—— Can you tell us about the upcoming, fi rst “Japan Fiesta in San Diego”?
The Japan Fiesta in San Diego is an international exchange event between Japan and the US that is taking place at the San Diego Sports Arena on Saturday, March 26. This event offers opportunities to learn more about, explore, taste, and enjoy things related to Japan. We want to promote Japan among the people of San Diego by providing them with information on Japanese culture, Japanese American history, and other related topics. Another of our goals is to promote the integration of local Japanese groups into one community. The Japan Fiesta consists of two parts. In Part 1, we’ll be exhibiting and introducing local Japanese American history and Japanese culture. Part 2 will consist of an Arena Football game featuring the All-Japan Samurai Warriors, from Japan, and the San Diego Riptide, our local AFL team.
—— Can you tell us about the Japanese cultural exhibition?
The concourse of the Sports Arena will be divided into four zones, each highlighting an aspect of Japanese culture, including History/Education, Arts & Crafts, Food, and Entertainment. Each zone will have booths of the same theme. Also, various live performances are planned on the field of the Sports Arena, including Japanese classical dance by Nippon Gakuen students, ballet performances by children at Ms. Taeko Nishio’s Neisha’s Dance Academy and by Ms. Yoko Inomata of the San Diego Ballet, a Taiko drum performance by the Shokenji Taiko Group, as well as, a chorus, kendo, and judo. Many local Japanese organizations will be here performing.
I’ve learned that the local Japanese community started when Japanese immigrants moved to San Diego in the 1880s. At the Japan Fiesta, we'd like to show the past, present and future of the Japanese community including the history of the local Japanese Americans, Japanese traditional culture, Arena Football as a future sport, and a robot designed to live with humans in the future.
—— Can you explain what Arena Football is?
Arena football is an indoor sport similar to football. Since the league was founded in the US in 1986, it's been growing in popularity. The size of an arena football field is one fourth that of a regular football field. In arena football, each team has eight players, while in regular football each team has eleven players. Arena football players play both offense and defense, and the game emphasizes passing the ball and scoring points. The fascination with arena football lies in its lively, exciting play. Regular football games average about 40-50 points per game, but Arena Football games can easily exceed 100 points. Since the fans are right next to the field in arena football, it’s common that players fly through the air and land right in front of the fans. Before or after a game, you can feel free to ask the players for autographs and they'll give them to you. This reflects the policy of the league that, "Arena football exists because of the fans," and is a service for fans.
—— What are the highlights of the Japan-US Friendship Match?
If the All-Japan team wins it will be the first time that a Japanese arena football team has beaten an American pro team, which would be a great accomplishment for them. It will interesting to see how much the Samurai Warriors, with its high- speed offense, can do against the San Diego Riptide. To win on the Riptide’s home field, the Warriors will need a lot of support from you the readers. So please come out to the Japan Fiesta and witness this new page in the history of arena football.
For the halftime show, former NFL cheerleaders, Ai Yasuda and Yoko Yagishita, will be performing
cheerleading. In addition, Sony's small humanoid robot QRIO, the first two-legged walking robot in the world, will be appearing as a special guest. Since the game will start at 7:00 p.m., and QRIO will appear after 8:00 p.m. if you have small children, please have them take a nap so that you can all enjoy the show together.
—— Please tell us about the All-Japan Samurai Warriors.
The Samurai Warriors—the All-Japan Samurai Warriors, are a select group of American arena football players consisting of college students and members of the Japan’s X League, Japanese corporate football league. The twenty-four players who were selected actively played in the Japanese football league and some of have experience playing in the AFL and the NFL Europe. Last year, the Samurai Warriors participated in the First Arena Football Friendship Game in Kentucky and played against the local Louisville team. The game was close; the Warriors led 26-23 until the fourth quarter. The team name comes from Japanese Bushido (Japanese chivalry). The team is determined to show respect for this American-born sport and have the grace to pledge fair play in its birthplace. The team would make logical decisions and have a spirit of decisiveness and the spirit of Bushido. Thus, the team was named “The Samurai Warriors.” While playing active roles in business as well, the Warriors take off their suits to take a challenge from the world.
