-- Former players, politicians and everyday office workers basked in the glory Saturday after Ichiro Suzuki broke one of the longest-standing records in major league history.
In an outpouring of national pride, Japan enthusiastically celebrated after the Seattle Mariners star broke George Sisler's 84-year-old major league mark for hits in a season.
On Friday, Suzuki chopped a leadoff single in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field to tie Sisler, then made history with a grounder up the middle in the third -- his 258th hit of the season.
"He's superhuman," said Daiei Hawks Manager Sadaharu Oh, who holds Japanese baseball's all-time record of 868 home runs. "It's amazing that he has been able to stay focused during all of this."
Japan's Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, was duly impressed.
"I would like to give him my heartfelt congratulations," Koizumi said. "He has made extra efforts in addition to having a natural gift."
On the streets of Tokyo, Japanese fans scrambled to get their hands on special edition newspapers published in honor of Suzuki's remarkable achievement.
"He's incredible," said Shigeru Uchida, who joined other fans in front of a downtown Tokyo electronics store that was showing the game on TV. "Baseball is America's game and for him to go over there and do that is truly amazing."
Suzuki's feat was especially satisfying for Japanese fans who for decades have seen American players come here to make it big. Only in recent years have some of their own players made a mark in the major leagues.
Suzuki has long been admired in Japan for qualities many here consider to be quintessentially Japanese -- a scrappy, hard worker who beats out infield hits, does his duty to the utmost without complaint or fuss, and displays excellence in all areas of the game.
The setting of the record also resonated deeply in a country that, for all its economic prowess, still sees measuring up to the West -- especially the United States -- as a national goal.
"You can tell how happy and proud I am just by looking at me," said Suzuki's father, Nobuyuki. "The tears just won't stop flowing."