Owen Stars in WJAA Championship

Owen doubles down the third baseline, driving in his fourth RBI of the day.

Owen’s team completed the perfect season yesterday with a 12-2 win over Canadian Academy in the finals of the Western Japan Athletic Association middle school baseball championship. Also participating in the the two-day tournament were Sons of Light Christian School, Nagoya International School and Marist Brothers International School of Kobe. The Senri and Osaka International Schools Sabers went undefeated this year, including 5 wins this weekend.

Owen slides into third base against Nagoya IS.

Owen was the offensive star of the game. In the fourth inning in a 2-2 tied game and two outs with the bases loaded, Owen hammered the 1-0 pitch to the wall in right center and made it to third with a triple. The 3 RBIs blew open a tight game and the team went on to score 7 more runs in the last three innings. The pitcher for CA was the son of former MLB player, So Taguchi. He also had a ground rule double and another double (photo above). He walked and struck out in his other two at bats. MVP Keito Sasaki  completed his middle school career with the complete game win.

WJAA MS Baseball Champions 2015

Owen played centerfield for both games today. He has played third base, first base and pitcher this season. He was much more comfortable playing as the season progressed. I saw him develop confidence in his abilities and begin to enjoy the sport. I hope he continues to play and has an even better season next year!

A beautiful day for baseball on Rokko Island.

Watching my son play has given me immense pleasure. It is better than playing myself and I am happy that he is experiencing interscholastic sport which game me much pleasure during my schooling. Basketball season is next up, already starting next week.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Eric Larson

Eric Larson is a New York Times best selling author. His books are unique in that he researches historical events and tells the compelling story by weaving actual diary entries or newspaper accounts into the narrative. This is the second book I’ve read by him, the previous (In the Garden of Beasts) being about the rise of the Nazis in Germany from the viewpoint of the US ambassador’s daughter to Germany at the time. “Dead Wake” refers to the wake left by a torpedo ejected from a World War I German U-boat. It is the tragic tale of the cruise ship the Lusitania, a contemporary of the Titanic. It was one of the largest passenger ships in the world at the time.

The Cunard line Lusitania left from New York in May of 1915 heading for Liverpool. The British ship was full of mostly American and British passengers. At this time, the German submarines, called U-boats, were taking down many ships coming to the UK. They did this to stop arms and other supplies from reaching their enemies in World War I. The German embassy in New York warned Cunard publicly that they would try to sink the Lusitania, but with its vastly superior speed and carrying thousands of civilians, no one thought they were in actual danger. The captain was aware of the possibility and they did take some precautions, but not enough. On a lucky shot, the submarine, Unterseeboot-20, sank the boat, killing thousands of civilians, including women and children. Larson describes daily life on the Lusitania and U-20, bringing the two together on that fateful day in May.

There are several villains in this story, the biggest being the U-20 captain Walter Schwieger, who was on his own in charge of the submarine. I don’t know how he could have lived with himself, knowing that his shot killed entire innocent families. Schwieger got his a couple of years later, running into a British minefield with his submarine. There were some arms being carried on the boat, but not enough to make a difference to the war effort. Why Cunard lines didn’t give the boat more protection, why the British navy didn’t warn Lusitania when they had good intelligence that the submarine was in the area, are beyond me. Cunard takes a lot of the blame for in the name of profit, risking the lives of passengers by traveling in an unsafe area during a time of war. It is somewhat like the recent downing of the Malaysian airlines over the Ukraine.

Some of my other notes and vocabulary words are below:

Those weeks of openhearted American hospitality and forth-comingness, of frankly expressed pleasure in meeting one, did something for me that made a difference to the whole rest of my life.

A British passenger describing her time in the USA.

Vocabulary words I want to use more:

  • milieu – social environment of a person
  • pewter – silver or blue gray
  • deposition – a report of evidence; Deposition – taking Jesus down from the cross

Happy Birthday Ocean!

Ocean is pictured with her new bicycle on the way to school.

