Baseball - Understanding Japan's most popular sport

Baseball in Japanese is called yakyuu [野球] or simply beesubooru [ベースボール] and it is one of the most popular sports in Japan. There you will find many more baseball stadiums than football. Even with the influence of the USA, baseball is totally unknown in Brazil and few have any idea how the game works.

The Japanese name baseball yakyuu [野球] comes from the characters of field and ball. The sport was first introduced in Japan in 1872 by the American Horace Wilson in Tokyo. The first baseball team was called Shimbashi Athletic Club and was founded in 1878. In 1896 the team won over a team of foreigners in Yokohama which gradually made the sport's popularity grow in Japan.

Baseball - Understanding Japan's most popular sport

Baseball, baseball or baseball? All of these ways of pronouncing are correct and we intend to use the 3 in this article in order to make it more dynamic. To help navigate we will leave a summary below:

How does a Baseball game work?

A baseball team usually has more than 25 players, some of whom can play more than one role. In a baseball team we have receivers, defenders, pitchers, hitters and several substitutes and reserves. The team manager is called a manager and coaches who prepare the team are usually accompanied.

The game looks complicated at first, but it consists only of scoring points by running on the base when hitting the ball. Each team has a turn to attack and defend, the defending team needs to throw the ball or catch it when hitting to prevent the attacking team from scoring points running through the base.

Baseball - Understanding Japan's most popular sport

The pitcher or pitcher of the ball is called a pitcher. He needs to throw the ball into a strike zone between the catcher's knees and shoulders. Every time the batter fails to hit the ball and it falls into the hands of the catcher the defense scores a strike.

In short, the goal of the attack is to score points while the defense is to eliminate hitters. For a hitter to score points he needs to run through the 4 bases of the field. If he manages to do a home run which consists of throwing the ball out of the field (without exceeding the foul zone), all hitters at the bases can complete their run.

How is a hitter eliminated?

When performing 3 strikes the batter is out of the game, and with 3 batters eliminated the teams switch sides. When the pitcher throws the ball out of the strike zone it is called a ball [booru | ボール], and when scoring 4 balls the hitter can advance a base. When a hitter runs to the last base he scores a point.

Baseball - Understanding Japan's most popular sport

A hitter or teammates on other bases can run from one base to another when the hitter manages to hit the ball and the defending team catches it. The defense team can try to eliminate the hitters who run from one base to another by touching them with the ball (tag out) or reaching the base before they (ground out) with the ball in hand.

If the defense catches the ball before falling to the ground, the hitter is also eliminated (flyout). Strikes happen only if the hitter is unable to hit the ball in the strike zone, or tries to hit any ball with no success. If the hitter hits the ball in the foul ball he also takes a strike (except the third strike).

Batters can also try to steal bases when the pitcher prepares, if he is caught he is considered a force out. If the ball lands near the pitcher and he throws it to a teammate, the hitter who is trying to run to another base is also eliminated with a force out.

Baseball - Understanding Japan's most popular sport

The baseball game works in turns, after the 2 teams play both in attack and defense they complete an entry. A professional game usually has 9 entries, whoever accumulates more points in those 9 entries wins the game. A baseball game can be unpredictable and can be long or short.

Professional baseball in Japan

Baseball is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in Japan, where there are school championships, international participation and the national tournament. The professional baseball season usually begins with training in February and March, and regular season games take place from late March through October.

There are several associations of basketball in Japan, from school, amateur, industrial and professional. You can easily find baseball stadiums or simple amateur fields in common neighborhoods throughout the city. Baseball is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in all of Japan.

If you want to watch a baseball game in Japan, you can buy tickets at the venue if there is no major game or a holiday to sell out before the day. If you believe that tickets can sell out, you can buy in advance online or by phone.

Baseball - Understanding Japan's most popular sport

Japanese influence on Baseball in Brazil

Many think that the Japanese brought the sport to Brazil, but in fact it was the Americans in 1850. Around 1910 the game came to attract more popularity than football itself in some places. The Japanese helped to popularize the sport in 1908 with Japanese immigration to Brazil.

The impact of the arrival of Japanese immigrants was great, transforming the years from 1925 to 1938 into a golden age for Brazilian baseball. Unfortunately baseball went down in World War II with the ban and Brazilian prejudice against the Japanese. Softball was another sport similar to baseball that became popular in Brazil.

In the 1970s through the 1990s, things got even worse with Japanese descendants going to Japan in search of jobs. This caused the sport's popularity to drop dramatically, even losing media coverage. Unfortunately after that situation baseball never managed to grow in Brazil again.

Baseball - Understanding Japan's most popular sport

Baseball related anime

I became interested in baseball after I started watching the One Outs anime, which I highly recommend. By the same author of Liar Game, this anime manages to deliver a psychological trillher along with the sport. A very smart anime that I recommend everyone to watch.

Other anime are:

  • Daiya no Ace;
  • Cross Game;
  • Touch;
  • Major;

Baseball vocabulary in Japanese

Below we will put a list of words related to baseball in English and Japanese. I thought about translating, but everyone knows the sport with English terms, including the Japanese use English terms in their matches. Even if there is a Japanese word for a certain thing, it is common to hear the expressions English in the field.

  • クローザー (kuroozaa) - closer
  • セーブ (seebu) - save
  • ホームラン, 本塁打 (hoomuran or hon-rui da) - home run
  • 一塁 (ichi-rui) - first base
  • 一塁手 (ichi-rui shu) - first baseman
  • 三塁 (san-rui) - third base
  • 三塁手 (san-rui shu) - third baseman
  • 三塁打 (san-rui da) - triple
  • 三振 (sanshin) - strikeout
  • 中堅, センター (chuuken or sitsa) - center field
  • 中堅手 (chuukenshu) - center fielder
  • 二塁 (ni-rui) - second base
  • 二塁手 (ni-rui shu) - second baseman
  • 二塁打 (ni-rui da) - double
  • 先発投手 (senpatsu-toushu) - starting pitcher
  • 内野 (naiya) - infield
  • 出塁率 (shutsuruiritsu) - on-base percentage
  • 勝利 (shouri) - win
  • 右翼, ライト (uyoku or raito) - right field
  • 右翼手 (uyokushu) - right fielder
  • 四球, フォアボール (shikyuu or foa-booru) - walk
  • 外野 (gaiya) - outfield
  • 安打 (come on) - hit
  • 審判 (shinpan) - umpire
  • 左翼, レフト (sayoku or refuto) - left field
  • 左翼手 (sayokushu) - left fielder
  • 得点 (tokuten) - run
  • 打席 (daseki) - at bat
  • 打点 (daten) - runs batted in
  • 打率 (daritsu) - batting average
  • 投手 (toushu) - pitcher
  • 指名打者 (shimei-dasha) - designated hitter
  • Hos (hoshu) - catcher
  • 救援投手 (kyuuen-toushu) - relief pitcher
  • 敗戦 (haisen) - loss
  • 本塁, ホーム (hon-rui or hoomu) - home plate
  • 死球, デッドボール (shikyuu or deddo-booru) - beanball
  • 盗塁 (tourui) - stolen base
  • 監督 (kantoku) - manager
  • 試合 (shiai) - game
  • 遊撃手 (yuugekishu) - shortstop
  • 野球場 (yakyuujou) - ballpark
  • 長打率 (choudaritsu) - slugging percentage
  • 防御率 (bougyoritsu) - earned-run average

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