—— How and why did you decide to hold the Japan Fiesta in San Diego?
Last August, I received a phone call from Mr. Shinzo Yamada, head coach of the Samurai Warriors. I’d known Mr. Yamada since my college days, because I’d played football in college and on a corporate team,. He called to ask me for help with his plan to hold a second Japan-US arena football friendship match in San Diego. I was interested, but didn't think it would be an easy job that I could do alone. So, I didn't answer "Yes" right away. Later on, I had the opportunity to watch a video of the First Japan-US Friendship Match. Before watching the game on video, I'd thought it was just an international exchange event only involving sports. But, the video also showed the Samurai Warriors' friendship activities, including their visits to a local hospital and to the Japanese school. I was very moved. So, I came to support the team as much as I could.
I responded to Mr. Yamada’s request for help. Still, I came to realize that sports were merely a means of international friendship to have a common bond beyond language. Our event, though, would be a valuable opportunity for cultural exchange between the two countries, so we did not want to limit it to arena football alone. Around the same time, I heard that Japanese Americans living in San Diego wished to interact with people from Japan. Because I was born in Venezuela and raised in the US, I understand what they want. Although Japanese Americans and people from Japan are racially the same, there is something that makes both groups hesitate to approach to each other because of the cultural differences between the US and Japan. But, both have the same sentiment to their Japanese roots. Can I create a common platform on which both groups can share their unchangeable common background and communicate with each other? I wondered. So, I thought of planning a major Japan-US international exchange event in which everybody from children to senior citizens could participate regardless of nationality. That's how the Japan Fiesta in San Diego was born.
—— You made the decision about half a year after you’d planned it, right?
It was this year when we finally decided to organize the event. In San Diego, there wasn’t an organized system to operate such a major event. We had to start from scratch. Of course, we faced financial issues as well. I just came to San Diego last July, and in an unfamiliar environment,
I worked on this project by trial and error. I’d started working on the project by myself, but later on, I got help from many people, including Mr. Futoshi Hoshino, an intern with the San Diego Gulls, Ms. Yumi Tsujino, and Ms. Minako Ishibashi. Thanks to these people, the project was progressing gradually.
It took a long time for us to convince organizations that the objective of this unprecedented event would be worthwhile. There was also some criticism of our plan, but I believed in the potential of this event. The main reason was that I was pretty sure that there was need for such an event. Every time I talked about the event, I got positive comments, like, "Sounds interesting," or "Please hold that event.” As a matter of fact, I was lucky, too. We didn’t have much time to prepare and I was told that it would be difficult to reserve the Sports Arena. Then, an indoor soccer game was cancelled at the last minute and we were able to reserve the arena. For the past half a year, I’ve been working so hard that I’ve almost lost track of myself. I am very grateful for many people who have helped me and for this opportunity to hold this event.
—— I sense that you have an extraordinary passion for football....
Because of my father's job, I spent all my elementary school years and most of high school years in Pennsylvania. I was born in Venezuela. Although I’d spent my junior high school years in Japan, I thought I was more American than Japanese. Still, when I graduated from high school, I felt that if I continued living in the US I would completely lose my Japanese roots. So, I decided to go to a Japanese university and learn Japanese culture and etiquette through playing football, which I’d loved since I was little.