Ocean turned 8 years old today. We celebrated the occasion with inviting 10 of her girlfriends to our home yesterday, as her birthday, September 26, fell on a Saturday. Ocean was so excited and woke up early to prepare for the 11:00 AM start. We had balloons, flowers and a beautiful table setting for the occasion. There were two trips to the 100 Yen shop (Daiso) to load up on gifts for the girls in attendance. Oliver performed a lip synch to the Bruno Mar’s song, “Uptown Funk” to get the girls feeling comfortable dancing. The big hit was One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”. Ocean had to open all of her gifts and mom noted who brought what gift for thank you cards. We had a variety of finger foods. We then went to the park and had races and games and all girls won two prizes. Upon return, we sang happy birthday (video) and ate the huge Costco cake. Ocean loved the Barbie makeup kit and her friends Retaj and Monica put makeup on her.

Birthday parties are rare in Japan. Most families here have smaller affairs, so the fairly large party created quite a buzz in the social life of the girls. This party contrasted with Oliver’s birthday party in April. Little girls get excited, but in a controlled manner. They were all so cute in their dresses and ribbons in the hair.

We got Ocean the bicycle of her dreams. A turquoise Japanese-style bike. She can’t wait to ride it. On the way home, the larger tires allowed her to go much faster than she does with Oliver’s hand-me-down bike. One of the things we do together is our “night bike rides” that are very special to me. It gives us a chance to be alone and she likes talking while riding. Hopefully we will go for more rides now that she has a nicer bike.

Ocean has brought so much joy into our family’s life. She is such an intelligent, caring, calm girl. She has also taught me a lot about females and it has been such a delight to raise a girl. I grew up with two brothers and never had that in my family.

Happy Birthday Ocean – we love you!

The Tigers are in a Pennant Race!

The boys are watching batting practice at yesterday’s Nippon Professional Baseball League game. The Hiroshima Carp defeated the Hanshin Tigers, 3-0 behind the stellar pitching of Kenta Maeda and an early home run by Brad Eldred. Despite the loss, we enjoyed the day at Koshien Stadium. Eldred, the left fielder for the Carp is one of those “4A” players, which means he was a star for several triple A MLB teams, but every call up to the big league team, resulted in poor results and a demotion. He seemed to be too good for the AAA, but not quite good enough for the  majors, although, he never had an extended opportunity to find his place at the big league level.

For many years the Detroit Tigers have won the Central League division and/or been in a race for the playoffs. Finally, this year they are in last place, but my baseball season was saved by moving to Japan and cheering for the other Tigers, the Hanshin Tigers. They are in first place and it is good once again to have meaningful September games.

The stadium was full to watch the first place Tigers, in the midst of a tight pennant race. With 17 games to go, Hanshin is tied for first place in the Central League with the Yakult Swallows, with the Yomiuri Giants a 1/2 game behind and the Carp 3 games behind. The top three teams make the playoffs and the first and second place teams get a game advantage in their playoff series. It is a big advantage to finish first and a good advantage to finish second.

Baseball offers a chance for the usually reserved Japanese to let off some steam. They will sing and cheer the entire game, even when there is not much action going on. Many fans also sport these baggy pants (above) and colorful jerseys. I had to buy a pair!

$7 for the Matt Murton Pork/Crab on rice!

I love the quirkiness of the Japan and it shines through in the fan experience at the stadium. I had a delicious “Murton Katsu Don x Crab” lunch. The bentos and entrees are named after players with some of the bentos shaped like a baseball diamond. A regular rotation of Asahi beer/snack girls tempted Oliver with junk food throughout the game. The girls carry beer kegs on their backs or heavy boxes of refreshments in front. It must be a long day as they are constantly moving. They must have a set circuit they take in order to evenly offer beer, sweet and salty snacks at regular intervals. I walked out to the deep left field line to video the release of balloons during the seventh-inning stretch, a tradition in many Nippon league stadiums.

