Japan Film Festival 2020

Koshien: Japan's Field of Dreams & Q&A with KOSHIEN director Ema Ryan Yamazaki

Expired December 13, 2020 4:00 AM
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Mizutani Kantoku’s (head coach) whole life has been in preparation for the historic 100th Koshien, the wildly popular High School baseball tournament that defines the Japanese summer. A stubborn but passionate man, his martial brand of baseball in Yokohama maintains all that is beautiful, if extreme, in the uniquely Japanese form of the sport — rigorous year- round training, shaved heads, and self-sacrifice. The players believe in his message that their primary goal is to grow as human beings, so cleaning the grounds and keeping impeccable manners are as important as honing their skills.

However, beyond the company line, Mizutani boils with desire to validate his career by reaching the sacred grounds of Koshien. Having always prioritized his work over family responsibilities, he has never seen his 15 year-old son, Kosho, play baseball. Rather than take him onto his own team, calling on his well-earned web of connections, he sends Kosho away to be raised by a disciple Kantoku in the remote prefecture of Iwate. Sasaki Kantoku, though, has outgrown the ways of his mentor. After having raised Major Leaguers Shohei Ohtani and Yusei Kikuchi, he has a progressive vision that proposes a new direction for the sport. Sasaki takes inspiration from bonsai — although wires are needed to guide young branches, those wires must be taken off at the right time. So too does modern baseball require a delicate balance between enforcement and autonomy for players.

Across Japan, four thousand schools begin knockout competition, with only one winner from each prefecture able to advance to Koshien. Will all of Mizutani’s good deeds add up to a miracle, or will he prove to be a relic of a bygone era? Can Sasaki, with Kosho in tow, challenge the system in a culture where the nail that sticks up is liable to be hammered down? In the crucible of the Japanese summer, the scoreboard will be their report card, and a referendum on their values.

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    Ema Ryan Yamazaki