sports

'Every kid plays' - how Japan fell in love with baseball

22 Comments
By Ayaka McGILL

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One of the reason why Baseball became famous in Japan is because heights didn't matter, unlike in Basketball.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Although it’s super impressive to see the skill level of baseboru in Japan it’s the one sport I would keep my kid away from. It truly becomes their entire life, and by high school or if they continue onto university there is a certain ‘culture’ that comes with the sport. They become insular, uneducated and have trouble thinking of anything other than there chosen sport and are often a bit gruff lacking in manners. Dont get me wrong these boys can be a lot of fun sometimes, as being around a team all of their lives turns them into characters if not cheeky ones, but when it comes to learning about the mechanisms of the outside world and scholastics there’s often little interest. They are a world unto themselves. If that’s your thing though, home run!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Have to admit, after all these years of living here, I still have no clue of the exact rules and I still have zero interest in the sport.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"Every kid plays"

Thats not true. Even many of the kids that "play" don't actually play in games, especially at the junior high and high school levels, kids play less and less and the practices get longer and longer as the kids get older. The kohai 後輩/senpai 先輩 system applies to baseball probably more than any other sport, meaning you have to wait your turn to be a starter, sometimes years. Its incredibly boring and kids drop like flies in their teens.

I grew up playing "Babe Ruth League" baseball in Canada, and they made rules regarding how long a pitcher could stay in the game. They don't have such rules in Japan and so that means less playing time for the other pitchers too. Substitutions are rare, unless there are some mistakes made in which case the player is often left humiliated.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

By the 1930s, a professional league had developed, and half-a-million people lined Tokyo's streets in 1934 to welcome Babe Ruth and 14 other American baseball players on an all-star tour.

Yes and the US did not waste the opportunity-

[ The tour included Earl Averill, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Lefty Gomez, Connie Mack, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Moe Berg and other American League players, as the National League would not allow their players to participate...The Japanese portion of the tour was filmed by Jimmie Foxx and his wife using eight millimeter black-and-white film. A copy of the film has been digitized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.[1] Moe Berg also brought a 16-mm Bell and Howell movie camera and made short films of important Japanese installations; this was thought to be one of Berg’s first missions as a spy. 

First trip to Japan[edit]

Retired ballplayer Herb Hunter arranged for three players, Berg, Lefty O'Doul, and Ted Lyons, to go to Japan to teach baseball seminars at Japanese universities during the winter of 1932. On October 22, 1932, the group of three players began their circuit of Meiji, Waseda, Rikkyo, Todai (Tokyo Imperial), Hosei, and Keio universities, the members of the Tokyo Big6 Baseball League.

Second trip to Japan[edit]

Herb Hunter arranged for a group of All-Stars, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averill, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Lefty Gomez, to tour Japan playing exhibitions against a Japanese all-star team. Although Berg was a mediocre, third-string catcher, he was invited at the last minute to make the trip. Berg had contracted with MovietoneNews, a New York City newsreel production company, to film sights from his trip; he took a 16-mm Bell & Howell movie camera and a letter from the company attesting to this. When the team arrived in Japan, Berg gave a welcome speech in Japanese; he also was invited to address the legislature.[31]

On November 29, 1934, while the rest of the team was playing in Omiya, Berg went to Saint Luke's Hospital in Tsukiji, ostensibly to visit the daughter of American Ambassador Joseph Grew. Instead, Berg went up to the roof of the hospital, one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo, and filmed the city and harbor with his movie camera. This provided American intelligence with rare photos of the city. He never did see the ambassador's daughter. ]

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Baseball in Japan while still popular is on a serious slider.

All the stats show a decline in youngsters taking it up and a general decline in interest and support amongst the wider population.

The militaristic style of training in school teams has a lot to do with it. Grind after grind taking all over everything thing. Enjoyment/fun is for losers.

In addition many other alternatives are available. In my local high school soccer & basketball have become really popular for both boys & girls - and there are no prison haircut rules or slavish endless drill sessions.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When our son picked up tennis and football (soccer how some people called it), my Japanese wife was relieved. The reasons are related to what Browny said, very militaristic, and takes up a lot of time, both for the kid and for the parents.

