Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dear National Geographic Kids/Junior Scholastic/etc

The Bat and the Book.

The Yamanote-sen, the train line that runs in cycles around Tokyo, has six major stations: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Ueno, and Ikebukuro. All of these stations are very large, very busy, and very crowded. Ikebukuro, the second busiest train station in the world, serves almost 3 million people a day! It has seven train lines running through it, with an eighth currently under construction. Not your small, friendly neighborhood corner store.

And yet, there they were, two boys, not older than 13, standing around in the station on a summer evening, reading comic books. Covered in dirt and smelling of sweat, the two boys, apparently on their way home from their baseball game, were standing reading the latest issue of a comic collection.

Baseball, often called bay-su-bo-ru or yakkyu (field ball) is the most popular sport in Japan. Many children start at very young ages trying to get into the schools with the best baseball programs. School sports don't start until middle school, but all schools have entrance exams, and so if youwant to play baseball, you have to study hard! High school baseball is a national phenomenon, recieving more press coverage than college sports, with the national tournament, Koshien, getting similar coverage to NCAA sports in the USA! Young children dream of getting onto the good teams, making their passion their profession and becoming pro players, and, thanks to players like Ichiro, Matsui, and most recently Matsuzaka, even overseas!
However, everybody needs a break sometimes, and who doesn't like comic books? Manga, is another national phenomenon, which, like baseball, has recently started coming to America. Manga, sometimes known as comikku, from the English 'comic', is really just that: Japanese comic books. The format is different, but the idea is the same. The range of readers is much greater than in America, but that is because of the enormous variety of the comics. Shonen (young boy) comics, like the one seen here, are coming more and more in the US thanks to one of the leading publishers, Shonen Jump. Ninjas, ghosts, pirates, aliens, robots, etc, etc; very similar to what you might see in American comic books. One genre that you won't see however, is sports. There are a very large number of sports comics from the usual baseball, soccer, basketball, American football, to the unusual rugby, boxing, swimming, and many more! They are probably written to inspire the kids, or to help keep their minds on the game, even when they are resting their bodies.
So, go out there, practice hard, and when you get tired, come home and sit down with a nice book. Comic book that is!
Feel free to edit anything you see fit.


Post a Comment

<< Home