capfox reviewed this|almost 6 years ago
Surprisingly, considering all of my interest in Japan and in baseball, this is the first book on Japanese baseball that I've read. Like most good sports books, it's a pretty fast read, although unlike most baseball books, there's not really a central sports narrative. Instead, it's about what the sport is like in Japan, and how the players are treated, both native and foreign.The answer seems to be, bad and worse. The culture is very punitive on the native Japanese players, with non-stop training and incredibly strict codes of behavior. Arguably, it's worse than most of the society in general, I'd say, although Whiting basically wants to make out Japanese baseball to be an extension of the society itself. Certainly, there's something to that - the chapters on the Koshien tournament and the Yomiuri Giants make the case pretty cleanly. The things you wouldn't be allowed to do in your company, like take leave to go to a parent's deathbed, or the general moral codes (always defer to the older and wiser ones, don't complain about pain, etc.) are here, too.For the foreigners, there's the feeling of not really being wanted, of only grudgingly being part of the team, and of having to take all of the blame for things going wrong even when you did a good job. There's the additional part, too, of not wanting the foreigner to be too successful, and so they have to deal with widened strike zones, constant walking when they've been hitting well, etc.Of course, it's not like any of this is news for people who deal with Japan, although I really wonder how much of what he describes still holds. For example, he talks about the travails of the foreign manager in Japan, but with Bobby Valentine and Trey Hillman having won championships now, it's hard to see. The loyalty to the team must have weakened, with more Japanese stars coming to the US. Other changes likely have occurred, as well; I'll look to his other work for that.Anyway, it's a good read, and a nice intro to Japanese baseball; I look forward to reading some of his more recent work, to get a feel for what's going on these days.