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Baseball in Japan

baseball in japan league, baseball in japanese
Baseball was first introduced to Japan in 1872 and is currently among the country's most popular participatory and spectator sports1 The first professional competitions emerged in the 1920s The current league, Nippon Professional Baseball, consists of two leagues of 6 teams each High school baseball enjoys a particularly strong public profile; the Japanese High School Baseball Championship Summer Kōshien each August is nationally televised and includes regional champions from all of Japan's 47 prefectures

Baseball is commonly called 野球 やきゅう; yakyū in Japanese, combining the characters for field and ball According to Japan's National Tourism Organization, "Baseball is so popular in Japan that many fans are surprised to hear that Americans also consider it their ‘national sport’"2


  • 1 History
  • 2 Professional baseball
    • 21 Differences from Major League Baseball
    • 22 Strike of 2004
  • 3 High school baseball
  • 4 Industrial baseball
  • 5 International play
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
    • 71 Further reading
  • 8 External links


Baseball was first introduced to Japan as a school sport in 1872 by American Horace Wilson,3 an English professor at the Kaisei Academy in Tokyo The first organized adult baseball team, called the Shimbashi Athletic Club, was established in 1878

At a match played in Yokohama in 1896, a team from Tokyo's Ichikō high school convincingly defeated a team of resident foreigners from the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club The contemporary Japanese language press lauded the team as national heroes and news of this match greatly contributed to the popularity of baseball as a school sport4

Professional baseballedit

Main article: Professional baseball in Japan

Professional baseball in Japan first started in the 1920s, but it was not until the Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club 大日本東京野球クラブ Dai-nippon Tōkyō Yakyū Kurabu a team of all-stars established in 1934 by media mogul Matsutarō Shōriki, that the modern professional game found continued success — especially after Shōriki's club matched up against an American All-Star team that included Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Charlie Gehringer While prior Japanese all-star contingents had disbanded, Shōriki went pro with this group, playing in an independent league

The first Japanese professional league was formed in 1936, and by 1950 had grown big enough to divide into two leagues, known as Nippon Professional Baseball NPB It is called Puro Yakyū プロ野球, which simply is a translation of professional baseball The Central League included the established teams, and the Pacific League was made up of new teams and players The Pacific League uses the designated hitter style of play The pro baseball season is eight months long with games beginning in April Teams play 144 games as compared to the 162 games of the American major league teams, followed by a playoff system, culminating in a championship held in October, known as the Japan Series

Corporations with interests outside baseball own most of the teams Historically, teams have been identified with their owners, not where the team is based However, in recent years, many owners have chosen to include a place name in the names of their teams; the majority of the 12 Nippon Professional Baseball League NPB teams are currently named with both corporate and geographical place names

Differences from Major League Baseballedit

The rules are essentially those of Major League Baseball, but technical elements are slightly different: The Nippon league uses a smaller baseball, strike zone, and playing field Five Nippon league teams have fields whose small dimensions would violate the American Official Baseball Rules5

Also unlike MLB, game length is limited and tie games are allowed In the regular season, the limit is twelve innings, while in the playoffs, there is a fifteen-inning limit Games in Major League Baseball, by comparison, continue until there is a winner Additionally, during the 2011 NPB season, an inning occurring three hours and thirty minutes after the first pitch was the final inning, due to power limits imposed because of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami

NPB teams have active rosters of 28 players, as opposed to 25 in MLB 26 on days of scheduled day-night doubleheaders However, the game roster has the same 25-player limit as MLB Before each game, NPB teams must designate three players from the active roster who will not appear in that contest6 A team cannot have more than four foreign players on a 25-man game roster, although there is no limit on the number of foreign players that it may sign If there are four, they cannot all be pitchers nor all be position players7 This limits the cost and competition for expensive players of other nationalities, and is similar to rules in many European sports leagues' roster limits on non-European players

In each of the two Nippon Professional Baseball leagues, teams with the best winning percentage go on to a stepladder-format playoff 3 vs 2, winner vs 1 Occasionally, a team with more total wins has been seeded below a team that had more ties and fewer losses and, therefore, had a better winning percentage The winners of each league compete in the Japan Series

Strike of 2004edit

On September 18, 2004, professional baseball players went on a two-day strike, the first strike in the history of the league, to protest the proposed merger between the Orix BlueWave and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the failure of the owners to agree to create a new team to fill the void resulting from the merger The strike was settled on September 23, 2004, when the owners agreed to grant a new franchise in the Pacific League and to continue the two-league, 12-team system The new team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles began play in the 2005 season

High school baseballedit

Main article: High school baseball in Japan Hanshin Kōshien Stadium during the 1992 Kōshien tournament

In Japan, high school baseball 高校野球, kōkō yakyū generally refers to the two annual baseball tournaments played by high schools nationwide culminating in a final showdown at Hanshin Kōshien Stadium in Nishinomiya They are organized by the Japan High School Baseball Federation in association with Mainichi Shimbun for the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament in the spring also known as "Spring Kōshien" and Asahi Shimbun for the National High School Baseball Championship in the summer also known as "Summer Kōshien"

These nationwide tournaments enjoy widespread popularity, arguably equal to or greater than professional baseball Qualifying tournaments are often televised locally and each game of the final stage at Kōshien is televised nationally on NHK The tournaments have become a national tradition, and large numbers of students and parents travel from hometowns to cheer for their local team It is a common sight to see players walking off the field in tears after being eliminated from the tournament by a loss

