Giants honor Japanese legacy on Japanese Heritage Night

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CELEBRATING JAPANESE HERITAGE — Max Obata, the grandson of Fuji Athletic Club founder and artist Chiura Obata, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. photo by Scott Nakajima Photography

On May 16, hundreds of baseball fans arrived early to the San Francisco Giants game to enjoy Japanese Heritage Night at Oracle Park. The Giants organization hosted the annual event in partnership with the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

This year the San Francisco Giants recognized the 120th anniversary of the 1903 San Francisco Fuji Athletic Club, which is believed to be the first Issei baseball team on American soil. According to the JCCCNC, the San Francisco Fuji Athletic Club hosted their games at Ewing Field, which was also home to the professional San Francisco Seals.

CELEBRATING JAPANESE HERITAGE — Max Obata, the grandson of Fuji Athletic Club founder and artist Chiura Obata, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. photo by Scott Nakajima Photography

The Fuji Athletic Club was founded by Chiura Obata, who later became a renowned artist and professor. His son, Gyo Obata, became an architect who designed several major league stadiums, including Oracle Park. Max Obata, the grandson of Chiura Obata, threw the first pitch.

The pregame festivities were highlighted by performances from San Jose dance team Uzumaru and San Francisco-based Chorale May. Uzumaru is an all-volunteer dance troupe from San Jose that regaled the audience in a colorful display of yosakoi dance in which traditional movements are combined with modern music. Chorale May, a Japanese male chorus group, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” more commonly known as the national anthem. This was Chorale May’s second time performing at Oracle Park for Japanese Heritage Night.

The Giants have been hosting Japanese Heritage Night since at least 2006, when the organization broke up Asian American Heritage night into separate Chinese Heritage and Japanese Heritage nights. Japanese Heritage Night became an annual tradition for the Giants starting in 2012.

Several players of Japanese heritage have played for the San Francisco Giants. Two of the most recent Giants of Japanese heritage include first baseman and outfielder Travis Ishikawa and outfielder Norichika Aoki.

Ishikawa had one of the most memorable at-bats in Giants history when he hit a walk-off homerun in the 2014 National League Championship Series to clinch the league pennant. The Giants went on to win the World Series that year, which was their last world championship.

Aoki last played for the Giants in 2015. He played in the majors through the 2017 season before returning to Japan, where he is still playing today for the Yakult Swallows.

The Giants also boast the first ever Japan-born player in the Major Leagues, left-handed pitcher Masanori Murakami, who pitched for the team for two seasons in 1964 and 1965.

The fans who participated in Japanese Heritage Night were treated to an exciting 4-3 Giants victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Giants win on Japanese Heritage Night was their 19th victory of the season.

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