I went to Meiji University and joined the varsity football team that has enjoyed a proud tradition since its commencement in 1934. Although I also played on my high school team in the US, I was first surprised by the very strict military-like training of my university team, which was common at Japanese universities, but not at US universities. In my senior year, I became vice captain and administrator for the team and helped the team move up to the Class A league. I was also selected as an All-Kanto (east) player for the East-West Student All-Star Game. I spent four valuable years on my university team. After college, I started working for Sony. At the same time, I served as a coach for my university team. In 1997, my second year at Sony, I still had a passion for football as an active player. I was invited to play for the Asahi Beer “Silver Star”, a corporate team. I accepted the invitation but found it was difficult to play football and work as an employee at the same time. In the first two years, the team didn't win the league title. It lost in the semi-finals of the corporate championship the first year and in the final the second year. One of the reasons was that the players, including myself, believed it was difficult to balance work and sports. I decided to retire after playing as much as possible for a year. So, the next year, I worked hard to figure out how to do my job and play football at the same time. I analyzed my 365-day schedule, wrote down all the things I was unable to do the last year, and made absolutely sure to do them in that year. For example, I lifted weights for an hour a day, even when I was overseas on business. I did it after business dinners. Also, I didn’t skip my 30-minute running workouts even when I had to work until midnight. Such efforts paid off, helping the team win the league title. I was exceptionally happy.
—— What do you expect from cultural exchange through sports?
It is one of the most powerful ways of promoting friendship beyond ethnicity and culture. That’s what I expect. When I was a seventh grader, we went back to Japan from Pennsylvania and I entered a public junior high school in the city of Kamakura. I thought I behaved like an ordinary Japanese student, but it seemed that the inside of me was a foreigner. My English teacher often skipped me when having his students pronounce English words because my pronunciation was better than his. Also, my fellow students didn’t let me in their groups because I was self-assertive. I experienced so-called “bullying to the foreign-raised.” While I was alienated from other students and had nobody whom I could trust, playing basketball sustained me emotionally. On the court, race and other things don't matter. If you play well, you'll be accepted. During this time, I witnessed the influence of sports.
Then, when I was in my second year of senior high school, we moved to Pennsylvania again. I was full of joy because I expected to see my old friends and play football that I had enjoyed so much during my elementary school years. However, again, I was unable to fit in with the surrounding environment. While living in Japan for four and a half years, I had become more Japanese, with the belief that living in harmony with others and respecting them without being self-assertive were the right things to do. My old friends were surprised that I could only show the Japanese part of me. So, I felt alienated once again, but again, sports sustained me. I joined the high school football team, but early on, I was not accepted at all. I guess I gave the team members the impression that I, a small Asian, played football awkwardly. But, once I made a tackle on the field , the team accepted me as one of their own.
—— Can you tell us about your dream for the future?
I’d like to continue promoting international cultural exchange between San Diego and Japan through the sports that I love. I’d like to pass on the value of sports, which has been nurtured over years, down to future generations.
I have what I call the 4P principle: Pure, Passion, Positive, and Pride. I believe I have the purest heart and the strongest passion for sports. Meanwhile, it is important and difficult to focus on how much I can stay positive in moving ahead and how much I can keep my pride. I may have to compromise sometimes, but if I keep having my pride, that’ll lead to confidence in myself and I won’t fail so easily. It’s easy to understand this intellectually, but it’s very difficult to balance these four P’s. Keeping my 4P principle, I'd like to continue looking for something that serves as a link between Japan and San Diego.
Hideyuki“Andy”Hata is Committee Organizer of Japan Fiesta in San Diego. He works for Sony Electronics, Inc. He was born in Venezuela in 1972. Because of his father’s job, he spent his elementary school days in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then went back to Japan. When he was in the second year of senior high school, he went back to Pennsylvania. After graduating from high school, he entered Meiji University, majoring in law at the School of Law. He joined the varsity football team and served as vice captain and administrator. He helped the team move up to the Class A league for the first time in four years. In addition, for the East-West Student All-Star Game, he was selected as a player for the Kanto (east) team. Upon graduating in 1996, he started working for Sony. At the same time, he served as a coach for the Meiji University football team for a year. In 1997, he joined the Asahi Beer“Silver Star”, a corporate football team. After his success on the corporate team and winning the national football championship, he retired, finishing the 1999 season. Since July 2004, Mr. Hata has lived in San Diego. He currently lives in San Marcos with his wife and two sons. For more information about Japan Fiesta in San Diego, please visit www.japan-society.org/japanfiesta (English) or www.sandiegotown.com (Japanese). For details about how to purchase tickets, please see page 69 of this magazine.