Alex Ramirez is a professional baseball player for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. In an interview with Nikkan Yakyu Sokuho, Ramirez mentions seven points that foreign baseball players need to pay attention to in order to succeed in Japan.
1. Be ready to bury your bones in Japan
This is important. It is impossible to succeed in Japan if you think you’re just here to earn a lot of money and then go back to your home country. Generally speaking, in the past, many foreign baseball players who came to Japan for the money felt uncomfortable when their Japanese coach started giving them advice. They preferred to do whatever they wanted to. Before long, they cannot get along with their coach and staff, and therefore, cannot do their best. I put all that aside when I came to Japan. I have made a lot of effort in Japan so far because I have a dream to become a coach in Japan one day.
2. Learn weird Japanese words
If you decide to work hard in Japan, you need to learn Japanese. It is difficult if you don’t understand what your coach and teammates say. I also recommend that foreign players learn some words that will make Japanese people laugh. Many Japanese people do not expect foreigners to use funny words, but I find that this helps communicate with them easier. I use Japanese slang such as “Oppappi” and “Sonna no kankei nee (That has nothing to do with it)” which originated with Japanese comedian Yoshio Kojima.
3. Eat Japanese food
Honestly, there are Japanese foods that look yucky but it is important to try them. Japanese food is healthy and there are many dishes that are good for athletes. There is no custom to eat raw fish in my home country Venezuela but I love tuna sushi now. Actually, I love teppanyaki the most, so I miss it every time I go back home for holidays. When I eat beef, I choose to eat Japanese beef because it is high quality and does not have much fat. I don’t like tofu because it is tasteless and natto because it stinks, but I tried them anway because they are healthy.
4. Ride on train alone
Knowing Japanese culture deeply is important to communicating with the coach and others. I ride the subway and shinkansen (bullet train) by myself. When I belonged to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, I often took the train from my home in Tokyo to Chiba Marine Stadium and Seibu Dome. I would transfer from the Yamanote line to the Seibu line. Passengers did not recognize me. I felt a bit lonely about it lol
5. Read Japanese newspapers
It must be difficult at first but it is necessary to read Japanese newspapers to learn more about Japanese culture. I read magazines and sports newspapers. At first, I looked at them more than reading them. However, I often asked other baseball players and staff things that I didn’t understand. Now I can read more.
6. Respect Japan
This is very important. It is necessary to show respect for the coach, other baseball players and staff. My personality is open and I like to make people laugh. However, I always show respect for others. I am careful not to hurt other baseball players and fans when I play. Also, since foreign baseball players are used as regularly at the beginning of a season, it is necessary to appreciate this opportunity and be willing to accept a coach’s advice. If you keep respecting others and work hard, even if you don’t get good results, you may get a great opportunity.
7. Make friends in the Japanese baseball industry
I actively make various friends in Japan. Especially Takayuki Shimizu, Shinnosuke Abe and Michihiro Ogasawara from the Yomiuri Giants are my close friends. I go out to dine with Ogasawara sometimes and he tells me many interesting stories. When I belonged to the Swallows, everybodywas nice to me too.
Ramirez’s seven tips are good for not only baseball players but for any foreigner who wants to succeed in Japan.
Source: Nikkan Yakyu Sokuho