Kokutai National Sports Festival to Be Almost Completely Opened to Foreigners

Daily Sports Presents!

It was announced on Mar. 2nd that the restrictions on qualifications for participation in the Kokutai, Japan’s national sports festival, will be greatly relaxed for students of Korean schools in Japan, Japanese-Brazilians, and other players and coaches with foreign citizenship to take, opening the door for their participation. The Japan Amateur Sports Association (JASA) will make the official decision at a Kokutai Committee meeting on Mar. 4. The changes are expected to be implemented in next years combined Kokutai in Hyogo Prefecture.

Under current regulation Japanese citizenship is a prerequisite for participation in the Kokutai, and limited to foreign students of Japan Basic Education Law Clause 1-defined schools (Clause 1 Schools) who are (1) entered in such high schools or colleges, (2) have been an exchange student of such high schools or colleges for more than 1 year, or (3) graduated from such high schools or colleges.

The revision to rules regarding players and coaches of foreign nationalities will admit long-term residents (as defined by the Immigration Law) as participants, treating them in the same way as Japanese citizens. This change will allow the participation of students of Korean and other ethnic and international schools, defined as “various schools” the same as preparatory schools in the Basic Education Law.

International students at Japanese universities, heretofore barred from participating, will be allowed in if they have lived in Japan continuously for 3 years.

The National High School Sports Federation has been accepting non-Clause 1 school students since 1994.

My Comment: Well, it’s about time. The government has also recently decided to allow graduates of International Universities apply to Japanese grad school. Good going, guys!

Sumo wrestling, Japan’s NASCAR, to remain Japanese, stagnant

From an article about Estonian Rikishi Baruto:

Out of 708 wrestlers in Sumo’s six divisions, 59 were born outside of Japan. There have now been three foreign Yokozuna grand champions.

Hawaiian Akebono was the first in 1993, then his compatriot Musashimaru and now Mongolian Asashoryu.

The current crop of foreign wrestlers comes from across the globe, including Tonga, Brazil, Bulgaria, Russia, Mongolia — and Estonia.

Their number is unlikely to increase much more, however.

Perhaps fearing a gradual foreign takeover of Japan’s ancient sport, in 2002 the Japan Sumo Association limited the 55 stables to one foreign sumo wrestler each (a few stables already had more than one foreign wrestler when the rule was introduced).

For the moment the Mongolians are cleaning up. Yokozuna Asashoryu heads a gang of seven countrymen in the top division. From the other end of the continent, European wrestlers like Russian Roho, Bulgarian Kokkai and Kotooshu from Georgia are also starting to push their weight around.

The old presumption that foreigners could only ever succeed by brute force has already proved wrong, says Mark Schreiber, veteran sumo watcher.

“All the Hawaiians had going for them was their bulk. When I look at the new crop, I see a slightly different style,” he says.

“Now you get people who are big, and who have technique. You certainly see that with the Mongolians.”

In the farcical image game that is professional sports, these issues can be confusing. I am tempted to make accusations of racism to the Japan Sumo Association, but there are many possible reasonable counter-arguments . But despite my initial gaijin rage that bubbled up upon reading this, I eventually had to laugh it off and decided to “let the baby have its bottle”.

There is a perceived need for sumo to give its fanbase “what it wants” because without them there can be no sumo. Perhaps this move was meant to rein in more liberal trainers who want to beef up their stables or find the next Asashoryu (Mongolian wrestler currently dominating the sport).
Continue reading Sumo wrestling, Japan’s NASCAR, to remain Japanese, stagnant

Japanese fans to be allowed to watch World Cup Qualifier in Pyongyang

From Daily Sports Online:
It came to light Feb. 22 that North Korea plans to allow Japanese supporters into the country for the World Cup final qualifying round between Japan and the DPRK to be held June 8 in Pyongyang. Japan Football Association Vice President Ogura Junji unveiled the news at a press conference in Tokyo. This is the first time North Korea has officially allowed Japanese sports fans into the country, in what promises to bring a large number of Japanese fans into a country with whom they do not have diplomatic ties.

According to those involved with Japan-DPRK relations, it is said that NK will allow from 2000-5000 Japanese supporters in the country. And NK has made promises to allow a 100-journalist, 50-cameraman media group to cover the Japan-DPRK match, however only on the condition that “coverage is limited to soccer.”

As this is an unprecedented number of Japanese traveling to the DPRK, there is expected to be some wrangling in finding accommodations and flights for all these people. Also, this plan may be affected by proposed sanctions on the country over the North’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals.

My Comment: Nice! This is bound to inspire more than a few interesting travelogues. Looks like the story’s already been covered in English. Oh well, I already translated it.

Japan beats NK 2-1 in Extra time!

One more historical event that I missed out on. Damn I wanted to see that!

I don’t see any video of it online yet, but apparently it was a really close game (detailed results can be found here in Japanese). North Korea was much better than expected. The DPRK’s defense was strong, as Coach Zico and others said, and, while Japan dominated possession, they made some crucial mistakes in defense that they had to make up for in the end.

From Japan Today:

SAITAMA — Masashi Oguro scored a last-gasp winner as Japan made a nervy start to the final phase of qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup on Wednesday by squeaking past North Korea 2-1 in their opening Group B match in Saitama.

Mitsuo Ogasawara put Japan in front with a free kick after four minutes but substitute Nam Song Chol scored a goal that will give Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi nightmares for weeks to come just after the hour mark to deservedly pull the North Koreans level.

The game was played amid political tensions between the two countries with public pressure mounting for the Japanese government to slap economic sanctions on the reclusive state in a bid to force it to come clean on its abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

As a precaution against possible crowd trouble, more than 3,000 police and private security guards were mobilized but the match passed without incident.

Continue reading Japan beats NK 2-1 in Extra time!

The Coming Battle with North Korea

The Japanese team Prepares for the big showdown.
Tomorrow night Japan will finally face down North Korea… on the soccer field. On Feb. 9th in Saitama (at the illustrious Saitama Stadium). The teams finished their last practices today (the DPRK team only allowed reporters to view 15 minutes of theirs as opposed to the Japanese team letting people in on the whole thing), and they both have expressed confidence that they will trounce the other team.

Sporting events in Asia have historically had a significant effect on postwar politics in the region. The 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul were seen as coming-out parties for both countries. And the 2008 Games to be held in Beijing are set to do the same.

Besides such positive effects as international recognition, sporting events can fuel tensions between coutnries as well, as was seen in the booing and roughhousing of Japanese spectators at the 2004 Asia Cup in Beijing.

Emotions in Japan are running high, with people fuming over a number of issues, from the kidnapping of Japanese nationals to the nuclear threat. This game is sure to be historic, as beating the North Korean team will be cathartic for the citizenry, and losing would infuriate many.
Continue reading The Coming Battle with North Korea