Masashi Mochizuki looks back at the life of Eizo Matsui, a star baseball player and student of Waseda University, in light of a soon to open exhibition on Matsui's life up until his death in WWII.
Written by Masashi Mochizuki, Waseda University Archives
|A poster for the exhibition “A Waseda hero who died on the battlefront—24 Years of Eizo Matsui”
This year marks 80 years since the Manchurian Incident and 70 years since the end of the Pacific War. 14 years after the Manchurian Incident, Japan embarked on an endless, full-scale war with China and moved toward war with other countries such as America.
During that time of war, there was one true hero for young people. That hero was Eizo Matsui, a star baseball player who had experienced victory at Koshien Stadium twice at the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament and once at the Summer High School Baseball Tournament, and who had filled Jingu Stadium with cheers through his play in a Waseda uniform. Matsui utilized his talent to challenge all possibilities and his unique character continued to provide countless people with joy. However, all was suddenly lost at the sound of a single shot being fired.
Childhood to time at Gifu Shogyo High School
Eizo Matsui was born in Tamachi, Hamamatsu City on November 10th, 1918. Baseball is extremely popular in Hamamatsu, and Matsui spent his childhood practicing hard and idolizing Babe Ruth. His vast talent was soon apparent. In the summer of 1930, Matsui participated as a pitcher in Group A of the Japan Youth Baseball Tournament that was held at Waseda’s Tozuka Stadium. Matsui’s team defeated a powerful opponent to win the tournament. His team also won the tournament in 1931 to achieve back-to-back victories.
At that time, all of Japan was filled with feverish enthusiasm for baseball. A struggle soon began among scouts who foresaw the potential in Matsui’s performance as a junior high school player. Among rampant talk of monetary reward, an unusual condition was offered by the scout sent by Chairperson Kenzo Endo of the Gifu Shogyo (Commercial & Business) High School Baseball Booster Club. “Absolutely no money shall be paid. However, our school shall raise young Eizo to become an outstanding human being, and we shall take responsibility for his cultivation until he graduates from university.” Upon considering the future of his son, Eizo’s father Hanjiro decided to entrust him to the care of Chairperson Endo. These events took place around the same time that gun smoke began to fill the air in Manchuria.
Matsui left Hamamatsu and was raised under the supervision of Kenzo Endo. Matsui first transferred to Gifu Kinka High School. He then entered the Gifu Shogyo High School in 1932, joining the school’s baseball team at the time. Chairperson Endo and his wife did not have any children of their own, and they treated Matsui as if he were a son. At the same time, he was very strict with Matsui. Consolation for this strict bringing was offered by the kindness of Endo’s wife Michiko.
In the spring of Matsui’s second year in high school, the Gifu Shogyo School baseball team led by captain Yasuo Murase won the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament. Despite being only 14 years old, Matsui delivered as stellar performance as the winning pitcher. Rumor quickly spread that the inside ball thrown by the southpaw Matsui during the championship game fell about san-shaku (a Japanese measurement equivalent to 90 centimeters). After that game, Matsui’s nickname became san-shaku.
In spring of 1935, Gifu Shogyo High School won the national tournament again, becoming the top high school baseball team in Japan for the second consecutive year. Matsui contributed to the victory through both his pitching and batting. During the victory interview, Matsui stated that “togetherness” was the reason for the team’s victory. The essence of Gifu Shogyo baseball was to compete using overall team ability.
In 1936, Gifu Shogyo High School battled through a Tokai Region Tournament filled with powerful rivals in order to secure the school’s first-ever berth in the Summer High School Baseball Tournament held at Koshien Stadium. Gifu Shogyo featured both outstanding pitching and batting, and the team advanced through the tournament while showing overwhelming strength from the very first game. Their opponent in the championship game was Heian High School, a team that had finished as runner-up twice in the past. Thanks to Matsui’s pitching, Gifu Shogyo held Heian’s offense to just a single run, overwhelming Heian to capture national victory.
Matsui left Koshien Stadium after setting records of 11 wins in the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament and 13 homeruns in a single game (summer 1936; vs. Morioka Shogyo). His next goal was to play in the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League, the strongest and most popular collegiate baseball league in Japan. Matsui decided to enter Waseda University, while his rival Haruo Nagara entered Keio University. The rivalry between the two athletes would result in exciting games between Waseda University and Keio University.
