Nippon Professional Baseball

Nippon Professional Baseball
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2022 Nippon Professional Baseball season
NPB logo.svg
FormerlyJapanese Baseball League
Founded1950 (1950)
CEORyozo Kato
CommissionerAtsushi Saito
No. of teams12
Most recent
Tokyo Yakult Swallows
(6th title)
Most titlesYomiuri Giants (22 titles)
QualificationAsia Series (2005–2013)

Nippon Professional Baseball (日本野球機構, Nippon Yakyū Kikō) or NPB is the highest level of baseball in Japan. Locally, it is often called Puro Yakyū (プロ野球), meaning Professional Baseball.

Outside Japan, it is often just referred to as "Japanese baseball". The roots of the league can be traced back to the formation of the "Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club" (大日本東京野球倶楽部, Dai-Nippon Tōkyō Yakyū Kurabu) in Tokyo, founded in 1934, and the original circuit for the sport in the Empire two years later – Japanese Baseball League (1936–1949), and continued to play even through the final years of World War II.The league that is today's NPB for Japan was formed when that sports organization reorganized in 1950, creating two leagues with six teams each in the Central League and the Pacific League with an annual season-ending Japan Series championship play-off series of games starting that year.

League structure

Nippon Professional Baseball consists of two leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, which each have six teams. There are also two secondary-level professional minor leagues, the Eastern League and the Western League, that play shorter schedules for developing players.

The season starts in late March or early April, and ends in October, with two or three all-star games in July. In recent decades prior to 2007, the two leagues each scheduled between 130 and 140 regular season games, with the 146 games played by the Central League in 2005 and 2006 being the only exception. Both leagues have since adopted 146-game seasons, 73 each at home & on road. In general, Japanese teams play six games a week, with every Monday off.[1]

Following the conclusion of each regular season the best teams from each league go on to play in the "Nippon Series" or Japan Series championship play-off tournament.

In 2004, the Pacific League played five fewer games than the Central League teams during the regular season and used a new playoff format to determine its champion (and which team would advance to the Japan Series). The teams in third and second place played in a best-of-three series (all at the second place team's home ground) with the winner of that series going on to play the first place team in a best-of-five format at its home ground. In 2007, the Central League adopted the Pacific League's tournament as well, and the tournament became known as the Climax Series with the two winners, one from each league, competing in the Japan Series.

Financial problems

Financial problems plague many teams in the league. It is believed that with the exception of the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, all teams are operating with considerable subsidies, often as much as ¥6 billion (about US$73 million), from their parent companies. A raise in the salaries of players is often blamed, but, from the start of the professional league, parent companies paid the difference as an advertisement. Most teams have never tried to improve their finances through constructive marketing. In addition, teams in the Central League historically saw much higher profits than the Pacific League, having popular teams such as the Giants and Tigers.[2]

The number of metropolitan areas represented in the league increased from four to five in 1988, when the Nankai Hawks (now Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) moved to Fukuoka; and to seven between 2003 and 2005, as the Nippon-Ham Fighters moved to Hokkaidō and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes merged with the Orix BlueWave (becoming the Orix Buffaloes) and were replaced by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Until 1993, baseball was the only team sport played professionally in Japan. In that year, the J.League professional football league was founded. The new football league placed teams in prefectural capitals around the country—rather than clustering them in and around Tokyo—and the teams were named after their locations rather than after corporate sponsors.

