I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Masaharu Fukuyama -- Kōshien(甲子園)

I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it over here. I mean, in the States, there are all of those college bowl games and Little League baseball championships alongside the professional team sports. However, then there is the Japanese High School Baseball Championship, affectionately known to all Japanese as Kōshien, which is actually the name of the stadium where the tournament is played in the Kōshien district of Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture.

Here in Toronto, one sign of the latter half of summer is our Canadian National Exhibition, but over there in Japan, the big symbol is Kōshien where 49 high school baseball teams duke it out through 2 weeks in August every year under the blistering sun. As I've said, there isn't anything in Canada or even in America that has quite the scale of these games in terms of popularity on the high school level. Frankly, I think it even outstrips the professional baseball Japan Series in the number of viewers it attracts. And sometimes I wonder if the government had even thought of making the first or final day of Kōshien a national holiday.

While I was teaching in Gunma in 1990, I had an opportunity to teach some elementary school kids English for a week or so before the fall term began. It just so happened that one of the final days of Kōshien landed on the morning of an important match that probably included a Gunma high school team. The kids practically begged me to postpone the lesson so that they could watch the game on the community centre television set. Well, being a softie, it didn't take too long for me to relent like a hapless Starfleet officer getting assimilated by the Borg (yes, I think "Best of Both Worlds" was first televised in that year). That was one happy batch of younglings that day.

Singer-songwriter Masaharu Fukuyama(福山雅治)managed to distill all of that love for Kōshien through the players, cheering high school students in the stands, and the viewers into a special song called "Kōshien" as the theme for the NHK broadcast of the competition this year. Surprisingly or not surprisingly, a full version of the original tune by Fukuyama cannot be found anywhere online, except for this excerpt which begins at around 1:49 in the above video. The full music video does exist on YouTube, but it's been muted.

It's too bad since the high school band backing Fukuyama up performs some pretty snazzy choreography in the video. And what finally got me to write about "Kōshien" was seeing him and the band show up on a recent edition of "Uta Kon"(うたコン)doing the full version after hearing a small bit of the theme song played daily whenever the NHK sports guy covered the competition on the news for those two weeks in August.

What I realized about "Kōshien" is that songwriter Fukuyama, with some inspiration from some fellow named J. S. Bach (according to the J-Wiki article on the song) via his "Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 532", put together the song with elements of honour and glory for the institution and some of that fun jazzy showmanship of a brass band reflecting the joy of just participating in the competition. The high school band in the video here (uploaded by Kenji Sebastian) incidentally belongs to the Osaka Tōin Junior and Senior High School whose baseball team won it all at this year's Kōshien.

"Kōshien" hit No. 1 on the Daily rankings on Oricon for digital singles. I've got a feeling that this is going to show up on the Kohaku Utagassen at the end of the year.

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