Baseball in Japan
Baseball (野球, Yakyū) was imported from the United States during the Meiji period and almost instantly gained popularity among the country’s athletic clubs and universities. Over the years, baseball’s reach has continued to spread to the point where it has become the most viewed and played sport in Japan. Baseball teams compete on a variety of levels from elementary school to professional leagues.
Japanese baseball has also been subject to appreciation outside the country, as Japanese teams continue to show good results in international competitions. Several Japanese players have played successful careers in the major American leagues and enjoy great popularity and media coverage inside and outside of Japan. Their games are often broadcast on television to the national audience with special highlights on Japanese players.
Professional baseball in Japan is played in two leagues of six teams each: the Central League and the Pacific League.
The teams are:
Chunichi Dragons from Nagoya, Aichi
Hanshin Tigers from Nishinomiya, Hyōgo
Hiroshima Toyo Carp from Hiroshima, Hiroshima
Tokyo Yakult Swallows from Shinjuku, Tokyo
Yokohama DeNA BayStars from Yokohama, Kanagawa
Yomiuri Giants from Bunkyo, Tokyo
Chiba Lotte Marines from Chiba, Chiba
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks from Fukuoka, Fukuoka
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters from Sapporo, Hokkaidō
Orix Buffaloes from Osaka, Osaka
Saitama Seibu Lions from Tokorozawa, Saitama
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from Sendai, Miyagi
Season of games
The professional baseball season usually begins with training during the spring in February and March, while regular season games are held from the end of March to October. Regular-season games take place almost every day of the week (except on semi-regular holidays on Mondays) and are broadcast live on television. The season culminates with the championship playoffs (Climax Series) in late October, followed by the anticipated series of seven Nippon Series Championship games between the two league champions.
How to view a game
Tickets vary in price from about ¥ 1000 for non-reserved seats up to more than ¥ 15,000 for seats near the field.
Tickets for most games are available at the stadium on game-day. The exception are the games of the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, which tend to sell on the previous weekends and games that are held on major national holidays, such as Golden Week. Of course, the game you choose to go will determine the instructions you need to get to the game location. You can buy tickets (with directions on how to get to each stadium) from the Japan Ball Tickets.
The Japan Baseball Experience
One of the shows in Japanese baseball is the enthusiastic cheerleading sections that engage nonstop in organized cheering and singing to encourage their teams throughout the game. In addition, supporters of all twelve teams have their own different traditions and celebrations, some of which involve umbrellas and balloons. It’s such a great party to sit in the cheering section of the home team, so securing a seat somewhere near the fanatics will certainly provide a lasting memory of Japan, and perhaps a deconstruction of the perception that the Japanese are always reserved in public.
Japan also has smaller, semi-professional and college leagues that play at high levels, often feeding players to professional teams. High school baseball is particularly popular, with students training throughout the year. The high school baseball season culminates in the annual Koshien national summer tournament, held at the Koshien Stadium near Osaka, which is extremely popular.
So, convinced? Then it’s time to go all out, choose a team to fully enjoy the baseball experience in Japan and cheer a lot!