Hokkaido’s Betsukai High School’s Debut in Spring Senbatsu Tournament Explores Pathways in Dairy and Fishing Town | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Hokkaido’s Betsukai High School’s Debut in Spring Senbatsu Tournament Explores Pathways in Dairy and Fishing Town

Betsumi High School, which participated in the Spring Senbatsu Tournament for the first time, is scheduled to appear in the first round of the Kushiro Branch's preliminary round of the Spring Hokkaido High School Baseball Tournament on May 8.

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Captain Nakamichi of Betsukai High School participated in this year’s Spring Senbatsu Tournament in Hokkaido

The bounty of the land and sea enriching Hokkaido. In the Nemuro region, where the town of Betsukai is located, dairy farming and fishing, including scallops, are prominent.

Betsukai’s captain, Koutaro Nakamichi, was raised in a household where autumn salmon fishing is a livelihood and famous jumbo scallops, boasting one of Japan’s highest catch volumes, are a specialty.

“I’ve always thought I’d become a fisherman since I was little.”

The straightforward aspiration remains unchanged. However, having made the first-ever appearance at Koshien in this year’s Senbatsu, the future has expanded, and Midomichi is aware that there’s a part of him feeling a bit uncertain.

“Making it to Koshien has shown me a path to continue playing baseball in college, but experiencing the level of competition at the national level made me realize that as I am now, I might not make it in college. So, I want to put more effort into baseball until summer and see how much I can grow. Depending on that, I want to choose my path after graduating from high school.”

With a population of about 14,000 people, it was a small town’s public school in Hokkaido. The turning point for Nakamichi, who was essentially just an ordinary high school student, came half a year ago.

It was during the Hokkaido Autumn Tournament held last October. Nakamichi hit a walk-off home run in the first game against Tomakomai Chuo, becoming the hero of Betsukai’s first victory in the tournament in both spring and autumn.

His father, Daisuke, drove for about five hours from the eastern town of Betsukai to the game venue at Sapporo Dome, and as soon as the game ended, he rushed back home. Then, he boarded a fishing boat departing the harbor at 1 a.m. for autumn salmon fixed-net fishing, not getting a wink of sleep that day.

“When you see scenes like that, it doesn’t matter if you drive without sleeping or go to work. It wasn’t tough at all.”

In the continuing Chirinai Tournament, my son responded to me with a lionhearted performance as captain by delivering the game-winning hit in the tiebreaker of the extra 10th inning, starting from no outs with runners on first and second. We reached the semifinals in the tournament. When he was selected as a candidate for the 21st Century Invitation to the following year’s Senbatsu, Daisuke-san’s perception of the world clearly changed.

When the autumn branch qualifiers began, just seeing Koutarou’s photo in the local newspaper felt amazing to me. But it escalated from there. My son was on TV almost every day, and articles featuring him were popping up on my smartphone constantly. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’”

Daisuke Nakamichi’s father, Daisuke Nakamichi, hard at work fishing for scallops.
Nakamichi’s father, Daisuke, took time out of his busy work schedule to give us an interview.

The path Koutarou has paved with his bat leads to Koshien, and now it’s showing significant potential for his future path.

Fisherman or baseball player?

In the midst of his son’s uncertainty, his father always provides support.

“Now, just do what you really want to do.”

That sentiment comes from the parental heart that Daisuke has always held, not just because Koutarou made it to Koshien.

“Many of the Betsukai High School baseball team alumni work on ships or express a desire to become fishermen right after graduating from high school. While it’s heartening to hear Koutarou say he wants to be a fisherman, we, as parents, don’t urge him to do so. He’s already achieving results in baseball, so I’d like to see him play a bit more. Ultimately, it’s up to him.”

For Betsukai, who lost 0-7 to Soshi Gakuen in their first game at Koshien, the summer will be a battle to retrieve the “first national victory” they left behind.

Until then, Nakamichi will continue to devote his heart and body to baseball.

Perhaps he’ll continue playing in college, but his ultimate dream lies beyond that.

“I will definitely become a fisherman.”

With a strong declaration, he fortifies his determination.

