Joy, jealousy in Japan as baseball star Ohtani announces marriage

Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani's native Japan expressed elation, envy and expectations Thursday after the surprise news the Major League Baseball player has tied the knot with a Japanese woman.

"I am curious who she might be, but I'm sure she's a good person if Ohtani has chosen her. I hope they'll be very happy," said Hinako Kon, 30, in Sapporo, Hokkaido. She said she watched Ohtani many times when he played for the Pacific League's Hokkaido-based Nippon Ham Fighters from 2013 to 2017.

News of the union came from Ohtani's Instagram, in a brief post in which he wrote he has begun "a new life with someone from my native country of Japan who is very special to me."

Some local fans admitted to more envious feelings. "I'm a guy and I'm jealous of his partner," a man in his 30s said, adding that he hopes the 29-year-old's marriage "can inspire him to even greater results."

Based in the United States since 2018, the two-time unanimous American League MVP joined the Dodgers on a 10-year, $700 million contract in December after six years with the Los Angeles Angels.

In Ohtani's home prefecture of Iwate in Japan's northeast, the local Iwate Nippo newspaper published 11,000 copies of an extra edition heralding his marriage.

"I'm surprised. I thought he was already married to baseball," laughed 59-year-old Keiji Kawamorita as he received a copy outside Morioka Station.

Outside Shimbashi Station in Tokyo, too, baseball aficionados and agnostics alike were pleased by the news.

"I feel like a son has gotten married," said one 49-year-old woman who works in medicine. She said a friend who is the same age as Ohtani messaged her to say she was "shocked" and wanted to take the day off.

"My friend and I both have no interest in baseball, but there really is no athlete in Japan like him who has such interest from everyone," she said.

Despite the curiosity as to the identity of his wife, self-employed Yuki Nakamura, a 27-year-old fan of western Japan's Orix Buffaloes, said he does not intend to go searching for information on her because "Ohtani himself didn't go into much detail."

Ohtani has asked for the privacy of both families to be respected. He will speak to the media on Thursday in Glendale, Arizona, where he is in camp with the Dodgers.

With 25-year-old Yoshinobu Yamamoto having left the Buffaloes to join Ohtani at the Dodgers this season, Nakamura instead said he hopes that "they both together can win the World Series and bring even more joy."

© Kyodo News