The wave of players moving to Major League Baseball, which began with Hideo Nomo "retiring" from the Kintetsu Buffaloes, then signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has also added to the financial problems. Attendance suffered as teams lost their most marketable players, while TV ratings declined as viewers tuned into broadcasts of Major League games.[3] To discourage players from leaving to play in North America, or to at least compensate teams that lose players, Japanese baseball and MLB agreed on a posting system for players under contract. MLB teams wishing to negotiate with a player submit bids for a "posting fee", which the winning MLB team would pay the Japanese team if the player signs with the MLB team. Free agents are not subject to the posting system, however.[4]



The first professional baseball team in Japan was founded by media mogul Matsutarō Shōriki in late 1934 and called the Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Kurabu ("the Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club"). After matching up with a team of visiting American All-Stars that included Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Charlie Gehringer, the team spent the 1935 season barnstorming in the U.S., winning 93 of 102 games against semi-pro and Pacific Coast League teams. According to historian Joseph Reaves, "The only minor drawbacks to the team's popularity in the States were their kanji characters and their cumbersome Japanese name. They rectified both by renaming themselves the Tokyo Kyojin ['Tokyo Giants'] and adopting a uniform identical to the New York Giants…"[5]

From 1936 to 1950, professional baseball in Japan was played under the banner of the Japanese Baseball League (JBL). The league's dominant team during this period was the Tokyo Kyojin, which won nine league championships, including six in a row from 1938 to 1943. (The team was officially renamed the Yomiuri Giants in 1947.)

NPB establishment

After the 1949 season, the JBL team owners reorganized into the NPB; Daiei Stars owner Masaichi Nagata promoted a two-league system, which became the Pacific League (initially called the Taiheiyo Baseball Union) and the Central League. (Nagata became the first president of the Pacific League.)[6] The league now known as Nippon Pro Baseball began play in the 1950 season.

Four JBL teams formed the basis of the Central League: the Chunichi Dragons, the Hanshin Tigers, the Yomiuri Giants, and the Shochiku Robins (formerly the Taiyō Robins). To fill out the league, four new teams were formed: the Hiroshima Carp, the Kokutetsu Swallows, the Nishi Nippon Pirates, and the Taiyō Whales.

Four JBL teams formed the basis of the Pacific League: the Hankyu Braves, the Nankai Hawks, the Daiei Stars, and the Tokyu Flyers. To fill out the league, three new teams were formed: the Kintetsu Pearls, the Mainichi Orions, and the Nishitetsu Clippers.

Matsutarō Shōriki, the Giants' owner, acted as NPB's unofficial commissioner and oversaw the first Japan Series, which featured the Mainichi Orions defeating the Shochiku Robins 4 games to 2.

Expansion and contraction

The Central League's Nishi Nippon Pirates existed for one season — they placed sixth in 1950, and the following season merged with the Nishitetsu Clippers (also based in Fukuoka) to form the Nishitetsu Lions. This brought the number of Central League teams down to an ungainly arrangement of seven. In 1952, it was decided that any Central League team ending the season with a winning percentage below .300 would be disbanded or merged with other teams. The Shochiku Robins fell into this category, and were merged with the Taiyō Whales to become the Taiyō Shochiku Robins in January 1953. This enabled the Central League to shrink to an even number of six teams.

In 1954 a new Pacific League team was founded, the Takahashi Unions, to increase the number of teams in that division to eight. Although the team was stocked with players from the other Pacific League teams, the Unions struggled from the outset and finished in the second division every season. In 1957, the Unions were merged with the Daiei Stars to form the Daiei Unions (and again bringing the number of Pacific League teams down to seven). The Unions existed for a single season, finishing in last place, 43-1/2 games out of first. In 1958, the Unions merged with the Mainichi Orions to form the Daimai Orions. This enabled the Pacific League to contract from the ungainly seven-team arrangement to six teams.

After these various franchise developments, by the end of the 1950s Nippon Professional Baseball had contracted from the initial allotment of 15 teams down to the current number of 12.

1960s and 1970s

On September 1, 1964, Nankai Hawks' prospect Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to play in Major League Baseball[7] when he appeared on the mound for the San Francisco Giants; he returned to Japan in 1966. Disputes over the rights to his contract eventually led to the 1967 United States – Japanese Player Contract Agreement; it would be almost 30 years before another Japanese player played in the Major Leagues.

Continuing their dominance from the JBL, the Yomiuri Giants won nine consecutive Japan Series championships from 1965 to 1973.