Time at Waseda University
In April of 1937, Matsui entered Waseda University Senior High School Ⅱ. The Waseda baseball team’s addition of the winning pitcher from the Koshien tournament had the interest of baseball fans focused on Jingu Stadium. Matsui’s made his debut in the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League during Waseda’s first autumn league game versus Rikkyo University. The game took place at a time when Japan had entered into war with China, and words such as “advance” and “occupation” appeared every day on the front page of newspapers. The game was closely contested, and Matsui took the mound to relieve Shozo Wakahara in the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied. Matsui held the Rikkyo offense scoreless until the 11th inning of an extra-inning game, and he was named the winning pitcher in his first appearance.
In April of 1939, Matsui entered the Waseda University School of Commerce. Due to the reputation that his batting ability had gained and to an injury to his shoulder, Matsui shifted to become a batter from this season. He underwent arduous practice with his peers and rivals such as Kinsuke Ono spent the 3 years until his graduation serving as Waseda’s leading batter.
From around autumn of 1939, Matsui began a friendship with the writer Kazuo Ozaki. Matsui enjoyed reading and greatly looked forward to his meetings with Ozaki, who was likewise a fan of Matsui’s excellence in both academics and sports. The two friends continued to exchange letters even from the battlefront.
In June of 1940, Matsui and Kinsuke Ono were both selected as an athlete representing Japan in the East Asian Games commemorating the 2600th Anniversary of the Japanese Empire. Also selected from Meiji University was Saburo Kato, a rival in the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League and a younger teammate of Matsui’s at Gifu Shogyo High School. Matsui cheered for the first time in a long time when Kato released a thunderous hit during a game versus the Philippines.
Many fans were mesmerized by Matsui’s play, which was often described as brilliant. During the first game played between Waseda and Keio in the spring of 1940, Matsui scored the winning run on a squeeze bunt in the bottom of the 9th inning. In the second game of the series, Matsui caught a fly to left field and threw a runner out at home base. In June of the same year, Matsui entered as a pinch hitter and released a single to left field during a game versus Hawaii as part of the East Asian Games. That autumn, he executed a perfect bunt in front of third base during a game versus Meiji. During a game versus Keio in spring of 1941, he hit a triple with the bases loaded…
1941 was Matsui’s final year at university, and he was scheduled to graduate in spring of 1942. However, among increasingly strained relationships with America and England, an imperial decree ordering the shortening of education terms for university undergraduate schools was issued on October 16th, 1941. As a result, Matsui and other final-year students had their graduation pushed forward to December.
On October 17th, the day following the issuance of the imperial decree, Waseda played a game against Rikkyo University. A win in the game would give Waseda its first league title in 5 seasons. Matsui contributed to victory by laying down a perfect bunt that allowed Waseda to score first. Matsui experienced the thrill of victory together catcher Kiyoshi Kondo, who was a favorite younger teammate of Matsui and who led pitcher Ishiguro during the game. Matsui also celebrated with Kinsuke Ono, who had helped develop the rookie Kondo into a catcher and who was on the bench for the game versus Rikkyo.
As Tokyo was buzzing about the start of the Pacific War, Matsui left Jingu Stadium and Waseda University, entrusting Waseda’s winning tradition to his younger teammates who had developed into fine players.
Death during the war
After graduating from Waseda, Matsui entered employment at Fujikura Electrical Wire Company, which fielded a powerful inter-city baseball team. However, on February 1st of 1942, Matsui enlisted in the 34th Infantry Regiment. In May of the same year, he entered the Toyohashi Military Academy (attended by candidates for First-Rank Officers), graduating in October. Matsui visited the Waseda baseball team training camp immediately before heading off to war. Although Waseda had won the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League, Matsui encountered team members who were wracked with constant concern regarding whether they would be able to play again at Jingu Stadium.
In the end of 1942, Matsui was deployed to China as a cadet. He participated in the Dabie Mountains (Da Bie Shan) Operation at the beginning 1943, as well as the Jiangnan Operation from April of the same year. A fierce battle continued in the mountainous regions of China. Even during the constant fighting, Matsui wanted to read books. He wanted to read the harmonica. Even more, he was filled with concern regarding his younger brother Noriji , as well as the future of the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League.
