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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
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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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Ya gotta luv it! Jan. 16 2004
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! Let's all just admit that. This history is academic and detailed, yet fun and nostalgic at the same time. In addition, it was written in an era that was void of any present day marketability or "hip", as oppossed to the era of Ichiro and Matsui Hideki, in which commmentaries will certainly contain those oppining in a way void of knowledge or appreciation of that which went before. Thank God that the pure and noble notion of this wonderful sport will always trancend the fraiailties of predjudice.
Go The Tigers!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hiliarious! Very entertaining! April 24 2003
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 players who played over in Japan. The stories are about the clash in cultures whether on or off the field and most of them are really funny and you could just picture it happening. I feel that the book is more about the cultural differences between east and west and they are just using baseball as a vehicle to illustrate them. There is a movie starring Tom Selleck called Mr. Baseball that I think is a take off from this book. It is also very fun to watch.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More Japan than Baseball March 9 2003
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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5.0 out of 5 stars This book will get you thinking May 30 2002
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. I recommend this one to anyone who loves baseball or is interested in the Japanese culture.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, even for people who hate baseball March 4 2002
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. Even though it turned out that I knew several of the best anecdotes, I still found the book to be wonderful in its evocation of how a different culture approaches something as all-American as baseball. (The aside about British tutors having to teach their charges baseball instead of rounders or cricket during the 1870s made me laugh. How odd.) The book seems a bit dated, with some of the stereotypes that mark the bubble years still in evidence. But Whiting's prose and research combine to make it a solid and accessible contribution to popular writings about Japan.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Same, but Different Jan. 22 2001
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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