Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Yes they “Kano”

When a Chiayi high school baseball team was invited to Japan in 1931 to play in the annual Koshien all-Japan tournament, they reached the finals — and almost won. A small museum in Chiayi serves as an unofficial team shrine and one of the locations where a movie about the team will be filmed

By Dan Bloom  /  Contributing reporter

Location, location, location

Location shooting for the movie is going on now, in Chiayi, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung, according to film industry sources. Some sets will be built and many locals have been hired as extras to appear in various crowd scenes. Umin Boya, an Aboriginal actor in his 30s who was in the cast of Seediq Bale, is directing the movie from a script by Wei. The director, who played baseball as a teenager, told reporters earlier this year that he understands the emotions of ball players and is looking forward to the film’s release, not only in Taiwan, but in Japan and other countries in Asia.

Imperial Japan in those days had colonies in Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria, and teams from those regions were invited to Koshien if they made the grade. But only the Kano team from Taiwan was invited to the all-Japan championships, and not just once, according to Masato Fujishima, a Japanese reporter for the Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, but five times. However, it was only the 1931 team that played their hearts out all the way to the Koshien finals.

stealing the show

According to Fujishima, the 1931 Kano team won the hearts of Japanese baseball fans, and even today, the story has not been forgotten among Japanese. So a feature movie about the team, set in the 1930s and adding a love story to the drama of the final game in Kobe on a hot summer day, should go over well in Japan, too.

The movie will tell the story of a high school baseball team comprised of three ethnic groups — Japanese, Han Chinese and Aboriginal boys — and one tough Japanese coach.

The “Chiayi Norin Gakko’’ team took a boat from Keelung to Japan in the summer of 1931 and turned a lot of heads in Kobe.

By some kind of baseball miracle, the teenage boys from Taiwan surprised the experts in Imperial Japan and came in second. Their earlier run of good luck and the final game is now part of Taiwan lore, but for most people it’s a long forgotten story. Wei hopes to put a new spin on it.

While the Kano team is now history, its “never give up” attitude will be a big part of the movie, according to Umin Boya. And with an unofficial Kano museum and outdoor shrine still standing in the middle of Chiayi today, the building’s staff is getting ready for what might just be a big tourism boom when the film is finally released.

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