Shohei Ohtani’s Arrival Brings Hope and Nostalgia Home to Little Tokyo

Shohei Ohtani’s powerful arms and boyish face, looking up from under a Dodger blue helmet, loom 15 stories over Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood from the side of the Miyako Hotel.

Unveiled last week, it’s one of many tributes to baseball’s two-way supernova that have appeared across Los Angeles since he signed with the Dodgers in December. The record-breaking deal pushed Ohtani into the next stratosphere of celebrity, even among sportsmen and even in a town bursting with the rich and famous.

A player that good and that sought after tends to be claimed by most baseball fans, but none more than those with roots in his home country, Japan, where he has been called “a being above the clouds.” The Little Tokyo mural is larger than life, much like Ohtani’s monumental stature among Japanese Americans in Los Angeles.

Baseball has, for more than a century and a half, been a bridge between the United States and Japan, since an American educator from Maine introduced the sport to his students at an academy in Tokyo in 1872. And in Los Angeles, home to one of the nation’s biggest and oldest Japanese American enclaves, rooting for the Dodgers is a cherished tradition. And for a community contending with gentrification in its historic center and an aging population of cultural standard-bearers, Ohtani’s arrival was a galvanizing moment.

Now, though, as the Dodgers play their first home series of the season, an unfolding gambling scandal with Ohtani near its center has felt like a rainout.

Ohtani has been closely watched since he emerged as a high schooler in Hokkaido, Japan, and through his early career in the Japanese professional league. Credit…Adam Riding for The New York Times
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