TokyoFreePress
      An interactive and taboo-free journalism based in Japan




     
 
Welcome to TokyoFreePress Friday, March 24 2017 @ 05:09 AM JST
   

Hiroki Kuroda - samurai or a professional?

The director of the mental hospital is known for his fatherly compassion toward the inmates. One day when he strolled around the garden, he spotted an inpatient casting a fishing line into the swimming pool. The director stopped by the patient. Smiling knowingly, he said, "What kind of fish do you catch here?" The madman replied: "Don't be silly, doc. You can't catch any fish in a swimming pool."
- A parable inserted in a book written by German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers (title forgotten)


Hiroki Kuroda has now established himself in
the starting rotation of the New York Yankees
Mark my words. The culture of Japan, if it still deserves to be called that, is all fake; rotten from tip to toe.

As I pointed out when talking about Japanese musicians,
they do music in order to bring themselves together, while in any other civilized nation, people, at least adults, come together in order to do music. This is a fallout from the fact that just in a matter of one and a half century, the Japanese have imported so avidly from the West everything from Johan Sebastian Bach to Lady Gaga.

You can see the same inversion everywhere. Sports are no exceptions. As you may have already noticed, no other people in the world do so many different games. That is because the kind of game you choose to play does not really matter here. Actually it's not that you choose the game, but the game chooses you. As a result, it does not matter, either, whether or not you win the game.

Given this cultural climate, it's all the more delightful to stumble on an exceptional individual who has a real stuff, although that doesn't happen very often in my country of birth.

The other day my American friend, who is a resident of the same village I live in, sent me a link to an article in which NYT reporter David Waldstein tells an intriguing story about the ordeal Hiroki Kuroda had to go through before he migrated to the U.S.

Waldstein portrays, without exaggeration, how often Kuroda, now a New York Yankee, was whacked with a baseball bat, forced to run between foul poles from morning till dusk, and only allowed to drink polluted river water when he became dehydrated. In this country punitive conditioning is believed to be one of the most effective ways to instill the spirit of self-sacrifice and stoicism in young athletes.

Nevertheless, the writer fails to answer the very question he seems to have intended to address: "Is it because of, or despite, the abusive hazing he experienced in the early days of his baseball career that he has finally come into bloom in the majors?" To put the same question differently, "Why didn't he choose to stay with Japan's Puro Yakyu when he was supposed to take his turn to bully juniors?"

Waldstein fails because he just singles out the most apparent aspect of the Japanese training method while passing over a more important feature subtly involved in it. In this country, repressive ways of molding people into desirable profiles are not confined to sports. It's also commonplace in all other walks of life such as politics, business, journalism, science, academia and art. This makes the issue at hand beyond the comprehension of a sports writer, or anyone else who can't grasp it in a historical and cultural context.

Many Americans have talked about the difference between baseball and its Japanese equivalent Yakyu. They include Bobby Valentine, current manager of the Boston Red Sox, Marty Kuehnert, former GM at the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and now a professor at Sendai University, and Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and The Chrysanthemum and the Bat. Obviously these people eclipse Waldstein because they have better insight into sports and culture in Japan, and they addressed the same issue from much broader perspectives.

Yet they sometimes fell short of getting the question fully answered, because they, too, tended to overlook the most intricate aspect of the issue. More specifically, they often left out the question about why so many mediocre guys cruise past their seniors to stardom without being subjected to physical and mental abuse.


Back in 1967, Chie Nakane, professor of anthropology at Tokyo University, published a book titled Tate-shakai no Ningen Kankei, or Personal Relations in a Vertical Society. Her anthropological rubbish sold so well in the West that it's now become a classic of Japanology.

It is true that on the surface, Japan's "centralized feudal system" looked to be vertically aligned. But if that had really been the case, Shogun's reclusive regime, which actually succumbed to the gunboat diplomacy so easily, must have collapsed from within well before Perry's arrival.

The known law of dynamics says you can't topple a flat structure from the bottom.

And more recently, if Nakane's "theory" were to be considered true,

Emperor Hirohito must have been hung upside down by his subjects in the street of Tokyo,


before the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur, whose mission was to irreversibly flatten out this country with a fake democracy.