The Black Mist Scandal rocked Nippon Professional Baseball between 1969 and 1971. The fallout from a series of game-fixing scandals resulted in several star players receiving long suspensions, salary cuts, or being banned from professional play entirely; the resulting abandonment of baseball by many fans in Japan also led to the sale of the Nishitetsu Lions and the Toei Flyers.

From 1973 to 1982, in a forerunner to today's Climax Series playoff rounds, the Pacific League employed a split season with the first-half winner playing against the second-half winner in a mini-playoff to determine its champion. In 1975, the Pacific League adopted the designated hitter rule.

1980s and the "Invincible Seibu"

After being a second division team for much of the 1960s and 1970s, in 1983 the Seibu Lions began a period of sustained success. The team gained the moniker "Invincible Seibu" during the 1980s and 1990s due to their sustained domination of the league, winning 11 league championships and eight Japan Series championships between 1982 and 1994. The Lions had a powerful lineup in this period, loaded with sluggers such as Koji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, and Orestes Destrade. Their defense also benefited from the services of skilled players such as Hiromichi Ishige, Hatsuhiko Tsuji and catcher Tsutomu Ito. Among the pitchers employed by the Lions in this period was "The Oriental Express" Taigen Kaku, Osamu Higashio, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Hisanobu Watanabe, and relievers Yoshitaka Katori and Tetsuya Shiozaki.

American expatriate players made their mark in NPB in the 1980s, with players like the Lee brothers (Leron Lee and Leon Lee), Greg "Boomer" Wells, Randy Bass, and Ralph Bryant playing key roles on their NPB teams.

Hideo Nomo and the exodus to MLB

In 1995, star pitcher Hideo Nomo "retired" from the Kintetsu Buffaloes and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nomo pitched over the span of 14 seasons in the Major Leagues before retiring in 2008. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1995. He twice led the league in strikeouts, and also threw two no-hitters (the only Japanese pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Major League Baseball until Hisashi Iwakuma achieved the feat in August 2015). Nomo's MLB success led to more NPB players moving to Major League Baseball,[8] and eventually led to the creation of the "posting system" in 1998.[9]

Since Nomo's exodus, more than 60 NPB players have played Major League Baseball. Some of the more notable examples include:

  • Ichiro Suzuki – after nine years with the Orix BlueWave, in 2001 Ichiro was posted by the BlueWave and claimed by MLB's Seattle Mariners. The first Japanese-born position player to be signed to the major leagues,[10] Ichiro led the American League (AL) in batting average and stolen bases en route to being named AL Rookie of the Year and AL Most Valuable Player. Ichiro, a member of MLB's 3,000-hit club, has established a number of MLB batting records, including the single-season record for hits with 262. He had ten consecutive 200-hit seasons, the longest streak by any player in history. Between his career hits in Japan's and America's major leagues, Ichiro has the most all-time top-flight hits.
  • Hideki Matsui – the slugger played ten seasons for the Yomiuri Giants, and then in 2003 moved to MLB, where he starred for the New York Yankees for seven more seasons, including being named the Most Valuable Player for the 2009 World Series. He was the first power hitter from Japan to succeed in Major League Baseball.
  • Kazuhiro Sasaki — a closer famed for his splitter, known as "The Fang". In 2000, he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award after saving 37 games for the Mariners. In 2001, he was a vital contributor to the Mariners' extremely strong team that won an American League record 116 games, of which he saved 45. In 2001 and 2002, he was an All-Star. After 2003, he returned to Japan to pitch in the NPB until his retirement in 2005.
  • Kazuo Matsui – after eight stellar seasons with the Seibu Lions, Matsui signed with the New York Mets on December 15, 2003, in 2004 becoming the first Japanese infielder to play with a Major League Baseball team.[11] His seven seasons in Major League Baseball were not as successful, and he later returned to NPB.
  • Shohei Ohtani – a two-way player who was a five-time All-Star while playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.[12] Ohtani holds the record for fastest pitch in NPB history at 165 km/h (102.5 mph).[13] After signing with the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani won the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year award. In 2021, he became the first player in MLB history to be named an All-Star as both a pitcher and a position player.[14] After the conclusion of the season, Ohtani was unanimously named the AL Most Valuable Player.