On December 18th, 1942, Noriji Matsui died during the Battle of Guadalcanal.
On April 28th, 1943, the Tokyo Collegiate Baseball Association decided to disband in accordance with a request from the Ministry of Education.
On May 28th, during a battle in the vicinity of Yaojiafang, located west of Yichang in Hubei Province, Japanese soldier hurled themselves at enemy machine guns in an attempt to overcome the enemy. Platoon leader Matsui gave the order to advance and led his soldiers forward. However, a single bullet struck him directly in the head at 10:10 PM.
Immediately before departing for the battlefront, Matsui wrote a will which included the following phrase: “If you hear news of my death in battle, please imagine a courageous death in which I fought gallantly and died with a smile on my face.”
News of Matsui’s death reached the Waseda baseball team sometime after June 10th. Kiyoshi Kondo was shocked beyond description and made the following pledge: “After putting my full effort into my remaining year at university, I will seek revenge for the death of my dear friend.”
On April 8th, 1945, in the middle of the Battle of Okinawa, Kondo was granted temporary leave before a suicide bombing mission. Kondo returned to Gifu and visited the home of Kenzo Endo. However, Endo’s wife Michiko was not at home.
On November 10th of the previous year, Michiko had greeted her 42nd birthday. Matsui had been born on the same day as Michiko, and would have turned 26 years old at the time. On November 11th, Michiko departed for a Buddhist memorial service held in the town of Mino-Machi, then continuing by foot to visit Matsui’s parent’s home in Hamamatsu. After saying farewell to Matsui’s mother, Michiko disappeared, never to be seen again.
The tragedy continued…
March 10th, 1945: Kinsuke Ono died in an accident during special forces training in Taichung, Taiwan.
April 6th: Saburo Kato died in battle while serving as a member of the Kamikaze 1st Special Attack Corps.
April 28th: Kiyoshi Kondo died in battle while serving as a member of the Kamikaze 3rd Special Attack Corps.
May 25th: Haruo Nagara died during an attack from a U.S. military aircraft while transporting ammunition to Okinawa.
An exhibition entitled “A Waseda hero who died on the battlefront—24 Years of Eizo Matsui” will be held from March 24th. The exhibition features display of items such as the will of Eizo Matsui, his bullet-scarred helmet and letters which he sent to his younger brother and Kazuo Ozaki from the battlefront. Matsui Eizo lived a life that was filled with brilliant potential but torn apart by war. 66 years after Japan’s defeat in WWII, I hope that reflecting back upon the 24 years of Matsui’s life will provide an opportunity to once again.
2011 Spring Exhibition
“A Waseda hero who died on the battlefront—24 Years of Eizo Matsui”
Period: March 25th (Fri.) to April 23rd (Sat.)
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (museum closed on Sundays)
Venue: Waseda Campus, Building No. 2, 1st Floor; Aizu Museum; Exhibition Room
Following the cancellation of the graduation/entrance ceremony and the postponement of the start of new semester, and also taking into account your inconvenience due to traffic disturbance, etc. by the planned outage, we have decided to put off this exhibition.
Thank you for your kind understanding.
You will be notified of a new schedule as soon as possible.
About the Author: Masashi Mochizuki, Waseda University Archives
Contract worker at the Waseda University Archives. Part-time instructor at the Waseda University School of Education. Completed the Doctoral Program at the Waseda University Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Co-edited the works “The Diary of Akira Kazami—Related Materials” (Misuzu Shobo), and “The Diary of Takayuki Sasaki” (Hokusensha). Co-authored works such as “Research on the Privy Council” (Yoshikawa Kobunkan).
|Victory in the 1936 Summer High School Baseball Tournament held at Koshien Stadium. Eizo Matsui holds a crimson victory banner. Taken in Gifu City. (from the collection of Mr. Noboru Shimizu)
|Waseda University Baseball Team playing away in Hawaii July to August, 1938 Eizo Matsui is 6th from the right (from the collection of Waseda University Archives)
Keywords associated to this article: Waseda, Waseda University, Eizo Matsui, World War II, WWII
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