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Japanese Baseball History

Yakyu (literally "field ball") is Japan's version of the great American pastime. Baseball was first introduced to Japan in the 1870s, with the first team, the Shimbashi Athletic Club Athletics, established in 1878 by railway engineer, Hiroshi Hiraoka, who had become an ardent Red Stockings fan when he was a student in Boston.

Amateur baseball thrived in the early years, and it was regarded as more of a moral discipline, like kendo, than a leisure activity. The purpose was to develop purity and self-discipline through endless training, self-denial, and emphasis on spirit - a philosophy which is often applied to the modern game.

The first professional baseball league was formed in 1936, after the formation of the Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Kurabu (the Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club) in 1934, and its successful tour of the US the following year. The Giants, or Kyojin, as they're called now, went on to become Japan's most famous and wealthiest ball club - the New York Yankees of Japan!

The leagues have a 140-game season, played from early April through late September. However, this often extends into October when games postponed from the long rainy season in June and July are made up. The Japan Series is played in October. Inter-league play was introduced in 2005.

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Japanese Baseball Teams

Since the two-league system was established in 1950, Japan has had twelve professional teams - six in each league. The Central League is the most traditional of the two, and as it contains the popular Yomiuri Giants, as well as their fierce rivals, the Kansai-based Hanshin Tigers - it's the wealthiest too. The Pacific League tends to adopt North American styles of play more readily, but without the large-market fan base, the Pacific League  teams often operate at a loss. However, as most teams are owned by major corporations for public relations purposes, the losses can usually be written off.

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Japanese Baseball Gear: 
Pacific League Teams

Chunichi Dragons

Chunichi Dragons

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   Chiba Lotte Marines

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Chiba Lotte Marines


Hanshin Tigers

Hanshin Tigers

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Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

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Fukuoka Softbank Hawks


Hiroshima Toyo Carp

Hiroshima Toyo Carp

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Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters

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Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters


Tokyo Yakult Swallows

Tokyo Yakult Swallows

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Orix Buffaloes

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Orix Buffaloes


Yokohama BayStars

Yokohama BayStars

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Seibu Lions

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Seibu Lions


Yomiuri Giants

Yomiuri Giants

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Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

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Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

 

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