Merger and strike of 2004

In September 2004, the professional Japanese players went on strike for the first time in over 70 years. The strike arose from a dispute that took place between the owners of the 12 professional Japanese baseball teams and the players' union (which was led by popular Yakult Swallows player-manager Atsuya Furuta), concerning the merging of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix BlueWave. The owners wanted to get rid of the financially defunct Buffaloes, and merge the two baseball leagues, since teams in the Central League saw much higher profits than the Pacific League, having popular teams such as the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers. After negotiations, the owners agreed to guarantee the survival of the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, leaving the Central League with six teams and the Pacific League with five.

A battle escalated between the players union and the owners, and reached its height when Yomiuri Giants owner Tsuneo Watanabe controversially remarked that Furuta was "a mere player,"[15] implying that players had no say in what league would look like the next year. The dispute received huge press coverage (which mostly favored Furuta and the players' union) and was dubbed one of the biggest events in the history of Japanese baseball. Proposals and amendments concerning interleague games, player drafting, and management were also discussed between the players union and the owners during this period.

The strike was originally planned for all Saturday and Sunday games that month, starting from September 11, but was pushed back due to the agreement of another meeting between the union and the owners on September 10. The players decided to strike on September 18–19, 2004, when no progress was made in the negotiations, as there was insufficient time left in the season to hold discussions.

The dispute officially ended after the two groups reached consensus on September 23, 2004. As part of the agreement, the Buffaloes were allowed to merge with the Blue Wave (forming into the Orix Buffaloes); in addition, the Rakuten Golden Eagles were newly created (at a reduced "entry fee") to keep the former six-team league structure. Other agreements included the leagues adopting interleague play to help the Pacific League gain exposure by playing the more popular Central league teams. All these changes took place before the 2005 season.

Interleague play

The two leagues began interleague play in 2005, with each team playing two three-game series (one home, one away) against each of the six teams in the other league. This was reduced to two two-game series in 2007. All interleague play games are played in a seven-week span near the middle of the season.

As of the end of the 2017 season, the Pacific League has won the most games in interleague play since it began in 2005 twelve times, with 2009 being the only time that the Central League has won more games.

League championship series/Climax Series

After 2004, a three-team playoff system was introduced in the Pacific League, dubbed the "Pacific League Championship Series." The teams with the second- and third-best records play in the three-game first stage, with the winner advancing to the five-game final against the top team. The winner becomes the representative of the Pacific League to the Japan Series.

Since the Pacific League won every Japan Series after introducing this league playoff system, an identical system was introduced to the Central League in 2007, and the post-season intra-league games were renamed the "Climax Series" in both leagues. Player statistics and drafting order based on team records are not affected by these postseason games.

Recent history

In 2011 Miyagi Baseball Stadium, home of the Rakuten Eagles, was badly damaged by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[16]

The 2013 season featured a livelier baseball which was secretly introduced into NPB, resulting in a marked increase in home runs league-wide.[17] Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder Wladimir Balentien broke the NPB single-season home run record of 55, previously held by professional baseball's all-time home run leader Sadaharu Oh in 1964, Tuffy Rhodes in 2001, and Alex Cabrera in 2002.[18] Balantien finished the season with 60 home runs. Three-term NPB commissioner Ryōzō Katō was forced to resign over the scandal when the changed baseball was revealed.[17]

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed expanding NPB to 16 total teams by adding two expansion franchises in each of the country's top-tier professional baseball leagues. The goal of such a move would be to energize the economies of the regions receiving the new teams. Okinawa, Shizuoka, Shikoku, and Niigata have been identified as regions that could play host to said teams.[19]

