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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #249: September 21, 2004

Japan's Players Back to Work But Strike Unresolved

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan's Players Back to Work But Strike Unresolved"

Related Article::
"Japanese Baseball: Old And Slow"


Monday, 20th was a national holiday in Japan. Dubbed as the "Respect for the Aged Day" it was established in 1966 along with the "National Foundation Day" (February 11) and the "Health and Sports Day" (October 10). 1960s were the days of high economic growth in Japan while the work ethic was still such that taking vacations and days-offs for personal reasons were considered sins. The government thought that increasing mandatory holidays would expand the people's leisure time, which would strengthen the new businesses then emerging, especially the travel industry.

Another intention of the government in creating a number of holidays simultaneously at the time was, though not officially documented, to dilute the effect of creating the "National Foundation Day." At the time there were strong objections, especially from the "left-wing," in recognizing the date of foundation of Japan, because, they said, if people realize the existence of and learn the history of Japan, the country would return to militarism and could start another war. Incredible as it may seem now, they made a big case, and noises, along this line of argument. In fact, there are still those who make similar assertions and refuse to recognize the "National Foundation Day," and they would gather and demonstrate against it every year on February 11.

The date of the "Respect for the Aged Day" was originally set to be September 15, but in 2001, it was changed to the third Monday in September, along with a number of other holidays to fall on Mondays, so the people, and certain industries, could benefit from long weekends. (The "Health and Sports Day" was moved to the second Monday in October at the same time.)

This year, as Monday being a holiday after the first time ever strike by the baseball players over Saturday and Sunday, the repercussion was all the more intense. Every stadium was packed with fans and the total turnout of spectators was the largest for the season.

The media had played a large part in reminding people that they could not live without baseball. The NHK, the national broadcasting body, devoted half of its prime time news program to report the strike and related events from the fans' responses and interviews to views and analyses by the commentators. Commercial television stations were even more excited, with virtually all of its news and variety programs taking up the subject in length if not totally devoted to the topic.

Aside from whether it has served to promote the cause officially announced - to stop the merger of the two teams or find an alternative measure, the strike certainly provided lucrative opportunities for baseball commentators, comprised mostly by ex-baseball players. In addition, it clearly worked as a very effective campaign to bring back the fans to baseball, which has been reported to be dwindling for some time. (See the "Related Article")

So thus far the strike has worked well for the professional baseball and related businesses. And the people are keeping their fingers crossed for any development toward the announced strike plans for every weekend to come until the issues are resolved. The problem, however, is that all the other news has been obscured in the mean time. Reports of several committed murders during the period could be borne without, but to miss detailed reports on "sumo" or the Paralympics could be a sad consequence for the fans and families of the delegates. Moreover, there is virtually no report on Prime Minister Koizumi's trip to Brazil, Mexico, and New York.

As such, Mr Koizumi's efforts in promoting Japan to become a member of the UN Security Council in Brazil and then in New York, along with the signing of the FTA with Mexico, the second of such agreement for Japan only after between Singapore signed in January 2002, has been reported very, very little. While the Prime Minister's ceremonial first pitch at Yankee stadium with Matsui to receive the ball was televised at some stations, no explanation was given as to why he made the trip to New York in the first place. Perhaps Mr Koizumi has not lived up to the people's expectations, and perhaps professional baseball is the most important thing for some people, and certainly the baseball would draw in more viewing rates for TV, but Japan's media obviously needs a little more sense of balance, unless they are participating in a conspiracy to degrade the intellectual level of the Japanese people.

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