ICC Status: Affiliate
Currency: Due to the failing
Australian dollar, Japan is expensive however you look at it!
It is fair to say that cricket is in its infant stages in Japan, however, it has been my absolute pleasure to witness first hand over an eight week period (July to September 2000) the beginnings of what may become a very popular sport in this country.
The following report is an overview of cricket in the country at this stage (from an outsiders perspective, of course). It is worth noting that cricket has evolved to it's current position in Japan through the diligent and enthusiastic hard work of a number of volunteers. It is hoped that these volunteers are suitably recognised in this report.
SPORT IN JAPAN
At present baseball appears to be the number one summer sport in the country and the approach to the game is fanatical to say the least.
Baseball is big business in Japan and the sport receives considerable backing from the business sector. Teams such as the Yomiuri Giants (Japan's most popular team) and the Chunichi Dragons are owned by newspaper companies and others such as the Yakult Swallows (health food), the Nippon Ham Fighters (pork), and the Hanshin Tigers (railways) are all owned by major Japanese companies.
The professional teams play a 130 game roster during their season from April to September. The Yomiuri Giants play out of Tokyo's premier baseball stadium, the Tokyo Dome, which has a capacity of 56,000 spectators. The Dome is sold out for every match the Giants play!
Another measure of the fanaticism of baseball in Japan is the Koshien Schoolboys tournament held annually during the summer vacation (starting on the second Friday in August running for two weeks solid from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm).
The competition itself is elimination
(you lose and you're out) involving forty-nine teams, narrowed down from
nearly four thousand participating schools in regional preliminary matches
throughout the country. It draws up to sixty thousand spectators
per day, not to mention the millions of television
The Japanese are extremely interested in the history, tradition and etiquette of a sport and for this reason it is not too difficult to see cricket becoming popular if it is developed appropriately.
CRICKET IN JAPAN
There are also a fairly high number of expatriates involved in competitions throughout Japan.
Unfortunately, at this stage there is very little junior development before University level, although Trevor Bayly (Volunteer JCA Development Manager) has been able to set up a number of very good elementary school based programs in the Gunma region and some other isolated areas around Japan.
There seems little doubt that given the appropriate time and resources, an elementary school based development program is one area for potential major growth.
Women's University League
The Japan Cricket Association (JCA) was formed approximately twelve years ago and has a President (Professor Yamada). Professor Yamada is a highly respected figure in Japan and his continued involvement is regarded as very important.
The JCA have not been active for a number of years, however, in the past two years various Japanese players have re-formed a committee and become active in a number of areas.
The JCA has a sixteen person volunteer working committee at present and they have formed four sub-committees with portfolios that cover the following areas;
Public Relations(PR and Web
Page) Player Development(Coaching and National team selection) Competition
Structure(Match schedule and rules) Environment Improvement(Facilities
The JCA meets monthly and meetings are normally chaired by Mr Kenichiro Matsamura with each sub-committee providing a report on their respective portfolios. Mr Matsamura is a highly respected man in Japan cricket circles and his hard work and leadership are extremely important for the future well being of Japan cricket.
There is no doubting the enthusiasm of this group of hard working volunteers and whilst their current set up is adequate, it is apparent the JCA will need to become more formalised in the future.
Trevor Bayly has put a large amount of time and effort into Japan cricket and he has basically acted as the "National Development Manager" for a number of years. Unfortunately for Japan cricket, Trevor has been shifted with his work commitments and he now resides in China. He still has an office base in Japan, so undoubtedly he will continue to have a major input into the development of Japan cricket.
Glen Carter, (who was also appointed as the National team coach for the recent Asian Cricket Council Tournament), assists with the organisation of the Kanto Cup and Chris Flynn assists in Kyushu.
I was fortunate to meet Glen Carter in Fuji and he provided me with a valuable insight into cricket in Japan. I should take this opportunity to thank him for providing me with fantastic hospitality and some very valuable local knowledge. "Cheers mate, much appreciated"!!
There is also a field in Hirai that is often used by the local players for training and matches, although with no surface for a wicket they basically just set the stumps up on the ground and play! Needless to say the bounce is sometimes very inconsistent and batting is rather difficult.
At the moment there are approximately 6-8 grounds available within the Gunma region (about an hour by bullet train from Tokyo), with the ground in Myagi Village the popular choice at the moment.
