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You Gotta Have Wa [Hardcover]

Robert Whiting
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1989
A hilarious, informative, and riveting account of Japanese baseball and the cultural clashes that ensued when Americans began playing there professionally.

In Japan, baseball is a way of life. It is a philosophy. It is besuboru. Its most important element is wa—group harmony—embodied in the proverb "The nail that sticks up shall be hammered down." In this witty and incisive book, Robert Whiting gives us a close-up look at besuboru's teams, obsessive ritualism, and history, as seen through the eyes of American players who found the Japanese approach—rigorous pregame practices, the tolerance for tie games, injured pitchers encouraged to “pitch through the pain”—completely baffling. With vivid accounts of East meeting West, involving Babe Ruth, Ichiro Suzuki, Bobby Valentine, Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh, and many others, this lively and completely unique book is an utter gem and baseball classic.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

The "wa" one must have is the group harmony that is the essence of Japanese "besoboru," or baseball. (Japanese baseball fans view individualism as the fatal flaw in the American game.) This interesting comparative study of the sport as it is played on both sides of the Pacific concentrates on the American stars who have gone to play in Japan. Whiting ( The Chrysanthemum and the Bat ) shows how Americans abroad have adapted to punishing spring training and pre-game practices throughout the season in Japan, and their adjustment to such aspects of the sport as the sacrifice bunt, the hit-and-run and the squeeze. He also chronicles American athletes' problems with tyrannical managers and coaches and umpires bent on saving face. The conclusion: American and Japanese baseball are vastly different games. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

"Wa," Japanese for "team spirit," is the creed of Japanese baseball, played since the 1850s and professionally since 1935. Whiting, a long-time Japan resident, concentrates on the two pro leagues. The Japanese leagues, he reports, believe their severely coached game to be superior to the U.S. game. They discourage Japanese from entering U.S. leagues. A few Americans, usually older ones, have been accepted on Japanese teams, but they meet with resentment, criticism, and discrimination. The book updates Whiting's earlier The Chrysanthemum and the Bat (LJ 10/1/76) and contrasts with Sadaharu Oh and David Falkner's Sadaharu Oh (LJ 6/1/84; o.p.). A revealing and disturbing account that is heartily recommended for adult and YA collections.
- Morey Berger, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite Dec 11 2003
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Whiting's first book on J-ball is tremendous but this one he relies too much on stereotyping stuff and pulling theories out of nowhere to fit his slant. It's certainly worth buying Wa; just don't buy into all the opinions. The one saying that the Pacific and Central League MVP awards were both given to foreigners in the same season due to some weird theory that it had to do with trying to reduce the trade friction between the U.S. and Japan at the time is laughable. Like anyone back in the U.S. in those days noticed J-ball nor even correlated baseball with trade issues.

The book though is spot on on capturing the spirit of '80s J-ball and the characters really come to life and especially for anyone who lived here during that era, it's a great read.