The fact of the matter remains that Japan is a nation which is integrated horizontally. It's ridiculous to see "personal relations," vertical or not, between the Divine Emperor and its subjects. Peer pressure is everything that counts in this country. At the end of the day the stupid professor just subscribed to the pedestrian view.

Believe me, Japan is a classless society. And that also means it's leaderless. If there are people who claim to be leaders, they are little more than shamans, at best, or moderators, most of the time, whose only role is to build consensus. At any rate a nominal leader needn't lead his organization with leadership backed by outstanding knowledge or skills in the activity his organization is supposed to perform. His ultimate goal is always to keep Wa among his people.

The dictionary says Wa simply means harmony. But as Robert Whiting observed, harmony is one thing and Wa is quite another. The morbid egalitarian obsession that has long haunted the Japanese people has its origin in the 17-Article Constitution promulgated by Shotoku Prince in the 7th century.

Given this mantra of Wa, the only prerequisite for the Japanese leader to fulfill is the ability to make sure the nail that sticks out be hammered down ingeniously but mercilessly. (See NOTE below.) To that end he should be able to identify the slightest sign of professionalism burgeoning on the part of individual members because professionalism poses the most perilous threat to the community built on the false harmony.

NOTE: The method most commonly used when ostracizing a persona non grata was, and still remains in some rural areas, the procedure called Mura Hachibu, literally translated as "purging 80% from the village." The remainder, 20%, represents participation in firefighting activity and the burial of the corpse when the subject person or his kin is dead. The reason the Japanese refrain from going as far as to 100% like ancient Athenians did is twofold. Firstly, if they went that far, the very principle of Wa might be jeopardized. Secondly, every Japanese individual, ostracized or not, is believed to become a god posthumously.

You can't imagine a group of people anywhere in the world that values discord over bringing individual vectors into one direction. But in no other country is harmony maintained only by nipping individual creativity and spontaneity in the bud.

This is the surest way to mediocrity and utter idiocy.

In his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber defines the modern-day profession as a "secularized calling" which still requires an "ascetic devotion." In my interpretation of Weber's words as an avowed Buddha loyalist and retired businessman, every professional, from politician, to businessperson, to ballplayer, should act like the inpatient at the mental hospital. He should be damned serious about what he is doing, and very proud of it. But at the same time, he shouldn't lose soberness and humility. He should always keep in mind that it can well be an illusion to expect a big catch in the swimming pool. As I always say, the most important thing is to keep life-size views of one's life. Don't you ever talk big, if you are going to act small in the end.

Fortunately, there have been a handful of Japanese sportspersons with uncompromising, sober and well-focused devotion to the game. Before Hiroki Kuroda, we had Hideo Nomo. To say the least, Nomo was one of the very exceptional talents Japan has ever got. But actually, he would never have come into bloom as a fullfledged professional if he hadn't fled his home country in 1995. Only after he won the National League's Rookie of the Year Award in the same year, the Japanese people realized that they'd let go of a real talent.

He always reminds me of Maestro Seiji Ozawa who was kicked out of Japan by the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 1961. Only after the likes of Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein certified his talent as genuine, NHK offered sincere apologies and reimported him. He has since been enshrined as the home-grown Emperor of classical music. By the way, did you know Kabuki or any other thing which supposedly represents Japan's traditional "culture" toward the West is all created by this gimmick of reimport?

On the contrary the population of fake athletes still keeps growing. They include dozens of me-too Major Leaguers who all learned the wrong lesson from the success story of Hideo Nomo. Ichiro Suzuki, for one, has already been elevated to an indisputable deity in Japan's baseball even though he still has a long way to go before possibly being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If you still believe in the exaggerated notion about the Confucian influence on Japan, you will wonder how a 38-year-old can be deified defying the world-renowned seniority principle. But actually it's senility principle that governs this country.

In 2001, the Nintendo-owned ballclub in Seattle started the whole process of reimport. In his first couple of seasons in the MLB, Suzuki stole not only many bases but also the hearts and minds of American baseball fans who had been fed up with these steroid-pumped-up Popeyes hitting 70-something homeruns every year.

Emboldened by the initial success, the Japanese media kept administering what I call the cultural steroid to Suzuki in order to make a Hinomaru-bearing hero out of the skinny guy. But in fact, because of, rather than despite his American Doriimu coming true, the Mariners kept sinking in the AL standings year after year.

