How Did Baseball Start In Japan?

Did you know that baseball started in Japan? It’s true! In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of baseball in Japan and how it became the popular sport it is today.

Early History

Baseball in Japan can be traced back to 1872, when an American teacher living in Yokohama, Horace Wilson, introduced the game to some of his students. This was just a few years after the first game of baseball was played in Cooperstown, New York, in 1869. Wilson’s students took to the game quickly, and by the end of the 1870s there were a number of teams playing in the Tokyo area.

First recorded games

The first recorded games of baseball in Japan took place in 1873, when an American expatriate community in Yokohama began playing the game. The game soon became popular with the local Japanese population as well, and by the 1880s, there were several thousand Japanese players.

In 1896, a Japanese university student named Hiromitsu Kaneda founded the first formal Japanese baseball team, called the Shiba Internationals. Kaneda and his team traveled to the United States to play against American teams in 1900, sparking a wave of interest in baseball back home in Japan.

In 1911, Kaneda helped found the first professional Japanese baseball league, called the Meiji Jingu Baseball Stadium League. The league initially consisted of just four teams, but it quickly grew in popularity and by 1920 it was made up of 12 teams.

Meiji Period

During the Meiji period, baseball was introduced to Japan by an American medical doctor named Horace Wilson. Dr. Wilson taught the game to some of his students at Tokyo Imperial University. The first recorded game of baseball in Japan took place in 1873 between teams from Tokyō Kaisei School and Shokokuji Temple. Kaisei lost the game 9-8.

During the Meiji period, two professional baseball teams were formed: the Shimbashi Athletic Club and Ichiko (now known as the Hanshin Tigers). In 1898, these two teams played each other in Japan’s first professional baseball game. Professional baseball did not gain much popularity until the 1920s when Japanese universities began playing each other.

By 1936, baseball had become so popular in Japan that a professional league was formed called the Japanese Professional Baseball League (日本野球機構, Nippon Yakyū Kikō). The league originally consisted of six teams: the Tokyo Giants, Osaka Tigers, Nagoya Dragons, Hankyu Braves (nowKnown as Orix Buffaloes), Daimai Orions (now known as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks), and Mainichi Orions (now known as Okinawa Clinic).

American Influence

Baseball in Japan can be traced back to 1872, when an American expatriate teaching at the Kaisei Academy in Tokyo, Horace Wilson, introduced the game. Baseball quickly became popular among the upper and middle class Japanese students at the academy.

American teams touring Japan

During the Meiji period, several American teams toured Japan, including an all-star team led by Albert Spalding in 1888. These teams played exhibition games against Japanese collegiate and corporate teams. The first recorded game between two Japanese professional teams took place in 1934, when the Dai-Nippon Tokyo Giants faced the Osaka Tigers.

The first professional baseball league in Japan was established in 1936, modeled after the American major leagues. The league initially consisted of six teams, all based in Tokyo. The inaugural season was a success, drawing over a million fans to the ballpark.

In 1950, two more professional leagues were created in Japan: the Central League and the Pacific League. These leagues each consisted of six teams, and were fully integrated with the existing Japanese baseball structure.

The record for most home runs in a single season by a Japanese player is 55, set by Sadaharu Oh of the Yomiuri Giants in 1964. Oh went on to become one of the most celebrated players in Japanese baseball history, finishing his career with 868 home runs (a world record at the time of his retirement).

University teams

Baseball in Japan can be traced back to 1872, when an American teacher named Horace Wilson introduced the game to his students at the Kaisei Academy in Tokyo. The first college team was formed soon afterwards, at Keio University, and by the turn of the century there were several university teams competing against each other.

It wasn’t until 1920 that a professional league was established, modeled after the American Major Leagues. The first team was the Tokyo Giants, who were so successful that they quickly became the dominant team in Japanese baseball. To this day, the Giants remain one of the most popular teams in Japan.

Professional Baseball

Baseball in Japan started out as a university sport, with the first recorded game taking place in 1873 between Keio University and Meiji University. It wasn’t until 1920 that the first professional baseball game took place. Baseball quickly became popular in Japan, with the first professional baseball league, the Japan Baseball League, being founded in 1936.

First professional teams

The first professional teams were established in the late 1800s, and by the early 1900s, several leagues were operating in Japan. Professional baseball was interrupted in the 1940s due to World War II, but resumed after the war. In 1950, the Japanese Baseball League (JBL) was formed with 8 teams.

The current top professional league in Japan is Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), which was established in 1950. NPB consists of 2 leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, each with 6 teams. The NPB season runs from late March/early April to late October/early November, with each team playing 144 games. The NPB playoffs culminate in the Japan Series, which is similar to the World Series in Major League Baseball.

Nippon Professional Baseball

Nippon Professional Baseball (日本野球機構, Nippon Yakyū Kikō?) or NPB is the highest level of professional baseball in Japan. Locally, it is often called Puro Yakyū (プロ野球?). Outside Japan, it is often just referred to as “Japanese baseball”. The roots of the league can be traced back to the formation of the Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club in 1934 and the original three Nippon Professional Baseball leagues in 1936. NPB was formed when those three leagues merged into a single body in 1950.

International Competition

Baseball in Japan has been around since the 19th century, with the first recorded game taking place in 1875. By the early 20th century, the game had grown in popularity and had even spread to other Asian countries. In 1934, Japan’s first professional team, the Yomiuri Giants, was founded.

World Baseball Classic

While professional baseball leagues exist in many countries, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an international tournament that allows national teams to compete against each other in a display of international baseball strength.

The WBC is organized by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), and first took place in 2006. It is currently held every four years, with the last tournament occurring in 2017.

As of 2019, the WBC has featured teams from 16 different countries and territories: Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Spain , Taiwan , United States , and Venezuela .


The first international baseball tournament was the Baseball World Cup, which was first held in 1938. The tournament was held sporadically until it became an annual event in 1968. In 1973, the Olympic Games began recognizing baseball as a medal sport. The most recent Olympics to include baseball were the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

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