Baseball, originally a wholly American game (with English roots), was seen as a purely North American phenomenon up until the middle of the 20th century. Now, Baseball is one of the main sporting games in East Asia, especially in countries like Japan and South Korea. In this article, we are going to explore what brought this popularity here, and how the nations of the Far East have become so much better at the purely Western game.
A Quick Lesson From History
As of 2021, most Japanese citizens have no clue of baseball’s origin, and they do not in the least suspect it to be an American game. Named Yayku in the native tongue, this sport emerged in the Meiji period of the Japanese Emire. The country as a whole was trying to adopt more foreign cultural traditions.
Yakyu is the first game ever to emphasize co-op team sports, to the contrast of all sports native to the country, such as Judo, Yabusame, Kendo, and Sumo. Because of this, it took a long time to gain success and recognition, but when it did, the game exponentially grew over just a couple of decades and became the number one sport in the Land of The Rising Sun. With many western-like Universities opening around the state, they also adopted the custom of having their own baseball and soccer teams. To this day, these schools produce some of the best players in the entire world.
Baseball really started taking off only after the Second World War, perhaps because of the high influence the US had on Japan. Thanks to the heavy military presence of American troops in Japan, the game was spread all around the defeated and occupied state. Local companies quickly saw that as a highly profitable situation, being able to earn money from both citizens and the “guests” around. They sided with the many emerging amateur teams, sponsoring their first games and further development.
As soon as the first wave of popularity surged, Americans saw that as an opportunity to further capitalize on the situation, as well as improve the international morale after the devastating droppings of the Atom Bombs. Many of the legendary US players of the time came to visit Japan, and this is why The New York Yankees are a fan’s favorite in Tokyo.
What made it so appealing?
The Japanese were always known for following their special rules and codes of conduct. They are a nation that is characterized by their willingness to fully committing to the state and its people. Their discipline is considered a separate form of art, named Shitsuke. Locals train their children from the age of one to abide by their parents and to maintain pride in all circumstances. That method produces one of the most successful working nations in the world.
From an early age, the Japanese are taught hard-work and patriotism combined. It is a very important thing for them to contribute to their best of their ability towards their countries. Sacrificing oneself and devoting your time to your homeland is considered one of the highest virtues.
Different Sports Culture Than In The West
While in North America or Europe, the focus is always on the self, and your own achievements, in Japan you must do everything for the success of your team. Baseball in this country is magnificent is a spectacular event, with every player on both teams receiving shout-outs from the public, and a live orchestra always playing in the background.
Adopting not only baseball but the love for alcohol as well, drinking cold beer that the “beer maidens” are carrying around the seats has become a custom for the Japanese. Unlike in America, the popularity of baseball doesn’t seem to decline at all, instead, experiencing rapid surges in spectators every few years.
However, as it happens to the case all around the world for many sports, youth participation is in speedy decline. We really aren’t sure what is the problem here, and psychologists and scientists all around the globe are trying to figure it out. A baseball-focused website yakyu-fan.net has recently published an article exploring the issue. It is a worthy read we recommend if you wish to understand what’s going on with youth sports: https://www.yakyu-fan.net/shonen-yakyu-situation.
Sports have always been a part of any countries culture, Japan included. It is interesting to watch in which direction it is heading, with many favoring the video game industry as of lately. Still, the physical type isn’t going anywhere and we are happy to get our games back this year, after an empty 2020 that was only focused on the Covid-19. Check out the latest news about the sport in the Japan Times magazine.