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During the Meiji Period (1868-1912) when Japan opened its doors to Western fashions and architecture, baseball also took root and today is the most popular non-traditional sport in Japan. The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) League comprising of 12 teams in 2 divisions is broadcast live in national TV and all across the country baseball is played in schools and local sports clubs.
InsideJapan can arrange tickets to a baseball game in many cities across Japan. Teams are named after their company sponsors so you might see the Rakuten Golden Eagles named after the Sendai Internet shopping company play the Nippon Ham (meatpackers) Fighters from Hokkaido.
Perhaps one of the best spots to see baseball is in Hiroshima where the Toyo Carp’s Mazda Stadium is in a prime location within walking distance of the Shinkansen Station and close to the central Peace Park area of the city. The Carp are often the underdogs of the NPB but their fans are said to be the most loyal and there is always a great atmosphere when they play at home.
While Japanese baseball is always of a high standard, the game itself can feel almost secondary to the excitement of the crowd all with hand clappers, giant foam hands and balloons, enjoying picnics, beers and sake. We recommend sitting behind either the 1st or 3rd bases as this is where the most vocal supporters sit and where all the fun takes place!
The season starts in late March/early April and runs until October.