The 2020 NPB season was delayed numerous times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially preseason games were set to be played without spectators, but with opening day of March 20 remaining unchanged.[20] With the lifting of states of emergency over major Japanese cities, NPB announced that it would begin its regular season on 19 June behind closed doors. "Warm-up" games began 26 May.[21] The shortened 120-game regular season began on 19 June.[22] On 10 July NPB began allowing a limited number of fans to attend games, with plans to further ease restrictions in the near future.[23] On 19 September, attendance was expanded to a maximum of 20,000 fans per game, or 50% of stadium capacity.[24]

Expatriate baseball players in Japan

For most of its history, NPB regulations imposed "gaijin waku", a limit on the number of non-Japanese people per team to two or three — including the manager and/or coaching staff.[25] Even today, a team cannot have more than four foreign players on a 25-man game roster, although there is no limit on the number of foreign players that it may sign. If there are four, they cannot all be pitchers nor all be position players.[25] This limits the cost and competition for expensive players of other nationalities, and is similar to rules in many European sports leagues' roster limits on non-European players.

Nonetheless, expatriate baseball players in Japan have been a feature of the Japanese professional leagues since 1934. Hundreds of foreigners — particularly Americans — have played NPB. Taiwanese nationals Shosei Go and Hiroshi Oshita both starred in the 1940s. American players began to steadily find spots on NPB rosters in the 1960s. American players hold several NPB records, including highest career batting average (Leron Lee, .334), highest single-season batting average (Randy Bass, .389), and the dubious record of most strikeouts in a season by a hitter (Ralph Bryant, 204). Americans rank #3 (Tuffy Rhodes, 55) and #5 (Randy Bass, 54) on the list of most home runs in a season, and #2 in single-season RBI (Bobby Rose, 153). CuraçaoanDutch outfielder Wladimir Balentien holds the NPB single-season home run record with 60 round-trippers in 2013.

Koreans have had an impact in the NPB as well, including such standout players as Lee Seung-yuop, Sun Dong-yol, Baek In-chun, Lee Jong-beom, and Dae-ho Lee. Venezuelans Alex Ramírez, Alex Cabrera, Bobby Marcano, and Roberto Petagine all had long, successful NPB careers. The Dominican third-baseman José Fernández played eleven years in the NPB, compiling a .282 batting average with 206 home runs and 772 runs batted in.

Many of the most celebrated foreign players came to Japan after not finding success in the Major Leagues; see "Big in Japan".

Since the 1970s, foreigners have also made an impact in Nippon Professional Baseball's managing and coaching ranks, with Americans Bobby Valentine and Trey Hillman managing their respective teams to Japan Series championships.


Central League
Chunichi DragonsNagoya, AichiVantelin Dome Nagoya40,50019371950
Hanshin TigersNishinomiya, HyōgoHanshin Koshien Stadium47,75719351950
Hiroshima Toyo CarpHiroshima, HiroshimaMazda Stadium32,0001950
Tokyo Yakult SwallowsShinjuku, TokyoMeiji Jingu Stadium37,9331950
Yokohama DeNA BayStarsYokohama, KanagawaYokohama Stadium30,0001950
Yomiuri GiantsBunkyō, TokyoTokyo Dome46,00019341950
Pacific League
Chiba Lotte MarinesChiba, ChibaZOZO Marine Stadium30,0001950
Fukuoka SoftBank HawksFukuoka, FukuokaPayPay Dome38,56119381950
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham FightersSapporo, HokkaidōSapporo Dome40,47619461950
Orix BuffaloesDivided between Osaka, Osaka and Kobe, HyōgoKyocera Dome Osaka and Hotto Motto Field Kobe36,477 and 35,00019361950
Saitama Seibu LionsTokorozawa, SaitamaBelluna Dome33,9211950
Tohoku Rakuten Golden EaglesSendai, MiyagiRakuten Seimei Park Miyagi30,5082005

