TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The team members and coaches of Japan's U-18 national team were seen wearing plain white shirts without their country's name or flag printed on them when departing for South Korea from Narita Airport this morning (Aug. 28), NHK reports.
The 2019 WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup will begin in Busan, South Korea, on Friday (Aug. 30). Amid the recent deterioration of the Japan-South Korea relationship and growing anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea, the Japan High School Baseball Federation (Koyaren) announced on Tuesday (Aug. 27) that all team members and coaches are required to wear undecorated white shirts when arriving in, and departing from, South Korea.
The director-general of Koyaren, Masahiko Takenaka (竹中雅彥), said the federation had decided not to show anything Japan-related because of “concerns about Korean people’s feelings.” He also emphasized that politics and sports are two separate things and that Koyaren's concern is helping the players compete without worries.
In addition, Koyaren has forbidden the players from going out alone in their free time or wearing team uniforms on the streets for their safety. It is discouraging them from leaving the hotel at all, saying that the convenience store inside the hotel should satisfy their needs.
Both the Busan police and the Japanese Consulate General in Busan have warned about anti-Japan demonstrations in the city and urged Japanese visitors to stay out of protest areas to avoid any unnecessary quarrels. Busan is the city most visited by Japanese, but anti-Japanese sentiment is on the rise, with some restaurants even putting up notices that say “not serving Japanese."
Koyaren’s decision has been understood by the Japanese public as a safety measure. However, Takenaka’s remarks, which some fans perceive as prioritizing the “concerns about Korean people’s feelings” over protecting the young players, are under attack.