By the time he was transferred to the New York Yankees in the middle of this season, Suzuki had developed a silly idea that the other eight guys were playing the game for him, not the other way around. This is why Joe Girardi, Yankees' manager, is now having hard times trying to make him recognize that without all this hyperbole he is just an average ballplayer.

As I said, the epidemic of anti-professionalism is not confined to sports. You can see the same thing happening everywhere. But among other things, the proliferation of Waido-sho, as the Japanese transliterate "wide shows," is an unmistakable sign that they have remained essentially unchanged in the last 13 centuries.

Every morning, and for the rest of the day, too, every national network airs one wide show after another exactly in the same format. The studio is always overpopulated with morons who claim to be experts, dozens of Terebi Tarento (TV personalities) who are actually talentless, and the empty-headed emcee who is only skillful at mixing up everything from political/economic news (see NOTE below), to Entame (entertainment) and sports, to today's fortune based on blood types and star signs, to weather forecast given in syrupy voices of two or more cuties which always contains laundry tips and clothing recommendations as its indispensable features. There you can see the Japanese culture has long been dead.

NOTE: News stories these idiots comment on in the way "even an idiot can understand" are all red herrings invented by the collusive alliance between politicians and the media. These days Japan's nuclear energy policy is always at the top of the list of media-salient "issues." Although it's too obvious that such a technological issue cannot be identified, let alone solved, by a bunch of laymen, these unprofessional pundits and scholars keep politicizing it so even an idiot can tell the pros and cons to be entailed in the government's proposal. The same can be said of all other false issues. In the total absence of respect for professionalism, they politicize what should never be politicized all the time.

These days I enjoy myself watching live on the Internet Hiroki Kuroda's solid outing every 5th or 6th day. It's a little more than just killing time to watch this guy in action.

I know nothing about his take on the issues I discuss here. So I can't tell whether the ordeal he experienced before moving to the U.S. helped him pursue his ultimate goal, or hindered him from it. But that does not matter at all because discussing issues is not his profession. ·

Story Options

Trackback

Trackback URL for this entry: http://www.TokyoFreePress.com/trackback.php?id=20120920213335243

No trackback comments for this entry.
Hiroki Kuroda - samurai or a professional? | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Hiroki Kuroda - samurai or a professional?
Authored by: samwidge on Saturday, September 22 2012 @ 05:17 AM JST

Extraordinarily interesting view!

As a person with handicaps, I refuse to participate in any competition where I am guaranteed to lose. That goes for athletics as well as marriage.

The customs of athletic competitors are mysterious beyond words. Crossing international lines enhances these mysteries.

All our athletes work so hard at their "sports" that they have time for little else. They deprive themselves of the real joys of life, family, science, books, faith. I suppose that their happiness is really all that matters. If a dunk in wastewater pleases them, that's OK with me.

It may just be my personal bigotries but... I am pleased to see that the politically one-sided town where I live turns out en masse to watch local athletes punish themselves every weekend. That means that our Democrats have less time to disrupt the pleasant activities enjoyed by the rest of us. They do less damage to our political system.

They are happy. I am happy.

I can appreciate your own disaffection with your people (bigotry?) but when you said, "You can't imagine a group of people anywhere in the world that values discord over bringing individual vectors into one direction. But neither can you think of any other country where harmony is maintained only by nipping individual creativity and spontaneity in the bud,"

I at first thought you were speaking of my people rather than yours.

In my mind, discord equals athletic competition. Nipping creativity is done by keeping people away from intellectual achievement by submersing them in baseball to watch injury and exhaustion.

Most fans object strenuously to my view but there seems to be strong proof that Americans could do far better by focus on real need and achievement.

There is an alternate theory that athletic combat reduces a human need to see suffering and pain elsewhere -- the gladiator concept.

Americans who have seen Japanese baseball, like it immensely. In fact, that is the point -- getting anybody to like anything at all.

As for me, I don't know anything or anyone I don't like. I have no need for baseball.
Hiroki Kuroda - samurai or a professional?
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Saturday, September 22 2012 @ 06:32 AM JST

samwidge,

I think I basically understand your points.

