Baseball, now more than 150 years old in Japan, is as ingrained in Japanese culture as it is the national pastime in America. The game was introduced there in 1872 by the American teacher Horace Wilson, who taught it to his students at the Kaisei Academy in Arakawa, Tokyo. In the century and a half since then, it has grown to become the most popular sport in the country.
A revolutionary moment for Japanese baseball came in 1934 when Matsutaro Shoriki, president of the Yomiuri Shimbun, organized a team of Japanese baseball stars who helped launch the sport. That year, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx came to Tokyo and led an American team of MLB legends on a tour of Japan, where they played an exhibition series against the All-Nippon team. Ruth & Co. brought with it a huge turnout from Japanese fans, and when the tour ended, Shoriki held his all-star team together as the Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club. That team would become the Yomiuri Giants.
Two years later, in 1936, Japan's first professional league was formed with seven teams, including the Shoriki club. By 1950 it had grown to the point where it had to reorganize into two leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, under one name: Nippon Professional Baseball.
Today, the NPB is widely recognized as the best baseball league in the world outside of MLB. Baseball is an institution in Japan at every level, from the youth teams that routinely win the Little League World Series to the legendary Koshien High School summer tournaments, to the hugely popular NPB and the Japanese stars who give the jump to the big leagues. suspenders
Here's a guide to Japanese baseball ahead of the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Last WBC appearance:2017
Best WBC Finish:1º (2006, 2009)
Current major league players
Shohei Ohtani, LD/DH, Anjos
The two-way superstar was the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year and 2021 AL MVP, finishing second in the MVP category at 22 with 34 home runs, 11 stolen bases and 95 RBIs as a hitter. and a 15-9 record, 2.33 ERA, and 219 strikeouts as a pitcher. The former Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star will represent Japan in its inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2023.
Yu Darvish, right right, Padres
Darvish has been in the majors for more than a decade, joining the NPB Rangers in 2012 and has notched 1,788 strikeouts and four 200-K seasons in that time. Now the Padres ace, the 36-year-old, has risen to fame.Throw 10 different types of pitches, returns to the field in his first World Baseball Classic since 2009, when he helped lead Japan to gold as a 22-year-old star for the Fighters.
Seiya Suzuki, OF, Welpen
The tent slugger from Hiroshima signed with the Cubs before the 2022 season and burst onto the scene by winning National League Rookie of the Month in his first month in the majors. Suzuki finished with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs. The 28-year-old represented Japan at the 2017 and 2020 Olympic Games.
Kodai Senga, RHP, Mets (New to MLB in 2023)
The Mets signed the 30-year-old to a five-year, $75 million contract this winter after 11 years with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Senga starts 100 mphsigned "ghostgarf"and had a 1.94 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 2022. He was benched and named to the all-tournament team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but will not participate in WBC '23.
Masataka Yoshida, OF, Red Sox (new to MLB 2023)
Yoshida, a noted contact hitter and two-time NPB batting champion, joins the Red Sox on a five-year, $90 million contract. In his last five seasons with the Orix Buffaloes, the 29-year-old left-hander has hit .332 shots, walked more than 100 of his own and averaged 22 home runs per season. Yoshida is playing the World Baseball Classic for the first time.
Famous Japanese Former Players
One of the greatest straight thugs of all time, Ichiro is aMember of the MLB 3,000 Hit Cluband had 4,367 career hits between the major leagues and NPB. He was AL Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first season with the Mariners in 2001 after leaving the Orix Blue Wave, and his 262 hits in 2004 is the MLB single-year record.
Nicknamed "Godzilla" for his fearsome abilities, Matsui went from being a star for the Yomiuri Giants to being a star for the Yankees and becoming a fan favorite of the most well-known franchises in the NPB and MLB. He hit 332 home runs for the Giants and 175 more for the Yankees, bringing his career to 507. Matsui led Yomiuri to three Japan Series championships and the Yankees to the 2009 World Championship.
Japan's home run king Oh hit 868 career home runs with the Yomiuri Giants from 1959 to 1980, an all-time NPB record. He won nine MVP awards and led Yomiuri to eleven Japan Series championships.
