Ichiro vs Matsui

Interview: Takao Nakajima discusses Japanese interest in tonight's Yankees-Mariners baseball game, which features two of Japan's most popular stars playing each other for the first time in the US

April 29, 2003

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NEAL CONAN, host: Tonight as the sun sets over the Bronx, tens 1) __________ thousands of Yankee fans will file into their seats 2) __________ cheer on their team as they play 3) __________ the formidable Seattle Mariners. Both teams lead their divisions in the 4) __________ League. If recent history is any proof, it should be a 5) __________ good game.

In Japan, it will be breakfast time as baseball 6) __________there tune into the Mariners-Yankees game. They'll be watching 7) __________ of their countrymen compete. Ichiro Suzuki plays right field 8) __________ the Mariners. This is his third year. Hideki Matsui is a 9) __________ who plays left field for the Yankees. It will be the first 10) __________ the two will compete in US major league baseball.

Joining us now to 11) __________ about Japan 's interest in the game is Takao Nakajima, an on-air correspondent for Japan 's NHK TV. And he's at Yankee Stadium.

Thanks very much for joining us.

Mr. TAKAO NAKAJIMA (Correspondent, NHK TV): Hi.

CONAN: A lot of members of the Japanese 12) __________ up there to cover this game?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Yes. Actually, I'm in front of the Yankee Stadium right 13) __________ and there's tons of media; mostly Japanese media are 14) __________. And the New York local people are also interested in 15) __________ Japanese match for this three-game series, so it's drawing a lot of 16) __________.

CONAN: Now these two are the most famous baseball players from Japan, correct?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Yes, that's 17) __________. And they were both in a different league, so they haven't really 18) __________ with each other in the Japan. So it's a big interest for the Japanese fans, moving to the major-league stage and 19) __________ with each other. It's going to be a big interest for the Japanese baseball fans.

CONAN: Now I think Ichiro played 20) __________ the Blue Wave, the Orix Blue Wave, and Matsui played for the Yomiuri Giants, correct?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: That's correct. That's correct.

CONAN: Now these two are very 21) __________ kinds of ballplayers, aren't they?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Yes. Ichiro is more of a speed and technique guy. As you know, he has 22) __________ the batting title two years ago as a rookie, and he has also won the American League major league Most Valuable Player. But Matsui, on the contrary, he's more of a 23) __________ guy. He hit 50 home runs and he's been producing a hundred-plus RBI every year, and he's been hitting fourth on the Yomiuri Giants, which is considered to be one of the most 24) __________ teams in Japan. So the power vs. technique is another point of interest to see and watch this game tonight.

CONAN: Now I understand this game is going to be 25) __________ in Japan ?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Yes. We are going to broadcast it in our station, and it's going to be at 8:00 in the morning, Wednesday.

CONAN: Now how many 26)  __________ are going to be watching a game at that hour?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Well, actually, it's a difficult question, but from yesterday, Japan has gone into a holiday season, and we have, like, people are (technical difficulties) a day off and such and such. So I think, you know, a lot of people who have work 27) __________will probably wake up from 7:30 in the morning and tune into the TV from 8:00 in (technical difficulties). So we'll probably have over four or five 28) __________ people, around Tokyo area, which is the capital.

CONAN: That's a lot.

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Yes, that is a lot. Yes.

CONAN: Now as you look at these ballplayers, there was a lot of concern when players as popular and successful as Matsui and Ichiro come to the United States that this would lead to a drain and lack of interest in Japanese baseball. Has that 29) __________?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Well, actually, the Japanese baseball has to really seriously think about the, you know, future 30) __________. Matsui challenging of baseball was another warning for the Japanese baseball. We have to produce a new kind of superstar. We have to draw a new type of the baseball fan to the Japanese baseball. And that's the 31)  __________ that the Japanese baseball has been working on for the last two or three years.

CONAN: Now of these two ballplayers, Ichiro has already won the Most Valuable Player award here in the States, as you mentioned. Is he 32) __________ popular than Matsui?

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Actually, it's hard to explain, but Hideki Matsui was from the most 33) __________ team in Japan . It's like the New York Yankees in the major league baseball. But Ichiro was--I can say a 34) __________ popular team than the Giants, but they're both successful in the major leagues. They're probably pretty much same popular as both of them. They're 35) __________ much the same...

CONAN: OK.

Mr. NAKAJIMA: ...in the popularity.

CONAN: Well, thanks very much, and good luck with your broadcast tonight.

Mr. NAKAJIMA: Thank you very much.

CONAN: That was Takao Nakajima, an on-air correspondent for Japan 's NHK TV.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro.

(Soundbite of music; gong)

CONAN: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Questions: 

1. What's the difference in Matsui and Ichiro's baseball styles? 

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2. Why are many people in Japan able to watch the game on TV? 

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3. Why are people worried about players like Ichiro and Matsui going to the US to play baseball?

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