When you imagine Summer tradition in Japan, you might imagine summer festivals, fireworks, and Bon festivals which represents Japanese summer time traditions. These festivals are well known as a part of Japanese traditions. However, there is a little know Japanese summer tradition.
It is called “Koshien (甲子園)” which is the Japan national High School baseball tournament. The “Koshien” itself is the baseball stadium located in Osaka where Hanshin Tigers‘ home ground. The high school baseball tournament is held every summer at this stadium.
The tournament started in 1915 and since 1924 (10th) Koshien stadium has been used.
Currently, the tournament is consists of 49 high schools which win the regional elimination rounds in 47 prefectures (都道府県/todofuken/), except Tokyo and Hokkaido. Tokyo is divided into West Tokyo and East Tokyo, and Hokkaido into North and South.The final game reaches average 20% TV program rating in Japan. It is usually higher than NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) games.
Why Japanese people are so exited to the high school baseball games?
There might be a power of media, but I believe many people expect “drama” behind the games. High school students put all their efforts for the tournament for 3 years of their high school life.
Moreover, this tournament is prefecture representative matches, people cheer their home prefecture representatives. There are distinguished high schools in every prefecture, and highly skilled players often leave their hometown for these schools. Many Japanese MLB players are from these schools, and they were star player in the tournament. “Koshien” is also a stope of future star players. Talent scouts from Pro teams keep their eyes on every games, and outstanding plays and individual scores in the “Koshien” provide great opportunities to the high school players into professional leagues.
Ouendan (応援団) “Cheer parties”
Another enjoyment of Koshien is “Cheering squad”. Every school which has baseball club also has cheering squads. Usually, every one of students in representative schools (over 1000 students) go to the tournament as cheer squad as in the pictures.
The second picture is the classic style of “Ouendan” wearing “Gakuran (classic male school uniform)”. Female Ouendan wears also male uniforms often or “Hakama” as picture below.
In distinguished high schools, there is a initiation “cheering practice” for the freshmen which practice “school songs” and “cheer songs”. Freshmen go to the every regional elimination rounds to cheer their schools.
If you are in Japan during summer and into baseball games, you would enjoy the “Koshien”.