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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tokyo Fans: 'Tornado' Watching

TOKYO -- For an American baseball fan, watching the All-Star Game was simplicity itself: pop a cold one, plop into the Barcalounger, and power up the tube. For Japanese fans, though, watching the big game required sterner stuff.


Clutching umbrellas and rain slickers on a moist, muggy morning -- the first pitch was thrown at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Tokyo time -- fans by the thousands gathered on sidewalks and in public squares all over Japan to watch a fuzzy image of the game on one of 30, three-storey-high outdoor TV sets.


"I can't really say it's comfortable here,'' said Hideki Nomura, who was seated on the wet pavement outside Tokyo's Shibuya Station, peering out from his umbrella. "But what the heck -- there's no way I would miss this game.''


It was worth the trouble for Nomura and other Japanese fans because the National League's starting pitcher in this year's All-Star Game in Arlington, Texas, is the dominant hero of Japan's pop culture right now: Hideo "Tornado'' Nomo, 26, the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie forkballer who got his start playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in Japan's Pacific League.


Nomo's flawless performance against American League batters in his two innings brought huge cheers from the sidewalk fans here. When he left the game, one Japanese network abruptly ended its live broadcast and switched to replays of Nomo's work.


The "Nomo boom'' has limits, of course, in a country that gives top priority to hard work and diligent study. Few Japanese companies have TV sets at the work site, and not many waived the rules for a little thing such as the nation's first U.S. all-star.


At Kintetsu, the big railroad and travel company that owns the Buffaloes, spokesman Akio Hata said everyone is thrilled by Nomo's success in America. But Hata seemed stunned when asked earlier whether employees might watch the game at the office this morning. "Why, that would be a violation of our work rules,'' he said solemnly.