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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Konan High's Ace Shimabukuro was a Junior Peace Activist 興南エース島袋、小学生代表として宜野湾市民大会で発言していた

Konan High School of Okinawa Prefecture defeated Kanagawa's Tokaidai Sagami 13 - 1 in the final game of the 92nd National High School Baseball Championship, to be the first Okinawan school to win the summer game title, and the first since 1998 to claim both the spring and summer titles (photo from Okinawa Times).

The summer high school baseball tournament is a national tradition in Japan, enjoying overwhelming popularity across the country, equal or greater than professional baseball tournaments. I have never been a baseball fan, but even I followed the summer high school baseball since childhood. The spring tournament is played by 30+ high schools selected based on previous records, and the summer one is of a bigger scale, gathering winners of all the prerfectural tournaments. There are 47 prefectures in Japan, and Tokyo and Hokkaido are divided into two tournament districts, making the total number of participating schools to 49. Major Leabue players like Matsui Hideki and Matsuzaka Daisuke are former high school baseball heroes.

The tournament is held at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo, near Kobe, home stadium of a professional baseball team Hanshin Tigers. The single-elimination tournament makes each game an emotional event for players, coaches, families and supporters. When you lose once, that's the end of your summer. One well-known ritual of the high school baseball tournament is collecting soil on the stadium ground and bring it home as memorabilia.

The first Okinawan school to play in the national high school tournament was Shuri High School, back in 1958, when the island was still under the U.S. occupation. The students had to obtain passports to go to Koshien, and they lost in the first game. Following the tradition, they collected the stadium soil to take home, only to be confiscated at the border quarantine.

What is not reported much in the Japanese mainland media is the fact that Konan's ace pitcher Shimabukuro Yosuke (photo from Japan Times) lived in Ginowan City, where Futenma Air Station is, at the time of the 2004 USMC helicopter crash into the Okinawa International University campus. The helicopter burst into flames and debris flew in front of the apartment building where he and his family lived then.

Shimabukuro was a grade 6 student, and as a student leader, he spoke at the Ginowan Residents Rally, as representative of all elementary school students. The Rally was held on September 12, 2004, a month after the August 13 accident, and attended by more than 30,000 residents, one third of Ginowan City's residents. (rally photos from Ginowan City's website) Shimabukuro then called for a safer living environment for the residents.

See this previous post for more information about the helicopter crash.

See the below related links for the Konan High's victory, Pitcher Shimabukuro, and Ginowan City.

Congratulations for Konan High's Victory!

Peace Philosopher

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