Note: Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters have home stadiums in both teams' home cities planned for after the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo. The Fighters are constructing ES CON Field and plan to inaugurate the stadium in 2023,[26] while the Swallows plan to finish their new stadium, located next to its current stadium in 2030.[27][28][29]

Defunct Clubs
TeamCityStadiumFoundedCeased OperationsNotes
Nishi Nippon PiratesFukuoka, FukuokaHeiwadai Stadium19501950Merged with the Nishitetsu Clippers (now known as the Saitama Seibu Lions)
Shochiku RobinsKyoto, KyotoKinugasa Stadium19361952Merged with the Taiyo Whales (now known as the Yokohama DeNA BayStars)
Takahashi UnionsKawasaki, KanagawaKawasaki Stadium19541956Merged with the Daiei Stars (later known as the Daiei Unions)
Daiei UnionsBunkyō, TokyoKorakuen Stadium19461957Merged with the Mainichi Orions (now known as the Chiba Lotte Marines)
Kintetsu BuffaloesOsaka, OsakaOsaka Dome19492004Merged with the Orix BlueWave (now known as the Orix Buffaloes)

Franchise locations

Locations are listed from north to south. Only the most prominent names of each franchise are listed.

Sapporo Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL), 2004–present
Sendai Lotte Orions (PL), 1973–1977 Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (PL), 2005–present
Greater TokyoKokutetsu Swallows / Sankei Atoms / Yakult Swallows (CL), 1950–present
Yomiuri Giants (CL), 1950–present
Toei Flyers / Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL), 1950–2003
Mainichi/Daimai/Tokyo/Lotte Orions (PL), 1950–1972 Lotte Orions / Chiba Lotte Marines (PL), 1978–present
 Takahashi Unions (PL), 1954–1956Daiei Unions (PL), 1957 Saitama Seibu Lions (PL), 1979–present
Daiei Stars (PL), 1950–1956
 Taiyo Whales / Yokohama BayStars (CL), 1955–present
NagoyaChunichi Dragons (CL), 1950–present
Greater OsakaHanshin Tigers (CL), 1950–present
Hankyu Braves / Orix BlueWave (PL), 1950–2004Orix Buffaloes (PL), 2005–present
Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (PL), 1950–2004
Nankai Hawks (PL), 1950–1988
Shochiku Robins (CL), 1950–1954
HiroshimaHiroshima Toyo Carp (CL), 1950–present
ShimonosekiTaiyo Whales (CL), 1950–1952
FukuokaNishitetsu Lions (PL), 1950–1978 Fukuoka Daiei/SoftBank Hawks (PL), 1989–present
Nishi Nippon Pirates (CL), 1950


TeamChampionsRunners-upWinning seasonsRunners-up seasons
Yomiuri Giants22141951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1981, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2009, 20121956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1976, 1977, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1996, 2008, 2013, 2019, 2020
Saitama Seibu Lions1381956, 1957, 1958, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2004, 20081954, 1963, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2002
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks1191959, 1964, 1999, 2003, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 20201951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1973, 2000
Tokyo Yakult Swallows621978, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001, 20211992, 2015
Orix Buffaloes491975, 1976, 1977, 19961967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1978, 1984, 1995, 2021
Chiba Lotte Marines421950, 1974, 2005, 20101960, 1970
Hiroshima Toyo Carp341979, 1980, 19841975, 1986, 1991, 2016, 2018
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters341962, 2006, 20161981, 2007, 2009, 2012
Chunichi Dragons281954, 20071974, 1982, 1988, 1999, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011
Yokohama DeNA BayStars211960, 19982017
Hanshin Tigers1519851962, 1964, 2003, 2005, 2014
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles102013
Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes041979, 1980, 1989, 2001
Shochiku Robins011950



