Big news from my university’s affiliated high school this year: the high school baseball team was chosen to enter the national Spring Invitational Tournament. This is the first time in five years, and the fifth time since the university bought the failing school two decades ago and turned it into a regional powerhouse for international studies.
All they need is 40,000,000 yen.
That’s about $400,000. But only assuming they make it past the second round and play a mere two games. Should they get to the final game after three more games in the winner-takes-all bracket tournament style, then naturally they would need another 60,000,000 yen.
What on earth is all this money for? was (obviously) my initial question when the news was announced at a recent faculty meeting. We’ve all been asked to donate as much as we can to help the team pay. The minimum suggested donation is 5,000 yen, or about $50, but you can even pay up to $5000 in monthly installments if you like (um, yeah).
Luckily, the high school principal is an American who’s been in Japan for some 40 years now, so he explained to me where all this money goes.
The school feels obligated to provide transportation and food to the team. While the families of some players could pay for the transportation and meals, some families can’t afford it. So the school wants to make sure that everyone on the team is treated equally and has the right to go. OK, sounds fair so far.
The players also have lots of equipment, so they have to go by bus instead of by train. Schools in Japan don’t have school buses, so that means charter bus. Even though Kyoto and Kobe aren’t that far apart, renting charter buses is pricey, and the tolls aren’t cheap, either.
The school further feels obligated to pay for office staff and faculty alike to attend the game, and of course to pay for their transportation and food. And of course since this is Japan, going to the baseball game is considered “work,” so the school has to fork out overtime pay for staff and faculty who go to root on the players.
The school even has to pay for “oen-goods,” which include baseball shirts, caps, bandanas, fans, balloons, bullhorns, plastic little bats that you bang together to make an incredible nonstop racket during the game…and naturally there has to be an expensively-produced souvenir brochure with all the players names and school info on it for supporters to keep as a memento.
Ah, and the marching band has to attend, too. More buses and food. And uniforms. Ah, and there are also student cheerleaders blowing whistles and directing group cheers from the crowd inbetween making human pyramids and screaming a lot.
Talk about cultural differences! But the schools gets to be on national TV, and they even get to make a short video to advertise the school.
Hmmm. I may have found a good starting point for a follow-up baseball novel, Japan-style…