen to the sounds of a Japanese batting center here - the rhythm of wood on leather, accompanied by the whine of the ball-feed system and followed by the rattling of the surrounding wire netting as the ball hits it. This happens under fierce white night lights surrounded by the calls and caterwauls of the city streets.
This sound was recorded at a batting center in one of Tokyo’s busiest and most sleepless areas, the red-light Kabukicho area of Shinjuku ward.
Read more about Japanese baseball here
Also, shop for Japanese baseball happi coats here - cool, ideal for summer!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
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