Dodgers Team News

How Japanese Media Are Covering Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani Interpreter Scandal

Shohei Ohtani was the top news story in Japan long before news broke about a gambling scandal involving his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. While Major League Baseball and federal authorities investigate, the Japanese appetite for Ohtani news is stronger than ever.

In his native country, Ohtani is facing relatively little criticism. The majority of Japanese media has been reluctant to speculate about any worst-case scenarios. Among countrymen, Ohtani is viewed as flawless on the field and off it.

Taro Abe, in his fourth year covering Ohtani for the daily newspaper Chunichi Shimbun, told the Los Angeles Times that his audience is largely unaffected by the headlines in the U.S.

“A player who was viewed as flawless has suddenly become wrapped up in a scandal. Unlike in the U.S., there are almost no reports that cast doubt on Ohtani. Ohtani is viewed as a victim who was tricked by Mizuhara and there are few voices that question Ohtani’s responsibility.”

— Chunichi Shimbun reporter Taro Abe, via the Los Angeles Times

The Japanese coverage of Ohtani has also been compared to a presidential election. Like any major political party nominee, Ohtani is a walking headline with every move he makes. However, gambling is frowned upon in Japan. It isn’t out in the open and there’s a negative perception around it.

There have been a couple of gambling scandals in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. In 2016, pitcher Kyosuke Takagi of the Yomiuri Giants admitted to betting on baseball games and lying during the team’s investigation. Three other Giants players bet on baseball months earlier and all received indefinite suspensions.

From 1969-71, several Japanese players were punished for accepting money from organized crime figures, known as yakuza, to throw games. It was such a big deal that it is known as the “Blast Mist Scandal.” The punishments ranged in severity from lifetime bans to stern warnings.

Ohtani is viewed as a perfect person in Japan, so he rarely faces criticism in the media. If reporters want to raise questions, they will cite stories written in the United States. Until there’s something substantive to warrant criticism — not mere speculation — there won’t be a negative word printed about Ohtani.

“There is almost no criticism of Ohtani. Especially after Ohtani spoke publicly and offered an explanation, I think there are fewer people who believe he paid Mizuhara’s debts. Most people believe what he says. Regarding the question of how Mizuhara accessed the bank account, many experts are offering opinions, but they aren’t doubting Ohtani.”

Abe, via the Los Angeles Times

Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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Maren Angus

Maren Angus-Coombs was born in Los Angeles and raised in Nashville, Tenn. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and has been a sports writer since 2008. Despite being raised in the South, her sports obsession has always been in Los Angeles. She is currently a staff writer for Dodgers Nation and the LA Sports Report Network.

One Comment

  1. The concerns are starting to mount up . Now Otanti says he spoke to the Lady that caught his first HR , that did not happen.what’s up with that ?

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