“You know, when people eat delicious food, they feel happy, right? I think the job that can make people happy is being a fisherman. But most of all, seeing my dad working hard and thinking is the best.”

Kageyama played in Koshien as a shortstop.

Watching his father’s back, he has great ambitions.

Inspired by his father’s example, Kouhiro Kageyama, who played as a shortstop, has also decided to eventually take over the family business, just like Nakamichi.

“I’ve been telling my parents since I was little that I want to take over. Right now, I’m thinking of continuing baseball to the highest level possible, like college, and then considering taking over.”

Born in “Kageyama Farm” in Nakashibetsu Town, adjacent to Betsukai Town, known for having the highest milk production in Japan, Kageyama grew up with cows in the vast natural surroundings spanning approximately 60 hectares, equivalent to about 12 Tokyo Domes.

The boy, who sometimes even slept in the cowshed with the calves and conducted tasks like assessing the timid nature of cows or examining the number of times they chewed cud, chose to live in a dormitory in Betsukai to pursue both baseball and dairy farming. He is the only member of the baseball team specializing in dairy farming management.

For Kageyama, who started playing shortstop seriously in high school, his freshman year, filled with numerous dairy farming practices, was dedicated to catching up on missed training sessions. Initially, he had fleeting regrets about not attending the regular curriculum like everyone else, but he’s now convinced that considering the future, it’s better to learn whatever I can now.

From his sophomore year onwards, Kageyama, who had established himself as the regular shortstop since his freshman fall, played a central role in Takahiro Shimakage’s baseball philosophy of building the game from defense. He also contributed to the team’s offense as a key hitter in the lineup, becoming a crucial figure in supporting the team’s bid for the Koshien tournament in both offense and defense.

Kenichi Kageyama’s father, Kenichi Kageyama, continues to work despite being licked by cows at times.
Kageyama’s father, Kenichi

Kenichi, the father, expresses sheer amazement at the achievement of his sons, saying, “For a small high school from such a small town to make it to Koshien”.

As a dairy farmer where milking cows twice a day, morning and afternoon, is essential and leaves no room for clear breaks, taking time off requires arrangements with external specialists known as dairy helpers. However, due to the norm of reservations six months to a year in advance, arranging such assistance is far from straightforward.

Kenichi chuckles as he recalls, “It’s not like I was trying to bring good luck or anything, but it was quite challenging to arrange everything after they secured their spot on January 26th.”

“Even though my son expressed his desire to take over farming, I had always hoped he would pursue baseball. But I never imagined I’d get to see him play in Koshien.”

Kenichi, the third-generation owner of the Kageyama Ranch, has no intention of forcing his only son to become the “fourth generation” just because he was.

He said he wants to leverage the successful experience of Koshien, which his son achieved through his own efforts.

“I was also raised with the idea that if I wanted to do something, I should just go ahead and do it. You never really know what you want to do until you’re actually in that position, right?”

Kageyama understands his parents’ hearts. Even so, he remains steadfast in his original intention. His feelings have been singular since childhood.

“I like the dairy farming work my parents do.”

Now it’s baseball. And in the future, he will take over his parents’ work.

For Nakamichi and Kageyama, it’s more important than anything else—it’s what they love.

Continued in the sequel article: “”I was not told that I must take over the job…” Mixed feelings about the career path of the son who became a Koshien baseball player from a dairy farming town with eight times the population of cows and his parents ” (Japanese only)

Kageyama steals two balls against Soshigakuen in the Sembatsu tournament.
Captain Nakamichi was photographed on the practice field. The battle for the summer has begun.
  • Interview, text, and photographs Motoyoshi Taguchi

    Born in 1977 in Fukushima Prefecture. Former high school baseball player (substitute for 3 years). After working as an editor for a lifestyle magazine, he became a freelance writer in 2003. He has worked mainly for magazines such as "Number" (Bungei Shunju). He is the author of "Look at Losing. Seikogakuin and Tomoya Saito's High School Baseball" (Shuwa System) and "9 championships, undefeated Noshiro Tech Basketball Club: Enthusiasm and Melancholy" (Shueisha).

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