Thanks to the tweet of Rod Adams, I became aware of a Fukushima-related New York Times article from December 29, 2017. The article is entitled “Would You Play Ball at Fukushima?”
My instinct is to get really snarky at such a ridiculous question. Would I play ball at Fukushima? Uh no, I haven’t played ball in years and years and years. I hate playing ball. I am not going to play it anywhere.
I want to break down the article and critique it. These are my opinions (in italics), my opinions alone, and not the opinions of other Fukushimers (who may feel differently than me.) No snarkiness from here on out!
Would You Play Ball at Fukushima?
By SETH BERKMAN
FUKUSHIMA-Japan–A sea of brightly colored banners and advertisements decorated Fukushima train station in early November to celebrate coming road races and Fukushima United, the local soccer club.
(This is not unusual. We have had road races here since forever. Fukushima United has been around since 2002, well before the earthquake occured.)
There are new professional baseball and basketball franchises in the region, too. They carry inspirational names like the Hopes and the Firebonds, the latter signifying the spirt of a team connecting to the community, said 21-year-old point guard Wataru Igari.
(Yes. I checked the internet. The “Hopes” name was chosen to be a beacon of light to children affected by the tragedy. The Firebrands are based in Koriyama City,not Fukushima City. (I couldn’t figure are which city the Hopes are based in.))
For an area with a growing interest in sports, the biggest boon came in March when the International Olympic Committee approved Fukushima to host baseball and softball games during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
(Yes. Being considered part of the Olympics is considered a boon for Fukushima, bringing visitors to the area.)
Yet Fukushima remains defined by tragedy.
(Well, I guess it is–by American standards. Virtually no American had heard of Fukushima before the big earthquake. By Japanese standards, though–Fukushima is famous for a lot of things.)
The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. (Yes, true. It was the water from the tsunami though that really caused the plant to malfunction, not the shaking from the quake itself.) Devastation touches every corner of Fukushima Prefecture, which is about the size of Connecticut. (Not true. Many parts were/are unaffected by earthquake damage, by tsunami devastation or by nuclear radiation. This article is grossly exaggerating here.) Among the populations of two million residents, more than 160,000 near the power plant fled or evacuated, (I don’t know the exact numbers myself, so I can’t comment. Actually, I doubt anybody knows the exact numbers. There is a difference between people who were forced to evacuate by the governmnent, and the people who were not forced to evacuate, but chose to do so. I am not quite sure if the article is referring to the former group, or to both groups.) while an estimated 16,000 died. (This is misleading. The people who died in Fukushima died mainly because of the tsunami itself, drowning in it. As a prefecture, fewer people died here than in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures. Sadly, these two other prefectures are often overlooked by western media because there wasn’t a nuclear meltdown there.)
The disaster also damaged the Fukushima name. Tourism declined. The rest of Japan shunned produce or materials from Fukushima. (This is very true.)
Almost seven years later, pockets of the prefecture–mainly in its namesake capital city–are attempting to change its perception through sports. (I am not a sports follower. I have no idea. )
“We are looked at like Chernobyl,” said Saito Nobuyuki, who was born in Fukushima and now owns Sportsland, a sporting goods store here. “It’s difficult to change.”(True. Although, although I am respectful of Nobuyuki, I believe it is obvious why we are looked at like Chernobyl. Only Chernobyl and Fukushima have had actual nuclear meltdowns. Pennsylvania has had a partial meltdown, at Three Mile Island, in the late nineteen seventies.)
Akinori Iwamura is among those hoping to rehabilitate Fukushima’s name. (Good for him.)
Iwamura was the starting second baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series. He also won two World Baseball Classic championships with Japan and played in the Nippon Professional Baseball League for 13 years.
Today, Iwamura, 38, is toiling at the lowest levels of organized baseball. He is the manager of the Fukushima Hopes, a semipro team whose games are sparsely attend (This is Fukushima–mostly countryside. Of course they are sparsely attended. When I lived in Kansas, it was the same problem. Wichita Wings Professional Soccer Team, anybody remember?) Iwamura equated the level of play to Class AA baseball in the United States.
“I call myself a missionary,” Iwamura said. “Even though it’s a negative way many people know the name of Fukushima, we have to change it into a positive way.” (Good for him.)
I am going to stop there…mostly because I realized that this article is really, really long–and I don’t have time to go through it all. But you can get the basic idea.
Here is the link to the article:
(Fukushimer Andy Coombs pointed out the grammar is off–“At Fukushima?” Weird wording. “In Fukushima,” Seth. You don’t play baseball at California. You don’t play soccer at Spain. And you don’t play ball at Fukushima.)
But how about some humor?
WOULD YOU EAT A DELICIOUS SNACK MADE BY YOUR DARLING HUSBAND IN FUKUSHIMA?
Yes, I would! Yum!