Single season batting

Central LeaguePacific LeagueOverall
Batting average
United States Randy Bass.3891986Japan Ichiro Suzuki.3872000United States Randy Bass.3891986
United States Warren Cromartie.37811989Japan Ichiro Suzuki.3851994Japan Ichiro Suzuki.3872000
Japan Seiichi Uchikawa.37802008South Korea Isao Harimoto a .3831970Japan Ichiro Suzuki.3851994
Home Runs
Netherlands Wladimir Balentien b 602013United States Tuffy Rhodes552001Netherlands Wladimir Balentien602013
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh c 551964Venezuela Alex Cabrera552002Taiwan Sadaharu Oh551964
United States Randy Bass541985Japan Katsuya Nomura521963United States Tuffy Rhodes552001
Japan Hiromitsu Ochiai521985Venezuela Alex Cabrera552002
Japan Makoto Kozuru1611950Japan Hiromitsu Ochiai1461985Japan Makoto Kozuru1611950
United States Bobby Rose1531999Japan Katsuya Nomura1351963United States Bobby Rose1531999
Japan Makoto Imaoka1472005Japan Norihiro Nakamura1322001Japan Makoto Imaoka1472005
United States Matt Murton2142010Japan Shogo Akiyama2162015Japan Shogo Akiyama2162015
Japan Nori Aoki2092010Japan Ichiro Suzuki2101994United States Matt Murton2142010
Venezuela Alex Ramírez d 2042007Japan Tsuyoshi Nishioka2062010Japan Ichiro Suzuki2101994
Stolen Bases
Japan Tadashi Matsumoto761983Japan Yutaka Fukumoto1061972Japan Yutaka Fukumoto1061972
Japan Jiro Kanayama741950Japan Yutaka Fukumoto951973Japan Yutaka Fukumoto951973
Japan Yoshihiko Takahashi731985Japan Yutaka Fukumoto941974Japan Yutaka Fukumoto941974
Japan Munetaka Murakami1842019United States Ralph Bryant2041993United States Ralph Bryant2041993
Japan Akinori Iwamura1732004United States Ralph Bryant1981990United States Ralph Bryant1981990
Japan Teruaki Sato1732021United States Ralph Bryant1871989United States Ralph Bryant1871989

a Harimoto is a Korean citizen who was born and grew up in Japan (see Zainichi Korean).
b As all Curaçaoans have Dutch citizenship and Balentien has represented the Netherlands internationally, he is listed here as Dutch.
c Despite being born in Japan, Oh was a citizen of the Republic of China (his father's nationality) instead of Japan.
d Ramirez did not have Japanese citizenship until 2019 and so is listed as the nationality he was during his playing career.

Single season pitching

Central LeaguePacific LeagueOverall
Japan Minoru Murayama0.981970Japan Kazuhisa Inao1.061956Japan Minoru Murayama d 0.981970
Japan Minoru Murayama1.191959Japan Masahiro Tanaka1.2722011Japan Kazuhisa Inao1.061956
Japan Minoru Murayama1.201962Japan Masahiro Tanaka1.2732013Japan Minoru Murayama1.191959
Japan Juzo Sanada391950Japan Kazuhisa Inao421961Japan Kazuhisa Inao e 421961
Japan Hiroshi Gondo351961Japan Tadashi Sugiura381959Japan Juzo Sanada391950
Japan Takehiko Bessho331952Japan Kazuhisa Inao351957Japan Tadashi Sugiura381959
Japan Hitoki Iwase462005United States Dennis Sarfate542017United States Dennis Sarfate542017
Japan Kyuji Fujikawa462007United States Dennis Sarfate432016Japan Hitoki Iwase462005
Japan Kazuhiro Sasaki451998United States Dennis Sarfate412015Japan Kyuji Fujikawa462007
Japan Yutaka Enatsu4011968Japan Kazuhisa Inao3531961Japan Yutaka Enatsu4011968
South Korea Masaichi Kaneda f 3501955Japan Tadashi Sugiura3361959Japan Kazuhisa Inao3531961
Japan Yutaka Enatsu3401970Japan Kazuhisa Inao3341958South Korea Masaichi Kaneda3501955

