"Cricket town Sano" Tailwind for Olympic adoption December 12, 6:17

Cricket will be held at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, the next tournament after the Paris Olympics to be held next year.
Cricket is said to have more than 3 million players in the world, second only to football, but it is a sport that is not very familiar in Japan.
There is a town in Tochigi Prefecture where cricket is thriving and is even played in elementary school classes.
(Utsunomiya Broadcasting Station reporter Takahiro Saito)

A major sport in the world

Cricket is a sport similar to baseball that originated in England.

On a circular field, a batter hits the ball thrown by the pitcher with a bat and repeatedly runs to the designated area while the batted ball is processed.

It is popular in Europe, India, Australia, etc., and some of the top players in professional leagues earn more than 30 billion yen a year.

In October, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to adopt cricket for the first time in 10 years at the 25 Olympics, stating that there are 2028.128 billion cricket fans around the world.

It is not very familiar in Japan, and the number of players is limited to about 4000,<>, but recently there have been cases where Shogo Kimura, who was active in professional baseball such as Hiroshima, switched to cricket after retirement and was selected for the Japan national team.

A provincial city becomes a "cricket town"

The city that has been working to popularize cricket is Sano City, Tochigi Prefecture.

At the event held in October, teams from nine countries, including Great Britain and India, competed against each other.

There was also a hands-on booth for beginners next to the stadium.

The children who participated experienced the charm of cricket by swinging a bat with a different shape from baseball and catching batted balls with their bare hands.

Junior high school student
who experienced it: "It was quite easy, but there were some difficult parts, and I wanted to do it again."

"It was my first time doing it, and it was a lot of fun."

Sano's involvement with cricket has been going on for more than a decade.

At that time, the Japan Cricket Association, which was embarking on a full-scale promotion of the game, and Sano City, which showed understanding of the activities, collaborated.

The association moved its headquarters office from Tokyo to the city.

In addition, on the site of a former prefectural high school, we built the first all-natural grass stadium in Japan where international matches can be held, and held events almost every month.

Gradually, teams of junior high and high school students have been formed, and citizen competitions are regularly held in which children and adults can participate.

Japan national team players also moved to Sano, and the provincial city with a population of about 12,<> became the center of Japan's cricket.

3,<> children experience it in the classroom

At the core of these dissemination activities are elementary school classes.

Many elementary schools in Sano City incorporate cricket into their physical education, integrated studies, and English lessons.

On this day, the players of the Japan National Team visited and taught the fourth-grade students how to throw the ball and swing the bat.

The children were delighted and enjoyed learning "town sports" for the first time.

It was difficult for me to catch the ball with my bare hands, I recently transferred to a new school, but I had never played cricket at my previous school, so I thought it was unusual."

"I was happy when I was able to actually hit the ball and catch the ball, and I think cricket is something that Sano is proud of."

A guidebook for teachers has also been created so that teachers with no experience in cricket can instruct them.

Basic movements such as throwing, hitting, and running, as well as sample lessons that can be done in 45 minutes, are also posted.

As a result of these efforts, more than 10,3 children in Sano City have been exposed to cricket in the past <> years.

Homeroom teacher
: "Cricket is a sport that is not familiar in Japan, but it is a good opportunity to experience it in class.

Attract people with the tailwind of Olympic recruitment

Taking the opportunity to be selected for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, efforts are underway to attract more people to the "cricket town".

One of them is the attraction of "workcations" that combine "work" and "vacation".

This is an initiative to invite people working from all over the country to visit Sano City and enjoy rare cricket in their spare time while working in a working space in the city.

Discussions are underway with management consultants and working space management companies to come up with specific plans.

Management Consultant
: "I'm wondering if there is a way to connect the excitement of cricket at the Los Angeles Olympics to Sano City, and if we can provide an interesting experience for visitors to the city."

Naoki Miyaji, Secretary General
of the Japan Cricket Association: "There are many high-level tournaments in the city, so why not enjoy the long holidays while glamping at the cricket ground, for example?"

The "Workcation" in Sano City has already received advance applications from companies in Tokyo.

In the future, in cooperation with the government, we will prepare a tour plan that combines cricket with the city's specialties, such as Sano ramen and hot air balloon experiences.

Ryo Hasegawa, Chief of the Sports Promotion Division of Sano City Hall
: "We are considering whether we can create a mechanism that will encourage players and spectators who visit Sano City for clucket to visit the city's gourmet food and tourist attractions and make them want to come back."

I want cricket flowers to bloom

In Japan, in addition to Sano City, dedicated stadiums have been developed in Kaizuka City in Osaka, and there is a movement to work together with the government to develop the city through cricket.

Cricket is still called a "minor sport" in Japan, but with the adoption of the Olympics for the first time in 128 years, efforts to popularize the game and revitalize the community are spreading mainly in Sano City.

Naoki Miyaji, Secretary General
of the Japan Cricket Association, said, "I feel that being selected for the Olympics is an opportunity for many people to know about the sport of cricket. I would like to aim to further expand the circle of not only the players, but also the fans and the companies that support us."

(Broadcast on "Tochigi 11" on November 20)

Saito, a reporter at Utsunomiya Broadcasting Station, joined the station
in 2021, and after being in charge of the prefectural police and judiciary, he was in charge of the Ryoge area, including Sano City, and there is a
cricket ground 10 minutes by car from his home, which he has already visited and