Seibu Lions’s Kaima Taira Breaks NPB Record

Saitama Seibu Lions pitcher Taira Kaima broke a 15-year-old Nippon Pro Baseball (NPB) record with his 39th straight shutout appearance. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher is from Ishigaki and has also be selected to be on the Japan Olympics baseball team.

Koh Flippin with the Ryukyu Golden Kings

via goldenkings.jp

My Twitter feed exploded with news of Koh Flippin joining the Ryukyu Golden Kings team. The 25 year old 6’2″ Torrance, California native (his mother is from Naha) comes to the Kings from the Chiba Jets and plays guard. I love his tweet announcing his joining the Kings: “Haisai! I’m Koh Flippin. Yutashiku!!”

A comment from Koh on the Kings’s website says “Okinawa is a special place for me that is my roots and and also my identity.”

沖縄は、私のルーツ、アイデンティティーでもある特別な場所です。

https://goldenkings.jp/news/detail/id=15872

We look forward to watching his amazing plays!

Orix Buffaloes Miyagi Hiroya

via Twitter

I wonder if there is any other team in NPB that has as many players from Okinawa that the Orix Buffaloes has. There’s pitcher Higa Motoki (drafted 2nd in 2009), infielder Oshiro Koji (drafted 3rd in 2015), infielder Gibo Sho (drafted 5th in 2018), and then there’s 19-year old pitcher Miyagi Hiroya who was drafted 1st in 2019. He’s currently 5-0 with a 2.32 ERA and he recently picked up his first NPB hit. So he’s definitely one to watch.

The players from Okinawa usually choose a theme song from an Okinawan artist and for Miyagi Hiroya it’s BEGIN’s Sanshin no Hana which I think is very cool. Higa has used a song from MONGOL800 and Oshiro has used a different song from BEGIN.

Follow the Orix Buffaloes on Twitter.

FC Ryukyu Football/Soccer Team

FC Ryukyu’s Mascot Jinbee Nho (via Twitter)

Previously we’ve introduced Ryukyu Blue Waves (baseball) and Ryukyu Golden Kings (basketball), and now it’s time to introduce Okinawa’s professional football (soccer) team FC Ryukyu. Currently in the second division J2 League (since 2018), the team was founded in 2003 and of the professional sports teams in Okinawa, I think they have the coolest uniform. Of the other sports teams, FC Ryukyu has the most diverse lineup of team members who hail from Okinawa, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Their home field is at the Tapic Kenso Hiyagon Stadium in Okinawa City. Speaking of their uniform, unlike the other sports teams, FC Ryukyu’s online store ships a few of their merch outside of Japan too!

Shinka TV Segment from their YouTube Channel

FC Ryukyu website. FC Ryukyu on Twitter. FC Ryukyu YouTube (has game highlights!).

The Man Who Changed Okinawa (Film)

“The Man Who Changed Okinawa (Okinawa wo Kaeta Otoko)”

We don’t get a lot of films from Okinawa so if you see on whether at a festival or on a streaming site, we must watch it! A film that’s currently available on Amazon Prime is The Man Who Changed Okinawa starring Garage Sale’s Gori who we recently featured on Karakui.

Here’s the synopsis via Geta Films:

This is based on a true story about a coach of a high school baseball team who’d like to change people’s mind in Okinawa through baseball. Hiroyoshi Sai is assigned as a coach to the baseball team at Ryukyu Fisheries high school. The baseball team members are welcome the arrival of the capable coach Sai, but he recruits skillful players for next freshmen from all over Okinawa.

His target is just to win the National High School Baseball Championship, called “Koshien” in up-coming couple of years. However, teachers and students around the school get suspicious about his way of coaching with an iron fist.

