Japan Society of Fairfield County
  Japanese and American Baseball

      Japan was first exposed to baseball as a result of the 77 Samurai delegation of 1860. (Harry also did a talk on this) Included among the Japanese embassy & delegates was the educator Yukichi Fukuzawa and John Manjiro, who had spent 5 years living in the United States as the adopted son of his rescuer Captain Whitfield. When the delegates landed in San Francisco the two men went to a book store. Among the several books Yukichi bought was a Webster’s English Dictionary and a children’s book. In the children’s book, there was a description of “Town Ball”. With help of Manjiro, Yukichi translated it and later introduced at his school in Japan.
       Shiki Masaoka was the pen name of a famous Japanese poet who later coined Japanese baseball terms which are often bilingal puns. Noboru Masaoka was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. His first name “Noboru” is a complex Japanese English pun on the word “baseball”. Harry Sakamaki’s great great grandfather Zentatsu Sakamaki was a close friend of Shiki.

1872 – Baseball was introduced by an American high school mathematics teacher, Horace Wilson, who played “fungo” with students It is interesting that baseball spread among universities. Even today it is very popular college sport.
1878 – Hiroshi Hiraoka forms the first baseball club - the Shimbashi Athletic Club

1896 – Japan's No.1 High School won against a team of foreigners in Yokohama

1903 – Baseball spreads among Universities and schools , especially Waseda and Keio Universities

1918 – A soft rubber ball was invented and used for children's baseball

1920 – The first league established (the Shibaura Association)

1931– American All-Stars including Lou Gehrig toured Japan

1934 -The second tour, Babe Ruth managers and plays with a team of Hall of Famers: Although the Japanese lost all the games, the Japanese pitcher Eiji Sawamura, held the Americans to 1 run while striking out 9 in their best game.
                                 Japanese professional baseball begins
1936 – Nippon Professional Baseball League “NPB” inaugurated (7 teams)

1944 – Pro baseball is discontinued during WWII. English baseball terms are prohibited.

1950 – Two leagues are introduced – the Central League and the Pacific League, each with 6 teams.
The first Japan Series is held.
1965 – Draft system adopted

1975 – Pacific League adopts the Designated Hitter

1993 – Free agent introduced

2007 – Both the Central and Pacific Leagues hold 2-stage post-season Climax Series (“Playoff”) with the top three teams participating.

                                   NPB Leagues

       Pacific League                                 Central League

Fukuoka-SoftBank Hawks                 Chunichi-Dragons

Hokkaido-Nippon-Ham Fighters        Tokyo-Yakult Swallows

Saitama-Seibu Lions                           Tokyo-Yomiuri Giants

ORIX-Buffaloes                                 Hanshin-Tigers

Tohoku-Rakuten Golden Eagles          Hiroshima-Toyo Carp

Chiba-Lotte Marines                          Yokohama-DeNA BayStars
     A Baseball Hall of Fame was established in Japan in 1959 and over 300 players have been honored. The annual pitching award in Japan is named the Sawamura Award after Hall of Famer Eiji Sawamura and is analogous to the Cy Young Award in the US. Other Hall of Famers include: Horace Wilson, Shiki Masaoka, and Frank “Lefty” O’Doul. He was on the San Francisco Giants and came to Japan four times with his US team and trained Japanese teams. He was instrumental in getting the Tokyo NPB team named the Giants. Japan’s home run king is Sadaharu Oh who played from 1959-1980 and hit 868 home runs. Hank Aaron who played from 1954-1976 in the US hit 755 home runs.
      Although the rulebook is essentially the same in Japan and the US, there is a significant difference in mindset. “Baseball-ism” is a term Harry uses to describe this mindset.  Japanese Baseball-ism is based on “Bushido” and “Zen” and has its roots in Japan’s feudal past. Nippon Professional Baseball has a spirit based on the Japanese ethics of Zen and Bushido, the code of the samurai. Japanese baseball has a chivalrous martial spirit, and emphasizes skills with weapons, not power. It expects an absolute loyalty to one’s lord (the manager & team), a strong sense of personal honor, a devotion to duty, and courage to sacrifice oneself for the master (the manager & team). Practice and mastery of one's own skill are of paramount importance. There are still individual heroes. The team expects a big play in certain situations using one’s special skill: home runs or long hits, stealing, squeeze, just like the “Seven Samurai” used their samurai skills in the movie.

Comparison of Japanese and US player objectives.



1. Compensation(¥¥¥)


2. For the team

2. For the individual

3. For the Fan

3. For the Team

4. For the Individual

4. For the Fan & Society

Team is defense oriented

Team is offense oriented

Differences in the Game

Nippon Professional Baseball

Major League Baseball


strike & ball

ball & strike

Size of ball

Smaller, wound tighter, harder
(usually meets MLB spec)

Larger, wound looser, softer
(usually meets NPB spec)

No. of Games



No. of umpire

6 4


Baseball Field

Newer stadiums are as large as US fields, older stadiums are smaller, the grass is shorter

The grass is longer

Tie Game

Max. 12-inning (can't miss last train home)

No tie

Differences in Play and Management

Nippon Professional Baseball

Major League Baseball


Hit based, sacrifice bunt

Home run-prized, power, long hit


Move body forward (shift weight) and swing with body for contact hitting

Swing with arms for power and good for the fastball


Follow the sign faithfully

Follow the sign unless you see better option


More change of pace (Mix of Straight, fork, slider), always follow the catcher’s sign

Fast ball, sinker, breaking ball, use of own judgment


More focus on better defense, winning by defense

Winning by offense

Foreign player limits

Up to 4 players per team – look for power hitter or fastball pitcher or good control

No limits


Corporation (non baseball business), no regional representative (Except Yokohama Baystarts and Rakuten Eagles)

Individuals and regional representatives

Japanese Baseball terms are sometimes funny when literally translated back to English
                 Base on Balls=Four-ball
                    Hit by pitch=Dead ball
               Head first slide=Head sliding
                    Night game=Nighter
Inside the park home run=Running home run

Baseball covers a wide range of proficiency and participation in both Japan and the US
A National & Community Sport-Professional League
              Universities & College - Leagues
                           High Schools – Leagues
  Middle & Elementary Schools
        Private Clubs and Leagues- Little League
                   On fields and parks
                     Corners of streets
  Parking lots during lunch break
                          Just play catch

Friendship thru Baseball     NPB players now in MLB 
Hideki Matsui (Yankees, World Series MVP)
Hideo Namo  (Kansas City, 2 no hitters)
Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle)

Friendship thru Baseball     MLB players now in NPB
Cecil Fielder “Wild Bear” (Blue Jays & Detroit Tigers to Hanshin Tigers)
Alex Cabrera (Diamondbacks to Buffaloes)
Alex Ramirez (Indians & Pirates to Yomiuri Giants)