There's only one thing on which I can't agree with you: Who said we have to do useful things? In association with this, many secondary questions come up:

- useful for whom?
- who decides it's useful or not?
- are there useful things which are not harmful at the same time?
etc., etc.

I have no intention to convert you to Buddhism, but my "bigotry" always remains that man is a funny creature that does not care too much about usefulness. Looking back on my 76-year-long life, I always have an impression that I've lived my life just like this inmate in the mental hospital.

You don't seem to watch sporting events on TV very often. Neither do I, except for the Major League baseball. Yet, I suspect you glanced sideways at a couple of events when the 2012 Paralympics were going on in London. I don't agree to the basic concept of staging special Olympic games for the disabled. Simply it's tasteless. But nevertheless, in some instances I found it a little hard to refrain from tears. I don't think these handicapped guys are just killing time.

Yu
Hiroki Kuroda - samurai or a professional?
Authored by: Diogenes on Saturday, September 22 2012 @ 03:58 PM JST
You nailed it right on the head with this opening line: "The culture of this country, if it still deserves to be called that, is all fake; rotten from tip to toe."

Not only has Japan been militarily occupied since 1945, it has been attacked by American culture. What? Yes, there is a military strategy document that notes that American culture is a soft weapon, a stealth weapon targeted at the youth. The goal is to destroy the fabric of the family and morals from within and keep the population divided--old vs. young. It reminded me of a native American artist that created a sculpture titled, if I remember correctly, "The Modern Indian." On one side was a face of a man with his traditional long hair and feathers. Below it was written: Tradition kills change. On the other side was a modern man with the long hair but wearing a suit and tie. Underneath it were the words: Change kills tradition.

How successful has this silent invasion been? Where else do young people dress up like 1950's Beboppers, drive imported '50s American cars, and play Elvis music? It's not just Japan that has been attacked with this weapon, but it seems to be the one country that is the most infected by it. It used to be worthwhile to travel to foreign countries where a real cultural difference was evident. Now, for me, I can't see the point. Even China has McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken places. The Iranians rejected this weapon with their revolution and are now the targets of the next tool—armed attack. No one will be allowed to escape.

The hazing ritual of being hit with baseball bats is likely totally unknown in the U.S. This is the first time I'd read about this lunacy. I guess you could say that this form of torture is sanctioned by the public, or it would have been stopped by being publicly shamed. Perhaps this beating method is really a kind of poll to see just how weak the Japanese people are, a way to see just how far “they” can go. It reminded me of the Russian military training, where military instructors would damn near kill the recruits with their violence. You create loyalty in a dog by letting it come inside and bond with the family, not by keeping it on a short chain outside.

Right now the television is showing major league baseball and college football. This is a part of what we are being fed as "culture." I don't know anyone on the "teams." I'm being induced to have to choose a team to support by the vast number of them that have colonized the broadcast airways. I chose to kill this enemy before it had invaded my mind any longer by turning off the television. Sixty-five years ago, I woke up in this artificial "culture." Even at my advanced age, there are no “good old days” to long for. Now all I can do is dream of something that might be genuine, but even that leaves me blank. If the gods will it, I will return as a bird or some other animal in the next life. They can't be infected by this poison...ever.
Hiroki Kuroda - samurai or a professional?
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Saturday, September 22 2012 @ 05:33 PM JST

Diogenes, I think you are absolutely right: Indeed change kills tradition, tradition kills change.

I ask: "So, what should I do, here, now?"

I don't fantasize much about afterlife perhaps because I've already poked my head into the other side only to learn that the same thing is going on there. Permanence and impermanence are killing each other.

That's why I've recently concluded that I might as well kill time watching baseball or studying history on the Internet, staying indoors all day long.

Actually I think there still is something I can do outdoors. (As you know I don't have that crap they call iPhone.)

When I was young I was a real bookworm. One of my favorite authors was Dashiell Hammett. Especially I loved his Red Harvest. I forgot its plot, but still remember what tactic the private dick uses when he learns the bosses of the two sides of a labor dispute in Montana, which he is working on, have collusive relations between them. He artfully instigates them to kill each other.

As I said to someone else, I have no intention to convert you to Buddhism, or Yamamoto-ism. That wouldn't earn me anything. Yet, I think it might be a good idea to act like the private dick if we still want to avoid becoming a living-dead, i.e. dead-living.

Yu