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FIBA Asia sidelight: Meet Japanese superfan Eiji Tomita

Rick Olivares (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2013 - 2:39pm

MANILA, Philippines - If you’ve watched the games of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship live at the Mall of Asia Arena, chances are you’ve seen this lone fan up in the stands cheering his heart out non-stop every time Japan plays.

Meet Eiji Tomita. Japan's famous super fan. Tomita has been present for Japan’s last three playing dates. He famously was the voice in a sea of 18,000 fans when Japan played the Philippines last Monday, August 5. He sat high up in the general admission area beating a snare drum and chanting, “Ja-pan” non-stop.

Tomita, who hails from Chiba, turns out to be one of Japan's famous sports fans. Aside from rooting for Panasonic in the Japan Basketball League, he travels all over the world watching and cheering for his beloved national team.

“He gets no support,” says Yoshio Kato, a photographer with the Association International de la Presse Sportive who is covering the FIBA Asia games. “And he is always present.”

Neither the Japanese Basketball Association nor the national team subsidizes his trips. "Mileage," he grins by way of explanation of how he gets to travel.

According to Kato, Tomita has a job but isn’t sure what it is. When I asked Tomita his age, he replied, "Top secret!"’

To get to the Mall of Asia Arena on game days, Tomita walks. "For 30 minutes," he divulged and I figure that must be somewhere in the Roxas Boulevard area. He does that to scrimp on money. The staff of the Japanese team then gives him food for his efforts.

I asked him what drives him to venture so far and by his lonesome. "My country is playing far," he says in halting English. "They need help."

“It is nice to hear a familiar voice,” says Japan national team head coach Kimikazu Suzuki. “So far away from home. We hope we played with as much passion as he did in this tournament.”

Japan succumbed to resurgent Jordan, 65-56, to crash out of the eight-team quarterfinals cast. Japan, with a 1-4 record (their only win was against lightweight Hong Kong), will play for final placing beginning Friday.

ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL HONG KONG JAPAN JAPAN BASKETBALL LEAGUE KIMIKAZU SUZUKI MALL OF ASIA ARENA MEET EIJI TOMITA TOMITA
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