Industrial baseballedit

Amateur baseball leagues exist all over Japan, with many teams sponsored by companies Amateur baseball is governed by the Japan Amateur Baseball Association JABA Players on these teams are employed by their sponsoring companies and do not receive salaries as baseball players but as company employees The best teams in these circuits are determined via the Intercity Baseball Tournament and the Industrial League National Tournament8

The level of play in these leagues is very competitive - Industrial League players are often selected to represent Japan in international tournaments8 and Major League Baseball players such as Hideo Nomo Shin-Nitetsu Sakai,9 Junichi Tazawa Nippon Oil10 and Kosuke Fukudome Nihon Seimei,11 have been discovered by professional clubs while playing industrial baseball

International playedit

See also: Baseball Federation of Japan

Japan has won the World Baseball Classic twice since the tournament was created In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, they defeated Cuba in the finals12 and in 2009 World Baseball Classic Japan defeated South Korea in 10 innings to defend their title13

The national team is currently ranked #1 in the world by the International Baseball Federation14

See alsoedit

  • Sport in Japan
  • Japan national baseball team
  • Asahi baseball team
  • Baseball awards#Japan
  • List of Japanese baseball players


  1. ^ Gillette, Gary; Palmer, Pete, editors 2006 "Baseball in Japan" in The 2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc pp 1733, 1734 ISBN 978-1-4027-3625-4 CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list link
  2. ^ http://wwwjntogojp/eng/attractions/rest/sportshtml
  3. ^ Staples, Bill 2011 Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer Jefferson, NC: McFarland p 15 
  4. ^ Dunning, Eric 2004 Sport Histories: Figurational Studies in the Development of Modern Sports London: Routledge p 163 ISBN 0-415-28665-4 
  5. ^ The note set out at the end of Rule 104 specifies minimum dimensions for American ballparks built or renovated after 1958: 325 feet 99 m down each foul line and 400 feet 120 m to center field
  6. ^ Waldstein, David 2014-07-21 "Ace Favors Fewer Starts to Protect Pitchers' Arms: Rangers' Yu Darvish Pushes for a Six-Man Pitching Rotation" The New York Times 
  7. ^ JapaneseBaseballcom: Foreign Player Restrictions, retrieved 2013-12-27 
  8. ^ a b Ryo September 2, 2009 "Inside the Industrial Leagues" NPB Tracker Retrieved 2 November 2015 
  9. ^ Whiting, Robert October 10, 2010 "Contract loophole opened door for Nomo’s jump" Japan Times Retrieved 2 November 2015 
  10. ^ Schwarz, Alan; Lefton, Brad November 19, 2008 "Japanese Are Irked by US Interest in Pitcher" New York Times Retrieved 2 November 2015 
  11. ^ Marantz, Ken June 6, 1996 "MLB, Japanese are headed for a bidding war" USA Today Retrieved 2 November 2015 
  12. ^ 2006 Results, archived from the original on 2013-12-28, retrieved 2013-12-27 
  13. ^ 2009 Results, archived from the original on 2013-12-28, retrieved 2013-12-27 
  14. ^ International Baseball Federation "World Rankings" IBAF Retrieved 2013-12-21 

Further readingedit

  • International Journal of Employment Studies 142 Oct 2006: p1917 5318 words
  • Beach, Jerry "Godzilla Takes the Bronx" New York, 2004
  • Bikel, Ofra; Harris, Gail; Woodruff, Judy, et al, "American Game, Japanese Rules" Alexandria, Va: PBS Video, 1990
  • Crepeau, Richard C "Pearl Harbor: A Failure of Baseball" The Journal of Popular Culture xv4 1982: 67–74
  • Cromartie, Warren and Whiting, Robert Slugging It out in Japan: An American Major Leaguer in the Tokyo Outfield New York: Signet, 1992
  • Hayford, Charles W "Japanese Baseball or Baseball in Japan" Japan Focus April 4, 2007: 1 Reprinted: "Samurai Baseball: Off Base or Safe At Home" Frog in a Well April 10, 2007 2
  • Kelly, William "Blood and Guts in Japanese Professional Baseball," in Sepp Linhard and Sabine Frustuck, ed, The Culture of Japan as Seen through Its Leisure Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998: 95–111
  • Kelly, William "Caught in the Spin Cycle: An Anthropological Observer at the Sites of Japanese Professional Baseball," in Susan O Long, ed, Moving Targets: Ethnographies of Self and Community in Japan Ithaca, 2000
  • Kelly, William "The Spirit and Spectacle of School Baseball: Mass Media, Statemaking, and 'Edu-Tainment' in Japan, 1905–1935", in William Kelly Umesao Tadao, and Kubo Masatoshi, ed, Japanese Civilization in the Modern World Xiv: Information and Communication Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2000: 105–116
  • Kelly, William Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004
  • Kelly, William "Is Baseball a Global Sport America's 'National Pastime' as a Global Sport", Global Networks 72 2007:
  • Roden, Donald "Baseball and the Quest for National Dignity in Meiji Japan," The American Historical Review 853 1980: 534
  • Terry, Darin "International Professional Baseball Procurement" 2010
  • Whiting, Robert The Chrysanthemum and the Bat: Baseball Samurai Style New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977
  • Whiting, Robert You Gotta Have Wa: When Two Cultures Collide on the Baseball Diamond New York: Vintage Books, Vintage departures, 1990
  • Whiting, Robert "The Japanese Way of Baseball and the National Character Debate," Japan Focus September 29, 2006:

External linksedit

  • JapaneseBaseballcom

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