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Nikkei Chronicles #9—More Than a Game: Nikkei Sports

60th Anniversary: Close to the Heart

The author with his two grandchildren, Karina and Cristian.

Letter to my granddaughter Karina and grandson Cristian:

It’s two o’clock in the morning and in the silence of the living room, I still see the Christmas tree with the lights turned off, rigid and noticeably transcendent. The colored balls possess the prelude of a nostalgia that memory has a certain magic charm to enjoy, even after the holidays are over: the presence of a ten-year-old girl and the mischievous impulsiveness of a six-year-old boy.              

There is an emblem of merry Father Christmas that conceals amidst his white beard the knowledge that the holidays are over and January approaches quickly on the road of time and solitude. You are all in Sao Paulo enjoying your vacation. Do the right thing, share love and affection, do what you're asked and be very happy. Run like the wind that hits you in the face, in that sublime kiss bestowed on us by childhood. In that precious hive of laughter and words, of innocent questions and answers that keep us occupied. Use your eyes as a paintbrush to draw the other world of the family, if you want to have fun sing of the colorful day that life gives to you, and if you get tired, sleep, because today, tomorrow and forever, the world will belong to you, the children.

It was October when Cristian grabbed me by the hand and asked:

“Grandpa, why is there so much dirt in the stadium?
“Because of the work they're doing, don’t you see?”

We started to talk, sitting on a bench on the main path. “Sixty years ago…” I started to tell him, “this was all just a field full of cotton. There weren't any houses or buildings, no tracks or parks. Just land with furrows and the canal that brought water to all the places where plants grew under the sun or the moon and in every corner in which hope forged its future.”

You asked me who owned it and I said simply, everyone. Today I'm telling you that part of the story, where a simple piece of paper, written in gold, filled the book that our grandparents left for us. 

It was the card game and mahjong that launched a dream among friends. And that sought-after dream was a safe place where all Nikkei could be together. Our own stadium. And that's how La Unión Stadium (A.E.L.U) was born.

They were the first to write the story, in huge letters for the courage represented by each page written on each generation connected by the healthy presence of sports. Tomeo Aoki, Yasuzo Goto, Ichizo Habaue, Kaoru Hirata, Kazunori Hirota, Akira Horiuchi, Ryoko Kiyohiro, Alberto Naoyuki Nabeta, Pedro Tomio Nabeta, Bunji Oashi, Fernando Kaichi Sakata, Wakamatsu Sakata, Chogo Soeda, Roberto Taninaka, and Shotaro Yokoyama.

After that, everyone in the group contributed their grain of sand. Some with money, others by helping to clean up. It was a long period of brotherhood, camaraderie, determination and love for community work. And today, 60 years later, you and I can sit here on this bench and enjoy the kindness, humility, serenity, well-being, joy, and friendship that is the warmth of our community.

“Grandpa, who is that man who comes to greet you?”
“That's the president, he's like a father who makes sure that everything works well.”

Cristian grabbed me by the arm, stood up and said:

“Grandpa, I already have a friend named Oscar.”
“It's good to have friends,” I answered. You play with them, you have fun, and they are often there to accompany you in that solitude of the springtime of life.

Julio Gushiken (I don't know why but they call him Pancho), president of the A.E.L.U., came to inspect the work. Every day he came to visit the facility that would feature a beautiful view once all the work was done. We greeted each other, with the smile that's always on his face during tennis games, whether he wins or loses. I had the impression that as tired as he was, each project he supervised revitalized him. And I remembered that he was the one who had the idea of the shinnenkai which, year after year, gives us elderly members a surprise on a propitious date of the first month of each year. Thank you for that kindness toward those of us who are in the final stretch. 

Julio “Pancho” Gushiken received an award from a local tournament in 2005.

Karina and Cristian, you went to the playground to meet up with your friends. I sat down again, looking for a handkerchief. I took it out of my pocket, put it over my eyes, and slyly dried the tears the sun had erupted in me. I put on my glasses and heard an army of men in work clothes, smiling women with pots and onigiri, boys and girls, young men and women, singing songs, pulling weeds, collecting moss, gathering stones, leveling the ground, perspiring with happiness and pouring each task into their dreams in “this vast green field and bleachers”, which is the greatest legacy our grandparents and parents have left to us.

“Sixty years of water running under the bridge.” Naturally!

I got up from the bench, held my head up, whistled an old romantic bolero and went to look for my grandchildren.

 

* * * * *

Our Editorial Committee selected this article as one of his favorite More Than a Game: Nikkei Sports stories. Here is the comment.

Comment by Mario Kiyohara Ramos

Through his story, he passes on to the following generations (and all of his readers) not only the sweetness and the solidarity of the humble origins of La Unión Stadium (A.E.L.U. — Asociación Estadio La Unión) but also 60 years of continued growth and modernization of the facilities. La Unión Stadium has been a constant companion during the second half of the history of the Japanese-Peruvian community, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last year. A story of growth and an important presence in Peruvian society, without losing its core values of shared and almost anonymous work toward a common objective. In these lines, the author asks us, in a subtle way, to pass on to our children the ideals and values that originally motivated every community member to contribute funds, pick up a rocks, or lay bricks to build a dream that fills our community with pride and satisfaction today.

 

© 2020 Luis Iguchi Iguchi

9 Stars

Nima-kai Favorites

Each article submitted to this series was eligible for selection as favorites of our readers and the Editorial Committees. Thank you to everyone who voted!

AELU Julio “Pancho” Gushiken peru sports

About this series

What makes Nikkei sports more than just a game for you? Perhaps you’d like to write about your Nikkei sports hero or the impact of Japanese athletes on your Nikkei identity. Did your parents meet through a Nikkei basketball or bowling league? Are you intrigued by an important chapter of Nikkei sports history, like the prewar Issei and Nisei baseball teams?

For the ninth edition of Nikkei Chronicles, Discover Nikkei solicited stories related to Nikkei sports from June to October of 2020. Voting closed on November 30, 2020. We received 31 stories (19 English; 6 Japanese; 7 Spanish; and 1 Portuguese), with a few submitted in multiple languages. We asked an editorial committee to pick their favorites and our Nima-kai community to vote for their favorite stories. Here are the selected favorite stories. (*Translations of these selected stories are currently in process.)

Editorial Committee’s Favorites

Nima-kai Favorite:

<<Community Partner: Terasaki Budokan - Little Tokyo Service Center>>

To learn more about this writing project >>

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