Former Chicago Cub Kosuke Fukodome is having an excellent year with the Tigers (.281 – 19 HR)

The game was well played. The Carp outfielders made several spectacular catches, robbing the Tigers of extra base hits and possible runs. Maeda made Tiger hitters look weak in the first half of the game. It was nice to see that they still have the relief pitcher car here, as it was phased out in the MLB years ago. I think there is too much bunting here. In the MLB, advanced stats have shown that a bunt used to advance the runner one base is not as valuable as giving up one of the 27 outs a team has per game.

Owen, Oliver and Kenta were star struck watching infield practice. It is nice that Matt Murton acknowledged their shouts. They also got a close up view of how fast and accurate the players can throw the ball. We will be following the pennant race down the stretch and hopefully come October, we will be celebrating a Tiger’s series win!

SOIS Sabers defeat Bulldogs

Owen’s middle school baseball team won yesterday 13-0 against the Marist Brothers International School (MBIS). We made the long trip across the Koshien metro area to go to the MBIS field, which is in Suma, an area in the west part of Kobe. The Sabers outclassed the host Bulldogs. Owen pitched innings 4 through 6, playing a part in the shutout along with two other pitchers. He hasn’t played much baseball and is tentative, but he has some athletic talent. Owen also played centerfield. At the plate, he had a ground rule double, walked twice and got on by an error. He also made some nice fielding plays on the mound. He has not allowed a run in the three games he has pitched. That is more a statement of the quality of opposition to his ability, but I really enjoy watching him play!

Leading off of first base.

The Saber middle school A team is now 3-0, with victories over Canadian Academy, Nagoya International School, and MBIS. Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan and with soccer, it is the best sport the school offers.

Playing center field

Fiesta Mexicana Osaka 2015

Last night we ventured downtown to the plaza underneath the Umeda Sky Building for the Fiesta Mexicana Osaka 2015The city holds many ethnic festivals during the year. It was a lot of fun, with tacos, Mexican beer and of course, lots of music and dancing. There was a mariachi band and then they opened up the stage and a DJ played Latin music. It was so nice to in a Latino party atmosphere again! Besides seeing many Latinos and other foreigners, it was good to see the Japanese cut loose a bit and laugh and dance and have a good time. I was surprised to see they were selling glass bottles of Corona, Tecate and other beers. This would only happen in Japan – selling glass bottles at a large public gathering. Of course everyone respectfully deposited the glasses in the recycling bin and there were no fights, etc.

Ocean loves to dance and insisted that I take her up on the stage. Our friend Josep was teaching her some basic salsa steps. She takes after her mother! We laughed a lot and were sweating profusely in the humid, late summer evening. Thank you to the Marce family for inviting us to come down.

Happy Birthday Vietnam

Last night I attended a reception hosted by the Vietnam Consul General, Tran Duc Binh at the Rihga Royal Hotel in downtown Osaka. I was representing the school with two colleagues on the leadership team. We are pictured above with the Consul General and his lovely wife Nguyen Viet Anh. There were about 500 people in attendance on the eve of the 70th anniversary of National Day of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

I learned much about Vietnam in listening to the Consul General’s speech. The country has experienced incredible economic growth in the past 20 years. Their largest trading partner is Japan, and so the business community in Osaka was well represented at the party, as well as other consulates in Osaka. I didn’t know Vietnam was so big, with more than 90 million people. They have had quite a 70 years, going from resisting the occupations of France and the USA and getting over a civil war. I wonder what the future holds for the country, now with a better economy, but a growing powerful neighbor in China. When the speeches got a bit dry, I read on wikipedia where the Vietnamese people are genetically, in the middle of the east Asia – south Asia continuum. I admired the women’s national dress, the Ao Dai (photo below courtesy of (Impresive magazine) It is stylish, yet looks super comfortable. I think my wife Nadia would look great in it.

We ate and drank well – thank you for Consul General Duc Binh for the invitation! That is a one of the nice things about working in international education is the contact with the international diplomatic community.

Afterwards, we explored a bit of the old Fukushima neighborhood of Osaka. The city is great for the small alleys with loads of great restaurants, cafes and bars. It really is a foody paradise. The canals of the Yodo river and city lights were also picturesque. All in all, a pleasant evening out.