3:44pm

Thu March 24, 2011
Japan In Crisis

Japanese Players Swing Big In Tokyo Fundraiser

Originally published on Thu March 24, 2011 6:02 pm

People in Japan are describing the earthquake and tsunami that rolled under and over eastern Japan as the gravest disaster since World War II. Television and newspapers are full of images of urban devastation, grieving survivors and smoking nuclear power plants. Editorials are calling for everyone to pull together to put the country back on its feet.

And who better to cheer up a weary nation than one of the country's pre-eminent baseball teams?

Word went out this week that the giants of Tokyo baseball — the Yomiuri Giants — wanted to raise money for victims of the tsunami in the Sendai region and evacuees from the nuclear danger zone.

The plan? Come to the Ochanomizu train station to donate and meet 16 members of the team.

Tatsuyoshi Tsutsumi, a spokesman for Giants management, was there early.

"The team of Giants decided to donate 30 million yen [about $370,000], and this will be on top of that," Tsutsumi says. "And we don't know how much we can get."

Trains pull into the station and afternoon commuters and baseball fans pour out onto the street.

The newspapers they're carrying are busy with a debate — with so many tsunami victims and refugees, should opening day be postponed? The rumor is that the league will postpone, but what about night games? With rolling blackouts around Tokyo, lighting up the Big Egg, as the home stadium is called, seems extravagant.

Tsutsumi says management is listening.

"The owners are discussing it at a meeting at the moment. It will be decided at the end of this week," he says.

Police keep eager fans lined up along the sidewalk. Mine Koyama, who has come to donate money and maybe see star pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi, says night games might be disrespectful.

"Probably you better ask the victims of the Sendai area," Koyama says. "Those refugees are really suffering, so it's really not the time to do the night games."

Finally the big moment comes. Sixteen players file out and stand behind a makeshift barrier. Cameras click, videos roll and fans envelop the players. The collection box fills. And for a few minutes, in a cold rain, Tokyo can put aside its worries about radiation and contaminated food and water, and just think about baseball.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Newspapers across Japan are full of editorials calling for people to pull together to put the country back on its feet. Well, who better to rally a weary nation than one of the country's preeminent baseball teams?

From Tokyo, NPR's Christopher Joyce reports on a lighter moment in that beleaguered city.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: The Yomiuri Giants walk tall in Japan's capital. Word went out this week that the giants of Tokyo baseball want to raise money for victims of the tsunami in the Sendai region and evacuees from the nuclear danger zone.

If you want to donate, come to the Ochanomizu train station and meet 16 members of the team.

Tatsuyoshi Tsutsumi, a spokesman for the Giants management, was there early.

Mr. TATSUYOSHI TSUTSUMI (Spokesman for Giants Management): (Through translator) The team of Giants decided to donate 30 million yen and this will be on top of that. And we don't know how much we can get.

JOYCE: Trains pull into the station and afternoon commuters and baseball fans pour out onto the street.

Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language)

JOYCE: The newspapers they're carrying are busy with a debate. With so many tsunami victims and refugees, should opening day be postponed? The rumor is the league will postpone, but what about night games? With rolling blackouts around Tokyo, lighting up the Big Egg, as the home stadium is called, seems a bit extravagant. Tsutsumi says management is listening.

Mr. TSUTSUMI: (Through translator) The owners are discussing at a meeting at the moment. It will be decided by the end of this week.

Unidentified Man #2: (Speaking foreign language)

JOYCE: Police keep eager fans lined up along the sidewalk. Mine Koyama, who has come to donate money and maybe see star pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi, says night games might be disrespectful.

Ms. TETSUYA UTSUMI: (Through translator) You better ask to the victims of the Sendai area. Those refugees are really suffering, so it's not really the time to do the night games.

Unidentified Man #3: (Speaking foreign language)

JOYCE: Finally the big moment comes. Sixteen players file out and stand behind a makeshift barrier. Cameras click, videos roll and fans envelop the players. The collection box fills. And for a few minutes in the cold rain, Tokyo can put aside its worries about radiation and contaminated food and water, and just think about baseball.

Christopher Joyce, NPR News, Tokyo Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.