“KANO” – The story of the legendary baseball team in Taiwan

If there is a movie that can offer a time travel bringing you back to the 1930s on the other side of the world, enabling you to experience its multiethnic and multi-cultural society, and observe the interplay of different cultures at that time, would you be interested to be on board? KANO is undoubtedly such a movie. Although known as one of the best baseball movies in the eyes of baseball fans, KANO offers much more than that. Based on a real story, KANO also provides a good insight into Taiwanese and Japanese societies for those who are interested in history, culture and social issues at that time.

The director of the movie Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, WEI Te-Sheng, who is also the Executive Producer of KANO, in fact, stumbled upon the story when he was researching for more historical details when he was directing the movie Seediq Bale. Intrigued by the story, together with Director Umin Boya, the research and fieldwork including interviewing with the baseball players and their family were done to get as much detail as possible. Thus, what is being presented in the movie is in fact like a visualization of the historical event. Apart from a series of baseball games which illustrate the main storyline, the audience also gets a glimpse of the interplay among Japanese, Taiwanese Han and Taiwanese aboriginal culture in the movie. Taiwanese daily scenes are also captured – in the company of rice fields along with the historical events. The director tells a well-rounded story, highlighting some important aspects of Taiwanese culture: multi-ethnicity, multi-culture society, and its baseball culture.

Even as a small island lying close to China, Taiwan is no miniature of China. This little island is not only home to Han Chinese immigrants since 17th century, but also home to Taiwanese aboriginals who belong to Austronesian tribes for more than 8,000 years. Director Umin Boya highlights this characteristic by using three languages in the movie: Taiwanese aboriginal language, Taiwanese, and Japanese, adding another layer to the movie to make the movie richer.

European culture and Japanese culture were also incorporated into Taiwanese society when Taiwan was under the Netherlands’ rule for nearly 40 years in 17th century and was a former Japanese colony for 50 years in the early 20th century. Thus, the audience could expect to find traces of this multi-cultural characteristic in many little details in the movie. For instance, there is a scene when KANO aboriginal baseball players went to a Japanese hot spring in the village. We could also see that there are aboriginal baseball players with Japanese names because the Japanese government was trying to enforce the Japanese language and culture in its colonies.

Moreover, baseball culture could also be seen as a trace of Japanese influence during its rule in Taiwan. Similar to the football culture in Europe, Japan has a strong baseball culture, and it was brought to Taiwan during Japanese rule. Since then, Taiwan has developed a strong baseball culture. The enthusiasm could be told from all kinds of cheering songs designed for every baseball player and every baseball team, as well as on a Taiwanese 500-dollar bill: The image of Little League baseball players is presented on 500-dollar bills when they became the world champion in PONY – Bronco League World Series in 1998 and 1999 in the moment of glory. This underlines how serious the island is about its favorite sports. Furthermore, as a baseball movie, KANO put the audience in the baseball stadium by featuring baseball games and using actors who are baseball players in real life to relive the legend. For those who do not know much about baseball but would love to go to a baseball game and experience the baseball culture, KANO can undoubtedly offer such an experience.

In the era of globalization when immigration and solidarity have become hot topics, the movie may also serve as inspiration when searching for possible responses to these issues. According to Director Umin Boya, who also has aboriginal identity himself, he chose to film the story of the KANO baseball team not only because it is a singular historical event directly linked with Taiwan’s baseball development, but this first Taiwanese multi-ethnic baseball team also demonstrates that when people have a common goal in sight, they can put aside their differences of all sorts and unite through mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance, and the spirit will take them far. In addition to the glory and fame, baseball, together with friendship and family bonds depicted in the movie, also comforted the Taiwanese amid social strife


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