Nagashima, one of the greatest and most popular players in Japanese baseball history, was Oh's teammate for a long time, and the two hitters formed the legendary "ON Cannon." Nagashima hit 444 home runs to 305 in his 17-year career with the Giants.
Murakami, the first Japanese-born major leaguer, was sent down from NPB to the Giants in 1964 by the Nankai Hawks. The lefty made his MLB debut on September 1 and played two seasons for San Francisco before returning to the Hawks.
Nomo opened the door to MLB for future Japanese players when he joined the Dodgers in 1995 from the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes. Known for his unique "tornado" ending, Nomo was the first Japanese pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the MLB majors on September 17, 1996 for Los Angeles, and hit another in his Red Sox debut on September 4. April 2001 onwards.
Great moments in Japanese baseball history
1973: Giants win ninth straight title
Managed by Oh and Nagashima, Yomiuri won an incredible nine consecutive Japan Series championships from 1965 to 1973.
1978: Ohs 800. Homerun
The world's home run king made history when he hit 800 home runs on August 30, 1978 in front of a crowd of 55,000 at Tokyo's Korakuen Stadium, something no major leaguer has ever accomplished.
2006/2009: Meister World Baseball Classic
At the inaugural WBC in 2006, Team Japan, led by Oh and coached by tournament MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka, defeated Cuba 10-6 in the championship game. Japan repeated as champions in 2009 when they defeated South Korea in extra innings in the final 5-3 defeat. Korea rallied to level the game against Darvish in the ninth inning and Japan came closest, but Ichiro won on a two-out, two-strike, two-run single in the tenth to lead Japan to the title.
2020: Olympic champion
Japan's first Olympic victory for baseball came against the United States with a 2-0 victory in the gold medal game. Slugging prodigy Munetaka Murakami, who is playing in WBC '23, honored the win.
japanese professional league
japanese professional baseball
League No --Chunichi-Drachen, Hanshin-Tiger, Hiroshima-Toyo-Karpfen, Tokio-Yakult-Schwalben, Yokohama-DeNa-Baystars, Yomiuri-Riesen
Pacific League -Chiba Lotte Marines, Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Orix Buffaloes, Saitama Seibu Lions, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
NPB plays a 143-game regular season beginning in late March (2023 season begins March 30). The top three teams from the Central League and the Pacific League advance to the postseason, which consists of the Climax Series and the Japan Series.
The Climax Series determines the team from each league that competes for the NPB Championship in the Japan Series. The first phase of the Climax series is a best-of-three series between places 2 and 3 in each league, with all games played in the top-tier stadium. The winners of these meetings play the No. 1 league in the Climax Series Finals, a best-of-six series in which the top team takes the lead with a win and plays at home in every game.
The winners of the Climax Series advance to the Japan Series: a best-of-seven matchup between the winners of the Central League and the Pacific League to determine the NPB champion. The series is played in a 2-3-2 format, with home field advantage rotating between the two leagues from year to year. NPB games end in a tie after 12 innings, which could make a game 8 in the Japan Series, although it only happened once in 1986. The reigning NPB champions are the Orix Buffaloes. The Yomiuri Giants have the most NPB championships with 22.
Japan's famous stadiums
Home to the Yomiuri Giants, who have the most NPB championships (22) since the start of the Japan Series in 1950 and are home to superstars like Matsui and Oh. The Tokyo Dome has hosted every World Baseball Classic and the first WBC game was played there in 2006.
The site of the famous Japan High School National Championships every summer in Nishinomiya. The Koshien Tournament is the stage where many young players rise to national fame, including Oh, Matsui, Matsuzaka, Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ohtani.
One of the stadiums where the MLB All-Stars led by Ruth faced the All-Nippon team on the 1934 tour of Japan. Opened in 1926, Jingu Stadium is now the home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and is one of the few remaining stadiums where Ruth played.
In-game food/activities in Japan only
• Japan is famous for its cheering spectators (called ouendan) at NPB games, both home and away. There are cheers and songs for each team and the different players in the lineup.
• Where MLB has the seventh inning, NPB has the "Lucky 7" where the lobs are released.
• In addition to typical stadium food like beer and popcorn, NPB games also feature Japanese staples like bento boxes.