I usually don’t see much of the summer national high school baseball tournament because I often spend August in the States. But today I watched the opening ceremony of the 91st annual summer high school tournament. Of course every tournament (and everything else in Japan) begins with a lot of pomp and circumstance, but that doesn’t make events like this any less majestic. I was moved by the sight of these 49 teams, marching in sync, some of them smiling broadly, others, like our boys from Tokushima, looking a bit nervous. It was so hot today, maybe 34 degrees centrigrade, but they had to stand in the middle of the field in formation, under the morning sun, throughout the many greetings.
The Crown Prince was on hand for the first time in 21 years. He gave a nice little speech in which he recalled his excitement while watching the final at Koshien when he was nine years old. And then another guy spoke about a baseball player who was killed in a bus accident when his team was on its way to a tournament game. But mostly, the speeches were meant to emphasize how special these boys are (49 remaining teams out of the 4041 at the beginning of summer) and to inspire them to play to the best of their ability, to give the rest of us a week of drama and excitement, and to remind us of the ephemeral beauty and vigor of the young.
And then, after the ceremony, all but two teams dispersed. A ball was dropped onto the field from a helicopter and the games began.