WASEDA WEEKLY

Now, 60 years after World War II, looking back at the last So-Kei (Waseda-Keio) baseball game


Played since 1903, the So-Kei baseball game has had a history over 100 years. Among all those games, there was one particular game called “The Last So-Kei Game”. That game, held in the fall of 1943 just before the students departed to the front, has become a novel and a movie with the title “Eireitachi-no-Oenka ("A cheer for the souls of the war dead" ).

The records of the last So-Kei game which were displayed in the Waseda University Archives last month, and the story of Takeo Mori (84) who participated in the game as a second baseman of the Waseda team, give us a chance to look again at that time and to consider the meaning of the So-Kei game.

”The So-Kei Game”: the commemorative photo of both university teams
”The So-Kei Game”: the commemorative photo of both university teams

he night before the last So-Kei game
--The last So-Kei game: Let’s do our best in the time we have left--

Takeo Mori in his team uniform
Takeo Mori in his team uniform
The ball which the team used at that time.  Balls which had been collected and preserved during the war under Tobita's direction were offered to other universities' baseball teams after the war and contributed to the recovery of the students baseball league.
The ball which the team used at that time. Balls which had been collected and preserved during the war under Tobita's direction were offered to other universities' baseball teams after the war and contributed to the recovery of the students baseball league.

Before World War II, the baseball games held by the league of six Tokyo universities, especially the game between Waseda and Keio, attracted a lot of attention. However, as the situation of the war worsened, baseball itself was criticized because it was “a foreign sport”, and in 1942, the six- university baseball league was dissolved by the Ministry of Education, with the fall tournament as the final (won by Waseda University). In September 1943, the Tojo government at that time decided to suspend university students’ privilege to postpone their conscription (Students who were studying science had been able to postpone being sent to the front.). The departure date was approaching for the students.

“We’d like to play one last game with Waseda again.” The desire of Keio's baseball team was granted willingly by Shinzo Koizumi, the President of Keio, and he asked the Waseda baseball team for a match. Suishu Tobita, the staff adviser to the baseball team, accepted Keio University’s request readily and started to negotiate with the directorate of Waseda University with other officers. But Hodumi Tanaka, the President of Waseda, and the other directors of Waseda, at first didn’t want to allow the game to take place because of the dire situation of Japan at that time. It was feared that the game would not be held, but on October 10, 1943, it was set to take place as an unofficial game at Totsuka Stadium (later, Abe Stadium, now; General Academic Information Center). “I was surprised and at the same time, I was very happy as a baseball player when I heard about the So-Kei game. I thought I would be killed when I went to war. I thought I would never again play baseball. But if we could be sent off with the So-Kei game, with its rich tradition and long history, as a parting gift for our departure to the front, there could be nothing happier than this,” Takeo Mori says, looking back on those days. The Waseda baseball team had kept practicing even after the discontinuance of the six-university baseball league. “Mr. Tobita personally taught us that “playing baseball is not for winning or losing. It’s for understand Yakyu-do (the spirit of baseball).” As the war got worse and worse, it was morally hard to practice without any goal. But we encouraged each other, saying “Let’s save Waseda’s tradition”, and kept practicing.”

“The last So-Kei game, let’s do our best in the time we have left. Even without enough practice, Keio is the perfect opponent. It is only a few days but I will strive to the end for Yakyu-do,” Mori wrote in his diary then.


Mori’s diary of that time, entitled “Students to depart to the front.” In it are written his fear and sadness about the conscription, his hopes for the So-Kei game, and his anger at Waseda University for not allowing the game.
Players of both schools lined up before the start of the game. The stands are full of students.
Players of both schools lined up before the start of the game. The stands are full of students.

The last So-Kei game begins ~A look at the score sheet: A game with tears surpassing wins or losses~


The score book Mr. Asanuma kept at that time.
The score book Mr. Asanuma kept at that time.

Under a deep blue sky, the game started at noon, with the stands full of students from both universities. Waseda won the game with a score of 10 to 1.

“At the time, Waseda and Keio had been equally strong. But the decision to hold the game had not been made until the last minute, so the Keio players did not have time to practice. They were getting ready to go home for their last break before the conscription. However, the fact of winning nor losing did not matter at all. The atmosphere was completely different from a usual league game, for both the players and the spectators. After the game, you could hear the military song “Umi Yukaba” being sung by a few people in the stands, but soon, in a burst of emotion, everybody in the stands was singing it, arms around the shoulders of the people next to them. With tears running down their faces, the spectators sang the schools songs of both universities repeatedly. The fans came together as one with the happiness of the Waseda-Keio game and the disconsolate emotion of the imminent departure.”

The records of the last Sou-Kei game had not been found until now, but the story of the game had been passed down as a legend, relying on the memories of players and the spectators of the time. However, last year, after 60 years, Koichi Asanuma (who had become a sound recorder of documentary movies), the eldest son of Yoshio Asanuma, the former Tokyo Giants coach, found that his father's score book of the last game had been preserved. He had made this score book as a 2nd year student of Rikkyo Junior High School. This score book caused a sensation when it was displayed for the first time.


To the friends of those who never came back.
~The So-Kei game full of memories~

Mr. Mori, recent photograph
Mr. Mori, recent photograph
The last family picture of Kondo, taken during his visit home before his Tokko mission.
The last family picture of Kondo, taken during his visit home before his Tokko mission.

Then came the departure to the front. “What I remember now is the Sea of Japan from the deck of a ship in the middle of the night heading towards Manchuria. The lights of the ship were turned off so we would not be spotted by enemies. The sea was pitch black. As I looked at the ocean, I thought, “I can never be able to go back, but I was able to end my life in baseball with a clear finish”. I was overwhelmed with appreciation.”

There were no deaths of the players who took the field on the Keio side, but four of the Waseda teammates had been killed by the end of the war. One of them, a left fielder with the number 3, Kiyoshi Kondo, ended his short life as a Tokkotai (i.e. ‘Kamikaze’) in Okinawa. Before his mission, he had sent a letter to his sister saying “I am grateful for you loving me so much…So I will depart with cheer”. In this war, 7000 students, teachers, and graduates of both Waseda and Keio are known to have died.

After the war, Mr. Mori, who had been interned in Siberia found out about the deaths of his friends after coming back to Japan. “After I had returned, I was very fortunate that I was able to come across baseball again, and I am proud of having belonged to the Waseda baseball club at such a severe period in history. But, I cannot help feeling sorrow for my friends who were killed, because I had survived. Many people, of not just Waseda, but those who could have been star players in the professional leagues, had passed away. The other day when I visited Waseda, I took a walk in the Okuma Garden, where the Peace Memorial Monument stands in memory of those students who departed for the front lines. The sight of students having lunch there was peace itself. So I would like the current students of Waseda to understand the age of war and how it tore apart our possibilities for the future, and our joy for baseball.”

The Waseda-Keio game, with this rich history, will be held on the 28th and 29th of this month.


Copyright (C) 2005 Student Affairs Division, WASEDA University. All rights reserved.
First drafted 2005 June 2.