And yeah, as Pukey, more than 20 years and I still have no idea why people like this sports. To each its own

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Have to admit, after all these years of living here, I still have no clue of the exact rules and I still have zero interest in the sport.

I lived in the US before living in Japan and tried to understand baseball. A US friend told me that it’s essentially a sport to be enjoyed in a stadium with the atmosphere, food, music, booze etc. I had a good time when I went ( I’ve been in Japan too ) but the game was secondary.

There isn’t much there as a sport in itself.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

All the stats show a decline in youngsters taking it up and a general decline in interest and support amongst the wider population.

really? Can u produce some of those stats? I just read that because of Ohtani interest in baseball in Japan is at an all-time high. What kid in Japan wouldn’t want to live the life Ohtani is living now?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I’ve always found it amusing how Brits and Aussies will trash talk baseball til the cows come home then turn around and tell you how fantastic cricket is. Hit ball with bat and run.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I’ve always found it amusing how Brits and Aussies will trash talk baseball til the cows come home then turn around and tell you how fantastic cricket is. Hit ball with bat and run.

I’m a Brit. I’d say Baseball is an improvement on cricket because it’s shorter.

Both seem to involve standing around or sitting down much of the time not doing anything in particular.

It seems the younger generation is moving more towards football. A natural progression.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I lived in the US before living in Japan and tried to understand baseball. A US friend told me that it’s essentially a sport to be enjoyed in a stadium with the atmosphere, food, music, booze etc. I had a good time when I went ( I’ve been in Japan too ) but the game was secondary. 

There isn’t much there as a sport in itself.

Thats pretty much the same feeling how Americans, Cubans, South Koreans, Puerto Rican’s and Japanese feel about Cricket.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Personally, I always hated baseball, never understood the allure, but maybe I’m not getting something…

I think there are other sports that are way better than baseball…..or cricket for that matter.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In Japan, "every kid plays baseball, every boy plays baseball", Itaru Kobayashi, a former player for the Chiba Lotte Marines, told AFP.

Maybe thirty years ago, but basketball, soccer and volleyball are all easily more popular with the kids these days. A few years ago our local junior high had to get rid of its baseball team due to lack of interest, and the softball team for elementary school-aged kids now has to let 6-year-olds play with the 11 and 12-year-olds in order to have enough kids to make up a full team.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's got more to do with how the US influenced Japan during the Meiji era without actually colonizing it. If it were the British instead of the Americans then you can be sure that Japan would be a cricket crazy country today just like many of Britain's ex-colonies.

Or maybe not. Japanese are always in a hurry and are punctual about time so not sure how much would they want to play a game where the 2 teams can play for 5 consecutive days and still not have a result.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hate professional baseball - it stinks of 9:00 to 5:00. But my local high school tournament and Koshien I'll watch. Passion.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

No thanks, kendo, judo, karate, please.

They should bring back competitive kenjutsu, the european have brought back HEMA, which is all the rage lately.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

No thanks, kendo, judo, karate, please.

Good skills to have ( Kendo not so much ) but a bit repetitive and one-dimensional as spectator ‘sports’.

Judo in particular is hardly pleasing on the eye.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Jimizo

I have always been less impressed with spectator sports than martial arts.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Jimizo, same experience here, my friends took me to a Chicago Cubs game. We first visited the Goose Island brewery to get into the mood, then on the stadium we basically had a picnic with hot dogs and many beers, without paying too much attention to what was happening on the pitch. Same with everybody else in the stands

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Jimizo, same experience here, my friends took me to a Chicago Cubs game. We first visited the Goose Island brewery to get into the mood, then on the stadium we basically had a picnic with hot dogs and many beers, without paying too much attention to what was happening on the pitch. Same with everybody else in the stands

It’s a good day out, isn’t it?

I’d recommend it to anyone.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think it's quite cute they dedicate their lives to such a minor sport.

It's the equivalent of Kabbadi or Croquet.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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