Sunday, June 30, 2013

Japan's National Little League Tournament

Let me introduce myself, my name is Fumio Ishii. I was born and raised in the U.S., and got my BA from University of Southern California. I have lived in Tokyo for over 12 years, working either as a Broadcast Engineer or IT Engineer. 

I've been following Japanese Little League ever since Taiwan got caught red-handed by Japan for cheating in 1997. There is an interesting book about the Taiwanese Little League Dynasty called, “The Game of Isolation” and you can buy it at I read the book and understood why Taiwan would go through all this trouble to win the Little League World Series. Taiwan (Republic of China) were in a Civil War with mainland China (People’s Republic of China). The Republic of China used the Little League World Series to put their country on the map. Read that book and you will understand why Taiwan went that far to establish a Little League dynasty. In order for them to play in Williamsport, they had to defeat Japan. If they played by the rules, it would be very difficult for Taiwan to defeat Japan consistently, so they had to create an all-national team by using illegal players to  represent the Far East. Little League only allowed 1 team from Asia to represent the Far East during that time. Now the new setting is different. If a Japanese team wins their national tournament, they automatically represent as Japan in the LLWS.

What you hear on ESPN is semi-true about Japanese Little League. Little League baseball is very unpopular in Japan. They take the back seat to high school baseball. In the US, every kid dreams of playing in Lamade Stadium, a field built specifically for Little League. In Japan, they have to share a high school stadium (SEE PHOTO ABOVE).

Last year, when Kitasuna Little League won the Japanese Tournament, the final which was supposed to be played in Edogawa High School Stadium was rained out. So the makeup game was held in a dumpy place near Kasai Rinkai Koen in the middle of nowhere. Even worse, there were no bleachers to sit in so it was very uncomfortable to watch the game. They couldn’t have the makeup game held in Edogawa High School Stadium, because they high school tournament started, and Little League had to take a backseat to high school baseball.

If only Japan had a dedicated stadium built for Little League, like San Bernadino for the Western Regional, it would be much more comfortable to watch the game and enjoyable for the kids to play in. Little League baseball is also not televised on public TV, because the general public doesn't care. Even the Little League World Series is not televised live. Japan has one of the worst ESPN networks in the world. It’s more of an informercial than a sports channel. So the only televised game they would see are reruns.

It is very difficult to get Little League results in Japan, because Japanese newspapers don’t pay any attention to Little League baseball. also has difficult time getting real time results for the Japanese Little League Tournament.

My 1st visit to the Japanese Little League tournament was back in 2008. I met this other American ex-Pat who checked out the game and we had a conversation about the tournament. He complained that this recreational park was very difficult to watch the tournament, because the Edogawa Stadium were being used for high school baseball. After he left, because he felt too uncomfortable to watch the game, this Japanese Little League representative was stunned to see a foreigner like myself to watch the All-Japan Little League tournament. He asked me, “How did you find this place?” I replied, “I searched and searched until I finally found some info on where Little League baseball tournament was held!” He didn't realize how popular Little League baseball is in the U.S., because in Japan, they have to take the back seat to high school baseball.

I was able to get a lot of information from this Japanese representative, and followed Little League baseball in Japan ever since. 

I can give you a brief history of the Little League Tournament in Japan. Tokyo area has won more national tournaments than any other prefecture in Japan. Out of the eight Little League World Series championships won by Japan, six were won by Tokyo teams.

Here are the following results of all the LLWS championships won by Japan:

1967 West Tokyo Little League (Tokyo)

1968 Wakayama Little League (Osaka)
1976 Chofu Little League (Tokyo)
1999 Hirakata Little League (Osaka) 
2001 Kitasuna Little League (Tokyo)
2003 Musashi Fuchu Little League (Tokyo)
2010 Edogawa-Minami Little League (Tokyo)
2012 Kitasuna Little League (Tokyo)

In the Tokyo tournament, it is pretty much dominated by the following 4 Little League teams:

Kitasuna Little League

Edogawa Little League
Musashi Fuchu Little League
Chofu Little League

For the past 20 years, one of those teams listed above represented Tokyo for the National tournament.

This year, the Musashi Fuchu Little League represents the Tokyo Little League Champs and Chofu Little League represents the runner-up.

Musashi Fuchu should be the favorite to win the Japanese National Little League Tournament. They have four players who return last year team which represented the Tokyo runner up to Kitasuna. They have Little League Tournament experience.

Here are the results for the games of June 29th:

Game 1: Musashi Fuchu 6-3 over Hiroshima Saiki

Game 2: Kishiwada (Osaka) 8-0 over Sapporo Shiroishi
Game 3: Owari Ichinomiya 6-0 over Kumamoto Chuo
Game 4: Sendai Aoba 2-0 over Omiya
Game 5: Yokohama Aoba 9-2 over Hamamatsu Minami
Game 6: Chofu (Tokyo) 3-2 over Ehime Tobu
Game 7: Miyagino 6-2 over Matsudo (Chiba)
Game 8: Ueda Minami 16-5 over Takarazuka
Game 9: Musashi Fuchu 11-1 over Kishiwada (Osaka)

Musashi Fuchu are a big team, but their biggest players are bench players which I find extremely odd. They have four players over 5-foot-7. Their biggest player is 5-foot-10 and over 200 pounds. He’s not as big as Kotaro Kiyomiya from last years Kitasuna team, but he’s still a big kid. He isn't a starter, however. He is their closer, they call him TKO. This Musashi Fuchu team is not as good as the Kitasuna team which dominated the LLWS tournament last year. They do have a solid offense and very impressive defense. I would say their defense is better than Kitasuna, but their offense and pitching isn't as good. They might be as good as the 2003 Musashi Fuchu team which won it all that year.

Blog post written by: Fumio Ishii

Editor's Note: Thanks to Fumio for the great details and look into the Japanese tournament. It's a prospective we don't see often here in the states.

Welcome to the 2013 Road to Williamsport

Hello everyone to another year of the Little League International Tournament. We're really going to blow it out of the box this year. We're going to have more contributors to the blog, so I don't have the brunt of the writing.

We have representatives from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Washington D.C in the states. We'll see if anyone wants to contribute from outside the region as well. Our first guest entry is going to be written all the way from Japan though. It's extremely insightful into what it takes to get through the Japanese National Tournament on the way to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series.

If you'd like to be a contributor with any recaps, previews, history, general thoughts, or anything really... just email me:

Check back daily. Thanks!

-John Malone, blog creator