Tue, Mar 24, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Japanese fans pay tribute to baseball heroes after win


Japanese fans erupted with joy yesterday as the Samurais beat the US 9-4 to advance to the World Baseball Classic final.

Japan, which defeated Cuba to win the inaugural classic three years ago, were due to face their arch-rivals from South Korea, the reigning Olympic champions, yesterday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso led the expressions of praise and goodwill for Team Samurai in baseball-obsessed Japan: telling reporters: “You got to keep up the momentum to win the title for two straight times. I hope they will.”

In its evening edition, the business daily Nikkei wrote: “The United States staked their pride on being the ‘controlling nation’ of baseball. But Japan magnificently countered and repelled them with technique.”

“With the belief that their style has proven right, Japan will face the ‘final’ showdown with South Korea,” it wrote.

Japan’s world figure skating champion Mao Asada said she had been inspired by her country’s run to the Classic final against the homeland of her rival Kim Yu-na.

“I have been cheering for Japan every day. I have drawn so much power from them,” she told reporters before leaving Osaka to defend her title at this week’s world championships also to be held in Los Angeles.

“I want them to win and I will do my best as well,” she said.

Tomoaki Kato, a 32-year-old company worker, told the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun: “I felt the power of [US] major leaguers was awesome. But Japan’s skill prevailed.”

“I really enjoyed it. I was excited,” Japanese golfer Shigeki Maruyama, 39, who has three US PGA Tour wins to his name, told TBS after watching the game.

“I want them to show the Japanese spirit tomorrow,” he said.

Earlier, top government spokesman Takeo Kawamura took time out from his daily briefing to comment on the game.

“I believe it will be a game in which nothing can be taken for granted,” he said about the final. “But I want to pin great hope on the squad.”

The two countries had split four earlier games in the 16-nation event. Japan is the only team to have defeated South Korea in the tournament.

Famous Japanese Kabuki actor Kanzaburo Nakamura, 53, said: “My voice got so hoarse after shouting too much. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day.”

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