Yokahama has the Yokahama Country and Athletic Club (YC&AC) facility and this is regarded by almost everyone in Japan as the best cricket facility available. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive to hire unless you are involved in a match against the YC&AC team.
There is also a field available in Shizuoka that is quite good, although there is no wicket, other than mats rolled out onto the grass. Whilst visiting Shizuoka I was fortunate to meet with Robert -Gilles Martineau, a Frenchman who has been heavily involved with cricket in Japan for a number of years.
Robert has played a major role
in implementing and maintaining a couple of web sites that provide an enormous
amount of information to anyone who is interested. They are most
certainly worth a look:
Although I did not visit Kyushu I believe there is also a couple of good facilities available there.
It was my pleasure to run some Kanga field days in these schools and the reception received was simply fantastic
Trevor Bayly also organised several meetings with various Boards of Education during my stay to explain the opportunities and benefits of cricket for school kids. These meetings were worthwhile and the reception received was very encouraging.
As a direct result of these meetings, a coach accreditation course was initiated (see coach development) and several schools have shown a genuine desire to incorporate cricket into their curriculum in some form.
The JET (Japanese Exchange Teachers) program could provide cricket with an enormous opportunity to establish a foothold in the schools in future years.
I am led to believe that this program will be extended by the Japanese government in the very near future, thus providing an enormous pool of potential coaches who are generally very keen on seeing cricket introduced.
Given the appropriate time and resources it appears very realistic to envisage enormous growth in junior cricket development programs throughout Japan schools. It is exciting to consider the massive numbers of kids that could be reached through this program and the potential for rapid growth in this area is very realistic.
I was able to attend a number of women's matches and the enthusiasm for the game amongst the girls is fantastic.
The girls were also very keen to participate in the coaching clinics that were organised and they were very willing to learn and extremely pleasant to coach. They do have some ability too and I am sure that the future of the girl's game at University level at least is very promising.
Hopefully, given the right resources and time the girls game can be nurtured along similar lines as the men's version. There is no doubt the girls are keen and capable!
As a direct result of the meetings with various Boards of Education, we were able to initiate a coaching accreditation structure that should provide a pathway for coaches in Japan for years to come.
The JCA were extremely supportive of this program and their assistance was vital in the overall success of the project.
After consultation with the various "stakeholders" it was decided that a structure for cricket coaches in Japan should involve five levels (Level 5 = basics, through to Level 1 = elite). This structure is similar to other sports in Japan (eg. in Karate a black belt is considered a Level 5). The Level 3 JCA cricket coaching will be similar to an Australian Level 1.
In particular, the Ogo Machi and Kasukawa Mura Boards of Education were very supportive and as a result approximately fifteen new coaches have been accredited at various levels.
I should take this opportunity to thank Minako Sekaguchi, for her fantastic efforts in translating the various coaching documents from English to Japanese and acting as an interpreter for myself during the courses. Obviously, without her assistance, communication would have been even more difficult to say the least and I sincerely thank her for her patience and kindness.
Elite player development/ National
The introduction of a number of skill drills will hopefully assist in the improvement of skill levels. At this stage the standard is fairly basic and most of the batsmen in particular have some problems with basic skill execution such as correct bat swing and basic grip and stance (baseball has certainly played a role in this education process!)
These minor, but somewhat significant problems can be addressed quite readily and I am sure that if the players put the time into practice then these deficiencies can be rectified quite quickly.
The bowling was reasonable and with a greater understanding of correct alignment and posture they should be able to continue to improve.
Some of the fielding was fantastic, particularly close to the wicket catching and I am sure the fielding will also continue to improve should more time at practice be devoted to this area.
As mentioned previously, Glen Carter from Fuji has been appointed as National team coach for the ACC tournament and I have little doubt that his input and knowledge will be invaluable.
Umpires and Scorers
Scorers are usually players girl friends and they do have a very good understanding of the game and do an outstanding job (most of them play as well).
In particular it would be remiss of me not to personally thank the following people;
Undoubtedly, I may have forgotten to thank somebody who has helped me a great deal and I sincerely apologise if that is the case.
In finishing, I would like to say that the whole experience has been a wonderful journey and I sincerely hope that Japan cricket has benefited in some way from my involvement.
I can guarantee the experience has been most enjoyable and it will be very interesting to see how cricket progresses in Japan in years to come. Once again thank you so much for the opportunity!
There is only one way to appropriately sign off for now.