The summer edition of the national high school baseball tournament, Japan's iconic amateur sporting event, reopened Tuesday after it was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 103rd tournament is being held under strict coronavirus protocols to avoid outbreaks, and only people associated with the teams from the 49 participating schools are allowed to enter Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, western Japan, during the 17-day event.
Before the pandemic, fans filled the 47,508-capacity stadium.
Last year, both the smaller-scale spring invitational and the summer tournaments were called off, marking the first time since World War II that the spring and summer competitions have been cancelled in the same year.
This year, the opening ceremony, which traditionally begins with teams marching into the stadium, has been simplified, with players adhering to mask wearing.
Nio Kinoshita, captain of the Komatsu Otani high school baseball team in Ishikawa Prefecture, gave the athletes' pledge and received warm applause.
"A year ago we watched the seniors break down in tears because their Koshien dream was shattered. But we didn't lose heart. We promise to show you the true spirit of high school baseball here at Koshien Stadium, the field of dreams," Kinoshita said.
Pre-competition and mid-competition PCR testing will be done on players, while all participants must comply with the rules set by the tournament organizers that prohibit loud cheering and scooping up infield dirt to take home as a lifetime memento.
The tournament was originally scheduled to open on Monday but was pushed back a day due to a typhoon. If all games are played according to schedule, the final will be held on Aug. 26.