Your Guide to the Japanese Baseball (1): Introduction

I decided to write few articles to introduce to you the game of baseball in Japan. One of my big interests is sports, both playing and watching. Though often watching it on TV these days. I follow any sports in general, but while in Japan, baseball in particular. I am a big supporter of Hanshin Tigers. So, I thought I might as well write some articles on the state of Japanese baseball.

MLB All-Star team is coming to Japan to play this winter. Probably that will be on air in the States as well (?). May be you want to check out the future MLB prospect? Or, may be interested in Japanese baseball after the WBC.

Anyway, I hope I can last this series of articles. Long enough to catch the attention of those who are interested.

The overview of the teams and the leagues

There are currently twelve professional baseball teams in Japan. These are split into two leagues of six each.

In the Central League, in the order of the result of the season 2006,there are:

  • Chunichi Dragons
  • Hanshin Tigers
  • Tokyo Yakult Swallows
  • Yomiuri Giants
  • Hiroshima Carp
  • Yokohama BayStars

In the Pacific League, again in the order of the result of the season 2006,there are:

  • Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
  • Seibu Lions
  • Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
  • Chiba Lotte Malines
  • Orix Buffaloes
  • Tohoku Rakuten GoldenEagles

The season

The Pacific League has a post-season playoff, where the winner of the 2nd and the 3rd placed team will compete with the 1st place team. The winner of this playoff will proceed to the Nihon Series, the Japanese equivalent of the World Series. There are no playoff in the Central League at the moment, and the 1st place team will proceeds into the Nihon Series, to battle for the Nihon Champion flag. (Note: Nihon means Japan in Japanese)

The schedule for the season is very much similar to that of MLB. The spring training starts few weeks earlier, and lasts longer the MLB. The season starts around end of the March, and there is a inter-league games in May. In fact, it occupies just about whole of that month. The All-Star break is around the second half of July. We play two All-Star matches, where one of them is played in Non-franchised stadium, for the fans living out there. The regular season finishes around the begging of October for the Pacific, and mid October for the Central. There are always some postponed games played in October too. The Nihon Series is towards to the end of the October.

Despite the similar schedule, we play less number of games than the MLB do. There are sixteen teams in each American and the National leagues, but there are only six each in Japan. So that’s understandable.

[more to come …]