The Worlds Within Guilford: Etsuo’s Corner


Etsuo Fujita

Miami Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki prepares to bat against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at the Miami Ballpark. The Miami Marlins defeated the Atlanta Braves 10-2.// Photo by Etsuo Fujita/The Guilfordian

My name is Etsuo Fujita, and I am an exchange student from Japan. In this regular column, I will be introducing other international students, sharing what I experience in the U.S. and my opinions about current world events. In this first column, I would like to share my experience traveling to Miami and differences I observed between Major League Baseball and Japanese Professional Baseball.

From Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, I visited Miami to see baseball games. The reason I chose Miami was because of Ichiro Suzuki, a Japanese baseball player on the Miami Marlins. He has been playing in the MLB since 2001 and has earned the title of a superstar in Japan. When I started playing baseball, Ichiro already played in the MLB and averaged at approximately 200 hits every year. Almost all my friends and I longed to be like him and imitated his batting form when we played baseball. He has been an inspiration to Japanese baseball players, and it was my goal to make my dream of seeing him come true during this exchange program.

When I arrived in Miami, I felt like I had arrived in another country. I mean that the culture in Miami seemed so different from Greensboro, and I thought then that to understand the U.S., it is necessary to go outside Greensboro. Almost half of my Uber drivers could speak only Spanish, which was very surprising to me. I also went to the HistoryMiami Museum and Miami Beach to learn more about Miami and its history.

I watched baseball games every day of my trip and, during these events, I noticed several differences between Major League Baseball and Japanese Professional Baseball. In my opinion, these differences stemmed from the cultural difference. Japan is considered a group-oriented country, which implies a Japanese focus on collectivism. On the other hand, western and American culture is considered individualistic. I thought these variations could be seen when comparing MLB and Japanese baseball games.

For example, in Japan, when people watch ball games, they sing the same songs together to cheer for the team in offense innings with musical instruments. I had a part-time job in a baseball park in Japan and met a lot of foreign visitors who were surprised about this. I understood their surprise at the atmosphere of the games when I watched the ball games in Miami. The exact feeling is difficult to express in words, but other spectators really seemed to enjoy the games on their own. Standing ovations and booing and clapping hands made up my image of the way Americans enjoy ball games. I was glad to be able to witness these kinds of moments.

In addition, every three days I went to the baseball park almost six hours before each game in hopes of getting Ichiro’s autograph. There is a saying in Japan that roughly translates to: if you want to ask something to a person who you respect or admire, you need to try to ask three times even if you are rejected. Although I hoped to get his autograph on my third day, the last game of the season, unfortunately, I could not. But a pleasant surprise was that Derek Jeter came to the baseball park and gave his autograph to everyone who asked him for one. He is very famous in Japan and is known as a person of integrity. I was so glad to get his autograph and to learn of how kind he is.

Next year, I hope to revisit Miami and watch Ichiro play once again.