Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball, about the competitive world of Koshien, a high school baseball tournament which draws thousands of Japanese youth each year. An interactive conversation with director Ken Eng will immediately follow the film.
One conversation with Kenneth Eng will tell you how much he loves the game of baseball. But Eng loves film even more. South Florida residents can get insight into each on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach when Eng’s terrific film, Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball,’’ will be screened.
An interactive conversation withEng will immediately follow the 53-minute film that chronicles two teams in the 2004 “Koshien’’ playoffs – the most important event in all of Japanese high school sports. More than 4,000 teams enter the tournament, but only 49 are chosen to compete in the championship that grips Japan two weeks every August.
Ichiro Suzuki, who amassed more than 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball, 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and current Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish each played the tournament, which has taken place nearly every year since 1915. The tournament even was played briefly during World War II.
“It’s the dream of every schoolboy to get there,’’ said Eng, who was born in China and raised in Boston.
The idea for the film, Eng told me, was actually born in India in 2001 while he and best friend and film producer Alex Shear were making “Take Me to the River,’’ about the Hindu bathing festival.
Shear had read Robert Whiting’s great book on Japanese culture as seen through their baseball lens entitled, “You Gotta Have Wa,’’ which mentioned the Koshien playoffs.
“Getting permission to do the film in Japan was the toughest part,’’ Eng said. “We were the first Westerners to bring our camera over there to cover the tournament.’’
Anyone who truly understands baseball – and Eng is among them – also understands that the game, regardless of where it’s played, is about life and life lessons. That’s the real message that Eng delivers in Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball, and it isn’t lost on anyone who see the film.
“I use baseball as lens into the spirit of Japan,’’ Eng said. “Baseball is an American sport, but Japan has instilled Samurai wisdom into it and turned it into a martial art.
“There can only be one winner. But it’s all about the process. It’s all about training the body and spirit and all about the coaches who teach young people how to deal with adversity and the lessons in life.’’