Japan Night Presented by Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) is July 1

LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers and Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) announced today that Japan Night presented by Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) will be held on Sunday, July 1 (vs. NYM, 5:00 p.m.).  JTA is a branch of the Japanese government. This marks the first time that JTA has entered into a sports partnership in the United States.

The Dodgers relationship with Japan dates more than half a century. The Dodgers have played and taught baseball in Japan, and have welcomed Japanese teams and instructors to Dodger Stadium and the team’s Spring Training home since 1956.  Those relationships led to the breakthrough signing of Hideo Nomo and the more than 25 Japan-born major leaguers who have followed.

“We are thrilled to be the title sponsor for the Dodgers’ Japan Night,” said Director of International Tourism Promotion Division of JTA Shuichi Kameyama.  “This is a great opportunity to thank Americans and the Dodgers for their continuous support, which they have shown us in various ways including aiding in Japan’s recovery effort after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We hope that attendees of Japan Night will enjoy the cultural activities and performances of the Tohoku region—Eastern Japan and will inspire them to visit Japan to experience its world-famous hospitality with the ‘Japan. Endless Discovery.’ campaign.”

“The Dodgers have a long history with Japan, dating to 1956 when our team first toured Japan during the offseason,” said Dodgers Chief Revenue Office Michael Young. “This partnership is a reflection of our strong commitment to Japan that is far-reaching from the Japanese community in Los Angeles to overseas.”

Japan Night will celebrate the Dodgers’ history with Japan and highlight what Eastern Japan has to offer to visitors.  JTA will have booths to promote tourism in Japan at the Viva Los Dodgers Day festival, held in Lot 6 starting at 3:00 p.m. where a group of folk dancers from Japan will also perform. Pre-game ceremonies will include Taiko drums and a Mikoshi parade that is typical to a traditional Japanese summer festival.  The Nisei Week Queen and Court will also be on hand and the national anthem will be performed by Judith Hill.Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), who promotes inbound tourism to Japan, will appoint Hello Kitty® as the One-Day Japan Tourism Ambassador at Japan Night.  As part of this partnership, Sanrio’s Hello Kitty and Keroppi® will take photos with fans at Viva Los Dodgers Day festival and fans with the first 50,000 tickets will receive a Hello Kitty Mini Bobblehead and Hello Kitty crown. Hello Kitty will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“We are very excited to be a part of Japan Night and to celebrate the several decades-long relationship between the Dodgers and Japan,” said Executive Director of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Los Angeles Office Daisuke Tonai. “We hope that through Japan Night at Dodger Stadium, fans will be inspired to visit our beautiful country in the near future.”

The Dodgers first played in Japan after the 1956 regular season.  In 1962, Japanese coach Kaoru Betto traveled with the Dodgers for the entire season, studying the American method of training. Coach Yoshitaka Katori, a well-known coach of the Tokyo Giants, served in a similar role with the Single-A Vero Beach Dodgers. The Dodgers then provided clinics and toured Japan in 1963, 1964, 1965, and 1966.  They visited again in 1993. 

In addition to the tours (1956, 1966, 1993) and clinics (1963, 1964, 1965), the Dodgers have welcomed to Dodger Stadium and Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL, the Tokyo Giants (1961, 1967, 1971, 1975 and 1981) and Chunichi Dragons, as well as the first Japanese University team to train with a Major League Baseball team (Waseda University in 1993), among others.

In 1995, the Dodgers opened the doors for the wave of Japanese baseball players that have come to the United States with the signing of Japanese pitching legend Hideo Nomo. He became only the second Japanese-born player to play Major League Baseball – the first in more than 30 years – and his success has led to more than 25 Japanese players playing in the majors since his arrival. Seven of those Japan-born players include former Dodgers Hiroki Kuroda, former All-Star Takashi Saito, Kazuhisa Ishii, Norihiro Nakamura, Masao Kida, Dave Roberts and Nomo.

Tommy Lasorda, Nomo’s manager at the time, became a household name throughout Japan and led trailblazing throughout the Far East. In 1998, the Dodgers became the first team to have an office in Asia and signed a friendship agreement in 2001 with the then-Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (now the Orix Buffaloes).  Lasorda made countless trips to Japan to help the franchise.  The Hall of Fame manager also helped the Tokyo Giants in the ‘60s and has worked with numerous players in Japan through the years, hosting clinics in Tokyo, Miyazaki, and several other cities throughout the country. In addition, each year the Dodgers host interns from Waseda University for several weeks and teach them about American culture and baseball.

At Dodger Stadium, a gift from Japan remains a symbol of the relationship.  When the ballpark opened in 1962, the Dodgers invited the dean of Japanese sportswriters, Sotaro Suzuki, to the dedication ceremonies.  Upon his return to Japan, he commissioned a stone lantern to commemorate the opening. The lantern was shipped to Dodger Stadium in winter 1965 and placed in a Japanese Garden on a hill adjacent to Parking Lot 6 beyond the Right Field Pavilion; a rededication ceremony took place in 2003.

About JTA and JNTO

The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) is a Japanese government agency committed to preparing a national environment that is friendly towards tourist travel.  The agency strives to promote international mutual understanding between Japan and other countries as well as to showcase Japan’s traditional sense of omotenashi (hospitality) to the world. For more information please visit: www.japantravelinfo.com. The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is dedicated to promoting and supporting inbound tourism to Japan.  For inquiries regarding Japan travel promotions, please contact the JNTO Los Angeles office: Phone: 213-623-1952, Fax: 213-623-6301, e-mail: info@jnto-lax.org.