Did baseball arrive in Japan one year earlier than commonly believed?

Baseball’s arrival on Japan’s shores ought to be considered to have been in 1871 — one yr sooner than is often thought in Japan — a British historian argues, based mostly on two separate up to date English newspaper articles from the time a few recreation performed that yr in Yokohama.

Subsequent yr is extensively believed to mark the a hundred and fiftieth anniversary of baseball’s debut in Japan, launched by Horace Wilson, an American trainer who taught English to Japanese college students at a college later often known as Kaisei Gakko, presently the College of Tokyo. Wilson taught the game to his college students.

The Baseball Corridor of Fame and Museum in Tokyo acknowledges 1872 as the start of the game in Japan and credit Wilson, who was employed by the Japanese authorities to advertise the modernization of the nation’s schooling following the Meiji Restoration, as one of many folks accountable.

Nonetheless, Tokyo resident Mike Galbraith, 74, who has an MA in sports activities historical past and has been researching the early historical past of western sports activities in Japan since 2009, says {that a} re-evaluation of the historical past of the game ought to be performed and the earliest proof of a baseball recreation being performed in Japan included. He factors out the sport in Yokohama has been talked about by many historians.

Mike Galbraith, a sports historian and Tokyo resident, believes the 1871 game should be given greater recognition by baseball officials. | KYODO
Mike Galbraith, a sports activities historian and Tokyo resident, believes the 1871 recreation ought to be given higher recognition by baseball officers. | KYODO

“An goal historical past of any western sport in Japan ought to begin with the earliest factual proof of the game being performed,” Galbraith mentioned in an electronic mail, including that such proof would hopefully embody particulars, similar to the primary recreation and rating.

The Japan Weekly Mail, an English newspaper from these days in Yokohama, reported {that a} baseball recreation was performed on a floor on the swamp in Yokohama, close to Tokyo, on Oct. 30, 1871, between the sailors of Colorado and “9 civilians” — probably overseas residents dwelling within the Japanese port city.

In response to Galbraith, though there is no such thing as a point out of the sport being the primary performed in Japan within the story, an article revealed by the New York Herald about the identical recreation later that yr states that it was the primary performed within the nation.

“I do know of the sport performed in Yokohama in 1871,” mentioned Takahiro Sekiguchi, chief curator on the Baseball Corridor of Fame and Museum, however the museum doesn’t point out it in any of its exhibitions.

Sekiguchi defined that the museum provides appreciable significance in Japanese baseball historical past to Wilson educating his college students the sport. Whereas the 1871 match was only a one-off occasion, Wilson’s introduction led to a baseball increase amongst faculty college students throughout Tokyo within the late nineteenth century.

By way of the transmission of the game to Japanese residents, it might be truthful to say Wilson performed a key function in making baseball a nationwide pastime as seen at the moment, he defined.

A 1871 article in the Japan Weekly Mail describes what is believed to be the first baseball game played in Japan. | YOKOHAMA ARCHIVES OF HISTORY / VIA KYODO
A 1871 article within the Japan Weekly Mail describes what’s believed to be the primary baseball recreation performed in Japan. | YOKOHAMA ARCHIVES OF HISTORY / VIA KYODO

In September, the Baseball Corridor of Fame and Museum began a particular exhibition to have a good time the yr 2022 because the a hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of baseball in Japan.

Robert Whiting, a widely known American creator of a sequence of books on U.S. and Japanese baseball historical past and tradition, says the museum “ought to show a photograph of that 1871 newspaper article (the Japan Weekly Mail) in its historical past gallery,” including, “This doesn’t take away from the appreciable accomplishments of Horace Wilson.”

Galbraith additionally says he has discovered newspaper experiences and different proof that present overseas residents based the Yokohama Base Ball Membership and the Tokio Base Ball Membership in 1876, making them the primary baseball golf equipment in Japan. This runs opposite to the extensively held perception that the Shimbashi Athletic Membership established in 1878 was the primary organized baseball membership within the nation.

In response to Galbraith, the Yokohama Base Ball Membership survives at the moment as a part of the Yokohama Nation and Athletic Membership.

The Oct. 30, 1871, game between U.S. sailors and what is believed to be a team of foreign civilians took place near what is now Yokohama Park. | KYODO
The Oct. 30, 1871, recreation between U.S. sailors and what’s believed to be a group of overseas civilians befell close to what’s now Yokohama Park. | KYODO

In 2019, Galbraith performed a pivotal function within the creation of a memorial in Yokohama’s Chinatown to honor the legacy of Japanese rugby after uncovering documentary proof that the nation’s first rugby membership was established there in 1866, revising the widespread perception that the game was launched to Japan in 1899.

Galbraith’s analysis led to the World Rugby Museum in Twickenham, England, recognizing his declare that the founding of that rugby membership in Yokohama in January 1866 was the primary in Asia.

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