29 Noshiro: Slamdunk and a Sixthman

Noshiro is not an easy town to fall in love with, not unless you are passionate about grey breeze-block walls and shop shutters.

I stayed for 2 nights in Noshiro in a cheap, friendly but jaded ryokan. 

Early signs were not promising, more dead shops than live ones.  A wall in the communal toilet at the ryokan was covered by a 2001 poster from the Association for Promoting the Early Realisation of the Extension of the Akita Shinkansen to Noshiro.  12 years later and still no sign of that happening. 

The poster featured schoolchildren`s drawings: one was of the Komachi emerging out of a basketball.  Basketball is big in Noshiro.  Haiku poems traditionally include seasonal references.  On poles in Noshiro high street, the haiku were all about basketball:

The comeback / all dependent on / one free throw

To live in a town / that will even cheer the / dribbling of infants

Oh for one day with / my Dad playing as / our sixthman

Noshiro has a basketball museum, a converted shop a short walk from the station.  I went along and got given the grand tour; I was even allowed to sit in a wheelchair for basketball players. 

A lady guide explained Noshiro basketball success.  It began in the 1960s with the boys team at the Noshiro Technical High School they have now won the national tournament over 50 times.  The coach of the school team, Kato Sensei, was credited with transforming Noshiro High School into the strongest team in the country,; he was lauded for his 大研究 (great research) into getting the best out of shorter players. 

Noshiro Technical High School has long recruited the best players from around the country, putting 20-30 at a time into local boarding houses.  A 230cm tall school kid recruited from Kyushu, the tallest Japanese player ever, had donated his shoes to the museum.  A photo showed him a full head of height above Michael Jordan.  

The small museum was brilliant, a tribute to what a small town can achieve.

Not the only thing in Noshiro though.    

I later wandered the Kazenomatsubara, the black pine forest on the seashore, planted by samurai appointed as Official Sand-stoppers, so serious was the agricultural damage caused by sand.  These black pines also helped protect the town from the tsunami in 1983.  

Noshiro has much more, but I only had a day, and I am writing too much again already.

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