March 31st, 1999
Integral Copy of Martin Firbank's Article on Cricket in Japan to the Shizuoka Chronicle
Shimizu Kogyo Koko (Martin has since gone back to the UK) 

Apart from the traditional Japanese sports, there is a wide range of sporting opportunities available for everyone.  
One of the things I was most worried about when I came to Japan-other than the language barrier, humidity and cockroaches-was what I was going to do without cricket. After three yaers of the summer being interrupted only by university exams and, of course, the British weather, I was now going to miss a whole year of cricket by going to Japan. As I trudged off the village green in my second and final game of the summer, my innings ending somewhat prematurely (quite a common occurence), I had plenty of time to reflect about just what I was to do. I could catch glimpses of the Test Matches on BBC World if I was staying in the right kind of hotel-after the Tokyo orientation this was unlikely. I could dream of Australia and the Ashes' Tests in December. Fortunately cricket is covered in the English language papers in Japan, although the "Americanised" report are not quite the same as the broadsheets back home.  
I was surprised, then, to find that cricket is played in Japan, and, what is more, in Shizuoka Prefecture. The prefecture has two teams, one in Fuji and the other in Shizuoka City. I have been playing, or rather 'turning out' for the Shizuoka Kytes this summer. They play at a ground by the Abe River, surrounded by hills and mountains. The wicket can be at best described as interesting, and while the long grass on the outfield makes finding the ball difficult, it provides the opportunity to play the game I thought I would have to do without for a year. That is something to grasp with both hands.  
The Shizuoka team, established in 1983, has players from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Britain, and France. It plays matches in the kanto Cup, the annual competition for foreigners, and friendlies against teams from Tokyo, Yokohama, and Nagoya. My experiences of cricket in japan have been mixed. On one hand the grounds at the Yokohama Country and Athletics Club are close to a traditional English ground as you can find. On the other hand I played against Nagoya on a school sports ground, all concrete and gravel. The outfield was lightning fast, but I was caught out on a couple of occasions when I launched myself at the ball only to realize in mid flight that the ground my knees were about to land on was not the soft, grassy turf of home. However, the mild climate of Shizuoka means that the season here is much longer than in England. Starting in March, with a break in August, it draws to a close in November which is great news for any cricket nut.  
Cricket is not only played by foreigners in Japan. Japanese teams also play in the Gunma Cup, which is now in its fifth year, the Kanto University championships, and the British Ambassador's Challenge Cup for beginners' teams which has been held on six occasions. Japanese teams have ventured onto the international stage, but unfortunately have made the headlines for the wrong reasons (i.e. they always lose). However captain Tetsuo Fuji, playing against Bangladesh im 1996, took two wickets in consecutive balls using different arm actions (left arm over than right arm over). In August the MCC (as part of the UK '9 Festiavl) came to Japan to promote the game. They played four games against Japanese sides, winning three of them. I saw one game in Yokohama where the Japanese team won by five wickets. The Japan Cricket Association plan is to continue to develop the game here with cricket being played in schools and universities. They are also looking forward to sending a team to the Asian Championships in Sharjah, Bangladesh in 2000.  
So cricket is alive in Japan, and is giving this JET the chance to enjoy a game that he thought he would have to miss for a year. As it does throughout the world, cricket presents the chance to travel a bit and to meet other people, providing yet another opportunity for internationalization! If anyone is interested in finding out about cricket in Shizuoka, please contact me, and I will more than happy to put you in touch with the relevant people.