Observations about Japanese Baseball

I have to apologize first — this post has little to do with R, but I had the opportunity last night to attend a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome between the Japanese National Team and a team from Europe (most of the players came from Italy, Spain, and Holland). By the way, the Europeans won this game 6-2.

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  1. Clearly, the Japanese love baseball and the stadium was pretty full even though this was an exhibition game.
  2. There is a large crowd in the bleachers who chant during the Japanese half-innings. I understand that each hitter has his own distinctive chant. This chant is accompanied by horns — it is quite loud, and I started to welcome the quiet half-innings of the European team. Here’s an example of a Japanese baseball chant.
  3. As you see below, the scoreboard is entirely in English. Likewise, each player has English names on the back of their uniforms. I believe this is homage to American baseball.
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  5. All of the vendors who work in the aisles are female. Beer is dispensed from a large container that is carried like a backpack — seems pretty efficient.
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  7. In MLB games, it seems that fans are becoming less interested in the game and more interested in the other stuff (food, etc) that accompany the game. (How often do you see an American fan keeping score?) In contrast, it seems that Japanese fans take the game seriously.
  8. The games does not have a 7th inning stretch, but at the end of the 6th inning, there is some ceremony where a large banner is raised in the outfield.
  9. Although the Japanese are famous for playing small ball, there was only one attempt at a sacrifice bunt all night. There were a number of hard-hit balls and two home runs.
  10. We got some food — I was not that brave and I got a chicken sandwich and fries from the KFC stand. At a MLB game, the trash often gets left at the seats. Not in Japan — there is a worker with a white bag walking down the aisles collecting trash.
  11. As the scoreboard indicates, the game went pretty fast — under 3 hours — each half-inning was about 10 minutes long. Maybe MLB can learn something from Japanese baseball.
  12. The fans were in no hurry to leave the game when it concluded, and the souvenir shop was mobbed afterwards. I was fortunate to purchase a shirt and there was a long queue out of the shop when I left. (I don’t think this would happen at at MLB game.)

I think MLB should do a study on ways to increase the popularity of baseball and I think Japan is a good example of a place where baseball remains very popular.

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4 responses

  1. Nice post Jim. As for the small ball stuff, maybe the Japanese coaches have read your book and know that sac bunts always lead to a lower runs expectancy.
    How much does a typical ticket cost? How about your chicken sandwich?
    What’s your take on the shorter games? Fewer commercials, or less time between pitches?

  2. Mark, good questions and I have answered them in a follow-up post.

  3. Very interesting. As a Japanese baseball fan, I think you got some misunderstandings because the game was special (although I believe this post is generally correct).
    First, the scoreboard is usually written in Japanese while the name on the back is written in English. Second, Japanese players play quite slow. The average time of a game was 3:17 in 2014. We always envy quick games of MLB!

    1. Koki, thanks for the clarification. Five years ago, I did watch a regular-season game in Japan, but I forgot all of the details. That is interesting about the slow play — maybe MLB shouldn’t emulate the Japanese.

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