PBS Premiere: July 4, 2006Check the broadcast schedule »

Koshien: More About Japanese Baseball

Kazuo Sayama

Interview with Kazuo Sayama, Baseball Historian.

The history of Japanese baseball is a little bit different from the history of American baseball. In America it developed from a children's game. In Japan, it began at a junior high school right in the middle of Tokyo which is now Tokyo University. It was in 1872, and there was an American teacher named Horace Wilson who taught English and math.

It was very important that it began inside a school. It didn't develop from games played by children. The fact that it started on the campus of Japan's most prestigious school, and that it was taught by a teacher, determined the fate of Japanese baseball.

The students of the time tended to stay in the classroom and study or debate constantly. But they didn't play any sports, and they were physically weak. They were unhealthy.

That was a problem. So [Horace Wilson] said, look, if you are going to lead Japan in the future, you have to be strong. You have to study, but you also have to be healthy. And baseball was his way of bringing the students outside and into the sun.

He just happened to know baseball, which he learned in the Civil War. That was very fortuitous for Japan. It could have been any sport. But the students loved baseball. They were fascinated.