Just take things with a grain of salt on his trying to tie other non-baseball issues in with the baseball bits.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More Japan than Baseball March 9 2003
Format:Paperback
On the surface, this is a treatise about baseball in Japan. Only slightly underneath, it's a fascinating work on the difference between Japanese and American culture. The title word Wa comes from the Japanese word for team unity, as opposed to the American interest in individuality.
The book goes through both a history of baseball in Japan, as well as challenges American's deal with over there. It covers the trials and tribulations of Americans like Bob Horner, who thrive on the diamond, but struggle off the field. It covers the adverserial relationship between Japanese coaches and their foreign (Gai-jin) charges. Any American going to work in Japan is well advised to pay attention!
How is Japan changing over time? Compare how the approval of "different" antics of foreigners changes over time. Learn how some Japanese players follow the model, but as the exception and not the rule. Is the Japanese culture changing, or a surface appearance of change part of the Japanese character? Read the book to find out. Again, it's only about baseball on the surface.
How does training differ? The American model suggests individuals can improve, but only to the limit of their ability. The Japanese model in both the field and the office is that there is no limit - strength and success is limited only by effort. This drive leads to a 10-11 month season counting training camp, as well as several hours of strenuous exercizes every day before practice. This is essential to developing the fighting spirit. Again, someone travelling to Japan for business is well advised to understand this.
The book is a must for baseball lovers as well as people interested in learning more about Japan. The book is a fascinating work that hides great learning behind Japan under the story of America's pastime.
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Format:Paperback
In describing the Japanese game of baseball and the problems it has caused Americans attempting to play that game, Whiting succeeds in painting a vivid picture of the differences between the American and Japanese cultures. After reading this book, I came away feeling that both countries could learn from each other: by learning about how the Japanese live their lives, Americans could become more dedicated to their jobs and less self-centered; meanwhile, the American way of life could teach the Japanese to be more independent and less willing to always sacrifice their own well-being and that of their families for the good of their teams (or companies). A happy median between the two extremes of the cultures would result in better environments for everyone. In reaching these conclusions about the two countries, I realized that this book was much more than just another volume on baseball. If you're looking for a pure baseball book, you may want to try something else; however, Whiting's effort is a memorable one and I would advise that you don't pass it up. The stories of Americans trying to play baseball and acclimate themselves to the new, strange environment of Japan are both humorous and unsettling at the same time. Because these players are foreigners -- and especially because they are American foreigners -- they receive a special stigma and must deal with much more pressure than a normal Japanese player. The Americans are usually paid a lot of money to play in the land of the rising sun, which only adds to the widespread belief in Japan that these players are primma donnas who care more about the money than they do about winning. Some of the Japanese training methods will strike American readers as bizarre, if not completely ridiculous. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Same, but Different Jan. 21 2001
Format:Paperback
Baseball is baseball, right? Not when it's played in Japan, it seems. Pitchers pitch "until their arms fall off." Fielding practice is done until players drop from exhaustion. Fans chant highly organized and rhythmic chants at the same piercing volume, all game long, regardless of the score. It's not "play ball" in Japan, it's "work ball." And into this arena come the foreigners. Often bench-warmers and minor leaguers in North America, they are expected to become instant stars in Japan. The pressure and the intense work ethic drive many away after only a few weeks or months. Others, like Randy Bass, become national heroes, appearing on TV commercials nightly. However even Bass must have felt his outsider status when he was intentionally walked for the rest of the season when he challenged Sadaharu Oh's single-season home run record. If you are interested in baseball, or in what happens when Japan meets the outside world, this is the book for you.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Ya gotta luv it!
This is a great book on one of the most beautifully esoteric topics out there. This is a subject that can be appreciated more now than ever. Japanese baseball rocks! Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2004 by B. Poelman
5.0 out of 5 stars Hiliarious! Very entertaining!
This book is fun to read even if you are not into baseball, but if you are, then its awesome! Its mainly made up of many different stories and experience from American baseball... Read more
Published on April 23 2003 by Ching-An Cheng
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will get you thinking
I enjoyed this book so much that I went out and did quite a bit of research on my own about the Japanese leagues. It is entertaining and at the same time you will be educated. Read more
Published on May 30 2002 by Bruce Tracy
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, even for people who hate baseball
A fascinating cultural history disguised as sports lore. I bought this book because I'd seen it quoted in several other books about Japan that I had greatly enjoyed. Read more
Published on March 4 2002 by Marty McFly
3.0 out of 5 stars Could use some balance
Overall a great read and worth buying, but it wore me down a bit with the unrelenting uni-directional criticism. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2000 by Greg Giokas
5.0 out of 5 stars Is It Really About Baseball?
I have had the fortunate experience of visiting Japan twice and seeing some Japanese baseball. It was an experience I shall never forget. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2000 by Crossfit Len
5.0 out of 5 stars Japan 101
If I were teaching a college course on Japan, this would be my text book. Readable, funny and right on the mark. Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2000 by "symansk"
5.0 out of 5 stars great review of an americans crazy life in japanese baseball
like the warren cromartie book slugging it out in japan this is another must have book as up until 1988 it tells you the crazy goings on and stories involving americans baseball... Read more
Published on June 7 1999 by wow1029@aol.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Look Into Japanese Culture
Having spent a number of years living and working in Japan and being a big Japanese baseball fan, I found this book both entertaining and educational. Read more
Published on May 28 1999
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