by Ewa Nowogorski
Similar to America, Japan loves baseball. This sport was introduced to Japan in 1872, by Horace Wilson, who taught at the Kaisei School in Tokyo. The first baseball team was called the Shimbashi Athletic Club and was established in 1878. Baseball has been a popular sport ever since.
According to attendance figures and polls, baseball has consistently ranked as Japan’s most popular spectator sport, overcoming soccer and sumo wrestling (Japan’s national sport), with fans even widely partaking in the annual, summer, high school tournament.
Baseball in Japan welcomes everyone from teenagers to business people to Westerner’s alike; everyone can take part in the fun, energetic atmosphere of a game. Located in nearly every major city in the country, the stadiums feature concession stands with Japanese fast food like takoyaki (octopus fried in dough) and ramen, as well as American staples. Playing roughly from April to October, the rules are so similar to American baseball, that it’s impossible to not follow along. The country has twelve professional baseball teams, five of which all play in or around Tokyo.
Industries also waste no time milking baseball for a profit, turning out much baseball paraphernalia and selling all sorts of shits, key-chains, plushies, and other random goods. There are even many mascots that look like something related to baseball.
If you walk outside in the evening of a residential area, you will often see groups of young boys all dawning the same white uniform, each carrying the same large duffle bag. Some groups will be walking. Many will be on their bicycles. These are school boys that are coming home after their afterschool baseball practice. Very dedicated to their sport, many boys will spend hours every weekday practicing, and the greater part of the day on weekends too. Students will even go so far as to shave their hair to really short lengths, or into the Bouzu cut (monk cut), as it’s called.
A very common dream for young school boys is to become professional baseball players when they grow up. In this aspect, it’s not that much different from young American school boys, who also dream of becoming pro sportsmen.
Today, Japan’s national team is consistently ranked one of the best in the world by the World Baseball Softball Confederation. It is undoubtedly due to their love and dedication for the sport from such a young age.