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With the Ashes in full swing and England looking as though they are doing alright against the Australian tourists (please stay fit Freddie), it is really good to see the popularity of this great English sport on the rise.
Who would have thought though that in a country renowned for the sport of sumo and more popular sports such as baseball and football that the gentleman’s game of cricket is becoming increasingly popular in the Land of the Rising Sun.
I say it is becoming popular, but there are still only 62 mens and 12 womens teams in the whole of Japan, a country with a population of 120 million plus but it is gradually establishing itself with the efforts of the Japan Cricket Association funded by the International Cricket Council.
The Japanese teams such as University of Tokyo and Waseda University do not have the history of Gloustershire and Somerset County Cricket but they do have plenty of enthusiasm for a game.
The game of baseball which is Japan’s most popular professional sport with teams such as Hanshin Tigers, Yomiuri Giants (boo!) and Chunichi Dragons (yeah!), international baseball superstars such as Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui sees millions of fans supporting this more modern, less gentrified version of the original game of cricket.
Although cricket greens are probably going to be a bit short on supply in Japan, I think that Japan is the perfect place for cricket as an alternative to baseball. The gentleman’s game is perhaps more suited to the Japanese temperament relying on steady disciplined teamwork in both attack and defence. There is also no room in cricket for un-gentlemanly behaviour which comes across so readily in the crude game of baseball.
Cricket is by no means near being a main stream sport in Japan, but I hope that Japanese cricket will continue to be inspired by the skill and professionalism of players such as Freddie Flintoff and Andrew Strauss as they show up the Australians in this summer’s Ashes. Ganbatte England!