otherwise known as yakyu, is probably the most popular sport in
Japan for both the spectators and the participants. Introduced in
1837, baseball is a major preoccupation for all ages. Professional
teams have been formed since the 1930s and there are all kinds of
leagues available, including a number of university and high school
There are two professional
baseball leagues in Japan: the Central League and the Pacific League,
with six teams in each league. These teams are usually given original
names, such as Tigers, Giants, and even Hiroshima Carp, and are
also supported or owned by big corporate companies.
At the professional level,
baseball becomes a big moneymaking business, drawing millions of
spectators to the stadiums each season. The nightly televised games
also draw huge audiences, not to mention those who devour Japan's
national sports newspapers, especially during the baseball season.
Japan is, in other words, a "baseball-crazed" country, probably
more so than the United States.
Despite the similarity
to American baseball, baseball has been modified and changed to
become more Japanese. One essential difference is that baseball
players in Japan are regarded as salaried men and are therefore
expected to train as hard during off-seasons as during in-season.
There is a Japanese rule
that allows only two foreign (gaijin) players in each team. These
are usually former American major league players. This ensures that
the game retains its Japanese identity. However, more than 300 foreign
players have appeared in Japanese leagues since the league system
was established in 1950.
Baseball season starts
from April and ends in October. It is followed by the Japan Series,
which is a seven-match contest between the top two teams.