Did Baseball Come To Japan 1 Year Earlier Than Usually Believed?
Baseball’s arrival on Japanese shores should be considered to have taken place in 1871, a year earlier than is generally believed in Japan, argues a British historian, based on two separate contemporary English newspaper articles from the era about a game played that year in Yokohama.
Next year is widely believed to mark the 150th anniversary of baseball’s debut in Japan, presented by Horace Wilson, an American professor who taught English to Japanese students at a school later known as Kaisei Gakko, now the ‘University of Tokyo. Wilson taught sports to his students.
A special exhibit opens on September 10, 2021 at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Tokyo to celebrate the year 2022 as the 150th anniversary of the introduction of baseball to Japan by Horace Wilson. (Kyodo)
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Tokyo recognizes 1872 as the beginning of sport in Japan and credits Wilson, who was hired by the Japanese government to promote the modernization of the country’s education after the Meiji Restoration, one of the responsible.
However, Mike Galbraith, 74, resident of Tokyo, with a master’s degree in sports history and who has been researching the history of early Western sports in Japan since 2009, says that a reassessment of the history of the sport should be conducted and that the first evidence of a baseball game played in Japan included. He points out that gambling in Yokohama has been mentioned by many historians.
“An objective history of any Western sport in Japan should begin with the first factual evidence of the sport being played,” Galbraith said in an email to Kyodo News, adding that this evidence would hopefully include details, such as the first game and score.
The Japan Weekly Mail, an English newspaper at the time in Yokohama, reported that a baseball game was played on a field in the Yokohama Swamp, near Tokyo, on October 30, 1871 between sailors from Colorado and ” nine civilians “- – probably foreign residents living in the Japanese port city.
According to Galbraith, although there is no mention of the game being the first played in Japan in history, an article published by the New York Clipper on the same game later in the year indicates that it was the first played in the country.
“I know the game played in Yokohama in 1871,” said Takahiro Sekiguchi, chief curator of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but the museum does not mention it in any of its exhibits.
Sekiguchi explained that the museum gives considerable importance in the history of Japanese baseball to Wilson teaching the game to his students. While the 1871 game was only a one-time event, Wilson’s introduction led to a baseball boom among Tokyo college students in the late 19th century.
In terms of transmitting the sport to Japanese citizens, it would be fair to say that Wilson played a key role in making baseball a national pastime as seen today, he explained.
In September, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened a special exhibit to celebrate the year 2022, the 150th anniversary of baseball’s arrival in Japan.
An article from the Japan Weekly Mail (C) shows that a baseball game took place on October 30, 1871 in Yokohama. (Photo courtesy of Yokohama History Archives) (Kyodo)
Robert Whiting, a well-known American author of a series of books on the history and culture of American and Japanese baseball, said the museum “should display a photo from this 1871 newspaper article (the Japan Weekly Mail) in his history gallery, “adding,” This does not detract from Horace Wilson’s considerable accomplishments. “
Galbraith also says he found newspaper articles and other evidence showing that foreign residents founded the Yokohama Base Ball Club and Tokio Base Ball Club in 1876, making them the first baseball clubs in Japan. This goes against the widely held belief that the Shimbashi Athletic Club established in 1878 was the first organized baseball club in the country.
According to Galbraith, the Yokohama Base Ball Club survives today as part of the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club.
In 2019, Galbraith played a pivotal role in creating a memorial in Yokohama’s Chinatown to honor Japan’s rugby legacy after uncovering documentary evidence that the country’s first rugby club was established there in 1866. , revising the common belief that the sport was introduced to Japan in 1899.
Galbraith’s research led to the World Rugby Museum in Twickenham, England, acknowledging his claim that the founding of this rugby club in Yokohama in January 1866 was the first in Asia.