Last month, in a contest played over 2 continents, Japan defeated Cuba 10-6 in the final game of the World Baseball Classic, becoming the first champions of baseball’s first international tournament. To some this came as a surprise, but as most baseball fans can tell you, baseball is by far the sport with the most fans in Japan today.
Yakyu, as baseball is called in Japanese, was introduced from the United States during the early Meiji Period. This was a time of great shift from traditional Japanese ways of life to a more western, industrial era.
There are two professional baseball leagues in Japan: the Central League and the Pacific League. They consist of six teams each. Baseball games are broadcast live on television several times per week during the season. Furthermore, there is a large number of university and high school baseball teams. The finals of the high school baseball tournaments, in particular, enjoy a large popularity and are broadcast nationwide.
One doesn’t need to look across the ocean for prof of baseball’s popularity in Japan, many of today’s most popular players are products of the Japanese Leagues. The New York Yankees, famous for only hiring the best at any cost, have Hideki Matsui as part of their starting line-up. Ichiro Suzuki enjoys his position as not only the lead off man for the Seattle Mariners, but also as the city’s fan favorite. These and other Japanese players in the Major Leagues are national heroes back home, and their every at bat is watched religiously on a daily basis.
With Japan’s new title of world champions of baseball, and more and more Japanese players going professional here in the US, Baseball is sure to remain a popular sport in Japan for years to come.
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