This type of cultural exchange strengthens a natural partnership, building on a longstanding relationship between Hawai‘i and Japan.
By Don Straney
Last month, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo hosted a Baseball Cultural Tour with players from Chuo University, Tokyo. Chuo is one of the highest ranked academic schools in Japan—located in Tokyo, it has nearly 25,000 students on four campuses.
The Chuo delegation of 35 players, four coaches and administration officials arrived in Hilo on Feb. 19 for a one week cultural tour on Hawai‘i Island and O‘ahu.
The Chuo delegation lodged in UH Hilo on-campus housing for the duration of their visit on Hawai‘i Island, and during their stay, there were two exhibition games, Chuo vs Hilo, on Feb. 21 and 22. As is fitting for a cultural exchange tour, the two-game series split with Chuo winning the opening game by a score of 7-3 and Hilo winning the second game 2-1. I should note that Chuo won the Japan equivalent of the College Baseball World Series in 2016.
The games were a highlight of the tour, part of a larger context of connecting and sharing aloha. This type of cultural exchange strengthens a natural partnership, building on a longstanding relationship between Hawai‘i and Japan. UH Hilo is also currently working collaboratively on common, modern challenges with several universities in Japan in a wide range of fields: business, pharmacy, traditional medicine, disaster resilience, technology, and sustainability.
So it’s only natural to extend that connection through athletics, and baseball in particular. Chuo University is inspirational in its athletic achievements, producing many champions and Olympians, and it was an honor to have them visit and play here.
On Feb. 20, the Vulcan Baseball team, in partnership with the Japanese Community Association of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Japanese Center, hosted the Chuo baseball team and their delegation at a welcome reception that included dinner.
I enjoyed giving welcome remarks at the dinner along with Baseball Coach Kallen Miyatake; Director of Athletics Patrick Guillen; Dennis Kauka representing Mayor Harry Kim; Ryan Chong from County Parks and Recreation; Art Taniguchi, Honorary Consul General of Japan; Ivan Nakano, President, Japanese Community Association of Hawai‘i; Russell Arikawa, President, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawai‘i; Reverend Naohiro Hotta of Hilo Daijingu Church; and Koji Ikeda, Head Baseball Coach at Chuo University.
I’d also like to give a shout out to Hawai‘i State Representative Mark Hashem (Kāhala, Hawai‘i Kai), who was instrumental in the initial discussions three years ago to make this trip a reality, along with Terry Yagihara and Nathan Yoshioka from Honolulu who helped bridge the ties to Chuo University and UH Hilo.
This was truly a community event. On behalf of UH Hilo, I would like to extend mahalo to the Chuo University baseball team for coming to Hilo, the Hilo business community and Booster Supporters of the Vulcan baseball team, Arnold and Eloise Hiura (Hawai‘i Japanese Center), Gladys Sonomura and the volunteers at the Hawai‘i Japanese Center, Barry Taniguchi of KTA Superstores for his longtime support of UH Hilo, Derek Kurisu, George Yoshida, George and Shirley Ito for video, John Oshima for photography, and Reiko Hamano for interpretative services.
The future intent is to return the series trip to Tokyo to play Chuo University in 2018, then either host Chuo again in 2019 or another Japanese team in future years.