Stadium lights glaring, bases loaded, fans cheering and the pitcher throws the ball. According to BYU–Hawaii students, this is a typical baseball game in Japan. The game has become a national past time for Japan and fans at BYUH talk about baseball culture and favorite teams.
Rex Yamamoto, a junior from Japan majoring in computer science, said, “Baseball is so big, it’s a tradition.” According to Yamamoto, “It’s been around for so long, there is a tournament called ‘Koshien.’ It’s a tournament for high school kids. The teams have to be really good and its very competitive. Players will cry when they lose.”
Shohei Ishimori, a freshman from Japan majoring in business management, said, “Lots of people play baseball when they’re young. High school teams are big. In Japan, high school is more famous than professional teams. Everybody watches it, parents, kids, etc.”
Baseball Culture in Japan
“Baseball in Japan is known as ‘yakyu,’” Ishimori said, “If you are familiar with baseball, you can still understand and have fun.”
Baseball aficionado, Rei Hattori, a freshman from Japan majoring in business management, said, “It’s really exciting. Playing baseball in Japan is a big dream for me. There’s lots of money involved. Many TV programs and newspapers show the game everywhere.
“Baseball players shave their hair. They do this to show their enthusiasm. Recently, the coaches told their players to think for themselves and not shave their heads because everyone else is doing it. More schools are not making players shave their hair.
“Japanese players usually grow up only playing baseball. They want to focus on the game and want to be professional. They practice every day. There is no time to play other sports.
“If the Hanshin Tigers win a game, fans will jump into the Dotonbori River as a way to celebrate. If they lose, the fans will throw their food on the field.”
In Yamamoto’s opinion, Japanese baseball is more strict than American baseball. “Japanese people tend to be strict. Particularly, they want the players to play well and win.”
According to Hattori, American players come to Japan to play, however there is a rule allowing only four foreign players per team.
Famous Japanese Players
According to Ishimori, there are over 10 professional players in the U.S.
“We have a Japanese baseball player who plays for the Seattle Mariners,” said Yamamoto. “Ichiro Suzuki. He’s very big in Japan. I’d say there are no people in Japan who don’t know him. He has a very good batting average. I also heard he is able to throw a ball from the outfield to the catcher.
“Some famous players are Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka,” Ishimori said, “All of them are pitchers. I like to support the players. All the players have different theme songs when they are up to bat.”
Nippon Professional Baseball
“We have national teams like the Dragons,” Yamamoto said, “They are part of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization [NPB].”
According npb.jp, there are two leagues, the Central and the Pacific leagues, with six teams each.
Ishimori said, “The season is from March to October. My favorite team is the Giants from Tokyo. I like them because it’s fun to cheer for them, just a great atmosphere.”
According to Ishimori, people wear jerseys to support their teams. “I have over 40 jerseys,” he said.
Hattori said, “My favorite team is the Hashin Tigers. They’re from Osaka and I was born there. My family is big fans. People usually root for teams from their home cities.”