The Los Angeles Dodgers pulled out all the stops for their annual Japanese Heritage Night on Wednesday, with plenty of activities ahead of the evening’s game against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels.
In addition to the participation of several community groups and organizations, the night benefitted from some serious star power, as Oscar-nominated actor Ken Watanabe threw a ceremonial pitch (right).
Also before the game, Watanabe helped Dodgers manager Dave Roberts unveil a small exhibit at the stadium dedicated to the history of Japanese baseball in America.
“These players are the ancestral godfathers of [Hideo] Nomo and Ohtani and others, and it’s important for Major League Baseball to recognize the rich history of RoNikkei players,” said Nisei Baseball Research Project founder Kerry Yo Nakagawa, at the ribbon-cutting below (at right) with Roberts, Watanabe and baseball writer Charlie Vascellaro.
Below: Clad in traditional wear, a community ondo group danced to “Tanko Bushi” in the Center Field Plaza during pre-game festivities.
Ohtani fans turned out en masse for the game. Below, Yu Rote and Rena Han were ready with their ice cream and the famed Rally Monkey.
Below: Japanese Consul General in L.A. Akira Muto (right) threw a ceremonial first pitch, with longtime Channel 7 sports anchor Rob Fukuzaki doing the catching.
Below: A special ticket package for the night included a special Japanese-themed cap, created by Dodgers graphic designer Ross Yoshida.
Fans at the game were nearly witness to a no-hitter, as Dodger starter Tyler Anderson took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, only to have it broken up by a one-out triple by – who else? – Shohei Ohtani (below).
Below: Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki took time to sign a few autographs for fans before the first of the two-game series between the two L.A. teams.
Below: The national anthems of both Japan and the U.S. were sung before Wednesday’s game, by Keiko Takeshita and Lauren Kinkade Wong, respectively.
A rousing performance by LA Taiko Ichiza included a daring aerial drumstick exchange (below). “I’ve always been a big fan of the Dodgers, and we are lucky to have this opportunity to share the art of taiko with so many different types of people,” said troupe leader Yuki Inoue.
Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, MARIO GERSHOM REYES
and VICKY K. MURAKAMI-TSUDA