Baseball is known locally as the Yakyuu (literally, soccer field). Vegetarian ball is really a national phenomenon in Japan. Masaoka Shiki has written a number of poems in praise of it. Baseball is even more popular than sumo (traditional Japanese wrestling) in Osaka city.
According to data released by Japan’s Central Research Services in 2018, 48% of respondents considered baseball their favorite sport. Sumo and soccer are both in second place with about 25% each.
How did baseball come to Japan?
Baseball was introduced to Japan in 1872 by an American English teacher named Horace Wilson, who taught at the Tokyo Kaisei Academy. At the beginning of the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the period when the application of customs and practices from the West prevailed.
Sports from the West did not prevail until after the end of World War II. During the American occupation of Japan, the Americans strongly promoted the sport. Baseball legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio have formed an All-Star tournament and played with local players.
There is also one thing that made baseball so popular in Japan, is the participation of large corporations, when they started sponsoring professional teams. Until now, many baseball teams carried the name of a company, but did not bear the name of a city or region like another.
The current situation of Japanese baseball nowaday
The Japan Professional Baseball Federation, about the same level as the American baseball league Major League (MLB), boasts around 27 million fans, or about 20% of Japan’s population.
Many people believe that the main feature of the game has hit the Japanese mentality. Baseball is heavily reliant on team spirit, perseverance and discipline, which are qualities that the Japanese have always appreciated.
Loyalty is another important characteristic. Japanese baseball players tend to stay on a team throughout their careers, although there are still a handful of players in the US Major League. Those include Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki, who holds the MLB record with 262 points per season, and a rookie Shohei Ohtani that is making waves in America.
The most popular major league football teams in Japan are the Hanshin Tigerers (Osaka), Hiroshima Carps and the Yomiuri Giants (Tokyo). Tourists can go to these cities to watch baseball, the tournaments usually last from March to October.
Not only is the NPB professional auction new popular in Japan, high school baseball is also popular globally. Each year, more than 50,000 people watch the High School Baseball Championship live at Koshien Stadium and millions of people watch by television, making it the most watched sporting event in the country.