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History of baseball in Japan
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The history of baseball in Japan dates back to sometime between 1867 and 1873 in the early [[Meiji Era]] when the game was introduced by Horace Wilson - a professor at Kaisei Gakko (now Tokyo University). The kanji for baseball is 野球 (やきゅう; yakyū) combining the characters for field and ball. The nation has a long history of amateur baseball, from collegiate baseball to high school baseball and international baseball. The first professional team was founded in 1920, but soon thereafter folded. The first professional league was founded in 1936. It suspended a season during World War II and played through 1949 when it was reorganized into [[Nippon Professional Baseball]] (NPB) for 1950. The NPB is the current top-level competition in the country, and consists of four leagues.
Early years (1860s - 1902)
Horace Wilson introduced baseball to Japan sometime between 1867 and 1873 in the early Meiji Era. Wilson was a professor at Kaisei Gakko (now Tokyo University). In 1873 Albert Bates, an American teaching at Kaitaku University organized the first game. The first Japanese baseball team, the Shinbashi Athletic Club Athletics were organized in 1878 by railway engineer Hiroshi Hiraoka, an ardent Boston Red Sox fan from his days as a student in the United States, organizes the first Japanese baseball team, the Shinbashi Athletic Club Athletics. On May 23, 1896, on the site of what would become Yokohama Peace Stadium and later [[Yokohama Stadium]], the first international game of baseball was played in the country. The Ichiko team of First High School of Tokyo defeated an American team from the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club, 29 to 4. Poet Masaoka Shiki<! --Last name first, pre-Meiji--> is created with translating many baseball terms into Japanese and helping to popularize the sport.
Amateur baseball rules (1903 - 1934)
During the first part of the 20th century, amateur baseball was the top draw. University baseball was just starting at the turn of the century, with the Sōkeisen - the annual match-up between the baseball clubs of Waseda University and Keio University.
The first National High School Baseball Championship, commonly known as "Summer Koshien," was first held in 1915. A decade, in 1924, later the first National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament, commonly known as "Spring Koshien," took place.
Growth of professional baseball (1934 - present)
Professional baseball, called Puro Yakyū (プロ野球), has existed in Japan since 1920. The first professional league was founded in 1936. The current highest level of competition, Nippon Professional Baseball was organized in late 1949. In 2005, the Shikoku Island League was founded marking the first independent league from the NPB since the Kokumin League in 1947.
A Japanese team has won five Little League World Series, and has been a runner-up three times. Starting in 2007, the Japan champion will advance directly to the series rather than playing in an Asian regional.
Senior high schools participate in the National High School Baseball Championship of Japan - a nationwide tournament - and the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament - an invite-only tournament. There is also the smaller Meiji-Jingu Baseball Tournament.
The All-Japan University Championship is played annually.
The nation had a franchise, the Tokyo Dragons, in the ill-fated Global League of 1969. Corporations often sponsor teams of employees which play in industrial leagues and for a national title. These leagues often act as a de facto minor league.
The Japan Women's Baseball Federation was a professional league of women's baseball that existed for two years in 1950 and 1951. After that, the women played in semi-professional amateur leagues from 1952 to 1971. The Japan Women's Baseball League began play in 2010.
Japan in international baseball