Hey sports fans!! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am a self admitted “rink rat” so a lot of this blog will be about figure skating and hockey, however as an ex-figure skater, ex-varsity athlete and a sports fan in general, I usually have thoughts and opinions about alot of different sports I follow, so visit often!
Last year I went to Japan for an ice show. I also had some time to take in the amazing sights and sounds of this far away land. Each time I was asked what brought me to Japan I mentioned Yuzu and the person would just smile and say “Oh YES, Yuzu! He is very popular!” very enthusiastically. This was a common reaction the multiple times I was asked this question.
So, figure skating is a VERY popular sport in Japan, there is no doubt about that. Is figure skating more popular than baseball in Japan? I didn’t want to do a ton of research on this since I doubt I could find empirical evidence anyways. Also, this is just a personal blog and I’m not a paid sports reporter so I wasn’t too concerned about the answer. However, I suspect that if you take yourself outside of the skating bubble and look at the bigger picture, baseball is probably more popular (ie: a bigger sport) in Japan than figure skating. That would be my guess even though I have seen the skating fandom in Japan up close and personal.
In my quick little google search I found this:
“While baseball and sumo wrestling may be the spectator and male dominated sports in Japan, gymnastics and figure skating may well be sports that provides the country with the most pride….”
Figure skating is well attended as a sport in Japan. The past decade has provided Japan with a number of high profile and successful skaters, giving rise to the broadcast of the sport in Japanese television.”
I usually don’t watch Major League Baseball (MLB) until it gets to the World Series, and even then, unless the Blue Jays are making a good run, I don’t pay much attention to baseball. However, Shohei Utani started appearing on my radar since he was at the same sports award event as Yuzu (Jan 2016). Both athletes were born in 1994, and I didn’t remember Shohei’s name until the sports award show but his picture showed up quite a bit on my social media feeds. I started to learn a bit about Shohei and the more I read, I more I knew that he would probably end up in North America in the MLB. When this article came out in Sports Illustrated, it really peaked my interest and I can only imagine how big of a deal he will be when he gets here.
Yuzu’s popularity in Japan is a bit mind boggling to the non-skating fan, and he seems to appear almost daily in the Japanese newspapers and on tv sports. But what is interesting to note is that in North America we are getting to know more about Shohei Otani!! Sure, fans who follow figure skating know who Yuzu is, but outside of the skating fandom, I usually get “oh, is he the Japanese kid who won the Olympics?”
These 2 elite athletes are physically night and day but their work ethic and drive to be the best in their sport is the same. Both are humble and have mass appeal. Apparently Shohei has the same issues with fans that Yuzu has with going out in public at home, so he simply doesn’t. It’s too bad that they both have to give up privacy and normalcy for simply being talented.
Here is some more recent article links to gain some insight into the excitement that Shohei is generating in the Major League Baseball circles. To be likened to Babe Ruth and to be projected at a $200-300 million USD man is not something to be taken lightly. That’s A-Rod kind of money!!! (Alex Rodrigues signed a landmark $252 million, 10-year contract back in December 2000). And, Lebron James kind of money (In 2016 Lebron signed a 3 year deal for $100 million USD – you do the math!)
Unfortunately, Shohei missed the recent World Baseball Classic due to injury. Every pro scout in the MLB was disappointed I’m sure. After reading the articles below, I am just excited as they are to see this guy on the mound!
Back to life in Japan, Yuzu and Shohei probably never cross paths unless they meet at sporting award nights. However, I love the comments that both Yuzu and Shohei make about each other when asked. If you read any of the links above, you will realize that Yuzu is right on the money when he mentioned the difficulty in being good at both pitching and hitting.
Translation source: @Iron_Klaus twitter
Translation source: @Iron_Klaus twitter
Since Yuzu is a baseball fan but chose a figure skating career over baseball, I thought I would put together some photos to show how on point Yuzu’s baseball form is! However, on the converse, I doubt I will ever have any pictures of Shohei on skates.
Both Yuzu and Shohei are no strangers to “mass media”.
For me, I am just waiting to hear the announcement if when Shohei will be coming to the MLB and for once in my life, I might keep an eye on baseball during the regular season.
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!