Nonetheless, his belief never shakes and his team grabs the right to participate in the championship with various difficulties.

https://www.getafilms.com/the-man-who-changed-okinawa

Directed by Kishimoto Tsukasa, the film was a hit in Okinawa if going by ticket sales, and garnered enough attention to be English-subtitled and streamed outside of Japan. It’s also one of the few films from Okinawa with an Okinawan director and main actor. If you are able to watch the entire film (you can search for reviews of the film in English and in Japanese to see why it may be difficult to do so), and you have an understanding of Ryukyu, how did it make you feel? Personally, I feel that the beginning of the film as well as the first scene in the bar pitting Gori agains the other teachers sums up the reality of being Okinawan and their desire to show their strong will despite the human costs. The title of the film itself is interesting because it leaves out whether Coach Sai changed Okinawa for the better or for the worse and leaves it to the viewer to decide.

Ryukyu Golden Kings Basketball Team

Starting Five for May 8th (via Twitter)

We previously posted about the professional baseball team, Ryukyu Blue Oceans, and today we’re introducing a professional basketball team in Okinawa: the Ryukyu Golden Kings. Founded in 2007, they play home games at the beautiful Okinawa Arena and away games throughout Japan. The Golden Kings play in the top B1 West Conference of the B.League and have several players from Okinawa (the image above shows #3 point guard Namizato Narito). We’ll feature one more professional sports team in a future post (hint: it’s called by a different name depending on the region)!

Links to the Ryukyu Golden Kings website and Twitter.

Ryukyu Blue Oceans Baseball Team

via Campfire

Did you know that Okinawa has several professional sports teams? Today we’re highlighting Okinawa’s professional baseball team, Ryukyu Blue Oceans. Formed in 2019 and active from 2020, the team features several players from Okinawa and is headquartered in Ginowan City. They have three home fields: Ginowan, Urasoe, and Miyako-jima. Pro baseball makes a lot of sense in Okinawa as there are many fans of the sport (as most recently evidenced by the large amount of social media support for Gushikawa Commercial High School making it to the spring Koshien) and many NPB teams hold spring training camps in Okinawa. One of the team’s goals is to join the NPB when it expands its cap on new teams (from 12 to 16).

Ryukyu Blue Oceans have currently started a crowdfunding project on Campfire with one of the rewards being the amazing game cap pictured above (unfortunately, it seems to be only available domestically).

Follow Ryukyu Blue Oceans on Twitter.

Pro Cyclist Arashiro Yukiya

Photo by Miwa Iijima @iimiwa

There’s a world-class pro road cyclist from Ishigaki, Arashiro Yukiya, who has been in the pro peloton from 2006. Many people may not associate pro road cycling with Okinawa outside of the Tour de Okinawa and triathlon events so Yukiya is truly a standout. He’s one of a handful of racers from Asia to participate in the Tour de France and out of that group, one of the few to complete a Grand Tour. Yukiya is an all-rounder so he’s able to participate in all the different Tours from sprints to climbs. He’s currently riding with Team Bahrain Victorious and in 2021 (as of April) has raced in Paris-Nice, Milano Sanremo, and Tour of the Alps.

I remember watching him in the Tour de France from a few years ago and having so much pride in seeing him and hearing his name mentioned by the English-speaking TV commentators. Presently, there are only a few pro cyclists from Asia so having one from Ishigaki is a treasure to me.

Follow Yukiya on Twitter (his wife Mari (@iimiwa), a pro photographer, also tweets news and photos of Yukiya)

RBC Special “Ryukyu Athlete MTG 2021” (Okinawa)

RBC aired a 1-hour special today called “Ryukyu Athlete MTG 2021” (琉球アスリートMTG2021). The TV special features several athletes from Okinawa that will be competing in Tokyo 2020 (now in summer 2021 as it was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The athletes (links to their Wikipedia page if available) featured in the special are Kiyuna Ryo (karate), Arashiro Yukiya (cycling road race), Miyamoto Masanori (weightlifting), Kina Tsubasa (wheelchair marathon), Ikehara Ayaka (handball), Tsuha Hibiki (long jump), and Tome Takanori (canoe).

Let’s give them our support!

Link to RBC’s article.