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...


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.


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




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




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