d The Japanese record is 0.73, set by Hideo Fujimoto in the 1943 Japanese Baseball League season, which is also the world record ERA, surpassing Tim Keefe's 0.86 of the Troy Trojans in 1880.
e The Japanese record is shared between Inao and Victor Starffin, who also recorded 42 wins during the 1942 Japanese Baseball League season.
f Despite being born in Japan, Kaneda did not become a Japanese citizen until 1959 and was instead a South Korean citizen.

Career batting

PlayerYears played
Batting average[30]
Japan Norichika Aoki.3252004–2011, 2018–present
United States Leron Lee.3201977–1987
Japan Tsutomu Wakamatsu.319181971–1989
South Korea Isao Harimoto.319151959–1981
Home Runs
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh8681959–1980
Japan Katsuya Nomura6571954–1980
Japan Hiromitsu Kadota5671970–1992
South Korea Isao Harimoto30851959–1981
Japan Katsuya Nomura29011954–1980
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh27861959–1980
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh21701959–1980
Japan Katsuya Nomura19881954–1980
Japan Hiromitsu Kadota16781970–1992
Stolen Bases
Japan Yutaka Fukumoto10651969–1988
Japan Yoshinori Hirose5961955–1977
Japan Isao Shibata5791962–1981
Japan Kazuhiro Kiyohara19551986–2008
Japan Motonobu Tanishige18381989-2015
Japan Koji Akiyama17121981–2002
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh1.0801959–1980
Japan Hideki Matsui.9951993–2002
Venezuela Alex Cabrera.9902001–2012

Career pitching

PlayerYears played
Japan Hideo Fujimoto1.901942–1955
Japan Masaichi Kaneda4001950–1969
Japan Tetsuya Yoneda3501956–1977
Japan Masaaki Koyama3201953–1973
Japan Keishi Suzuki3171966–1985
Japan Takehiko Bessho3101942–1960
Soviet Union Victor Starffin3031936–1955
Japan Masaichi Kaneda44901950–1969
Japan Tetsuya Yoneda33881956–1977
Japan Masaaki Koyama31591953–1973
Japan Keishi Suzuki30611966–1985
Japan Hitoki Iwase4071999–2018
Japan Shingo Takatsu2861991–2003, 2006–2007
Japan Kazuhiro Sasaki2521990–1999, 2004–2005

ERA champions

Perfect games

DatePitcher (Club)ScoreOpponentBallpark
June 28, 1950Hideo Fujimoto (Yomiuri Giants)4–0Nishi-Nippon PiratesAomori Stadium
June 19, 1955Fumio Takechi (Kintetsu Pearls)1–0Daiei StarsŌsaka Stadium
September 19, 1956Yoshitomo Miyaji (Kokutetsu Swallows)6–0Hiroshima CarpKanazawa Stadium
August 21, 1957Masaichi Kaneda (Kokutetsu Swallows)1–0Chunichi DragonsChunichi Stadium
July 19, 1958Sadao Nishimura (Nishitetsu Lions)1–0Toei FlyersKomazawa Stadium
August 11, 1960Gentaro Shimada (Taiyō Whales)1–0Ōsaka TigersKawasaki Stadium
June 20, 1961Yoshimi Moritaki (Kokutetsu Swallows)1–0Chunichi DragonsKorakuen Stadium
May 1, 1966Yoshiro Sasaki (Taiyō Whales)1–0Hiroshima CarpHiroshima Municipal Stadium
May 12, 1966Tsutomu Tanaka (Nishitetsu Lions)2–0Nankai HawksHeiwadai Stadium
September 14, 1968Yoshiro Sotokoba (Hiroshima Toyo Carp)2–0Taiyō WhalesHiroshima Municipal Stadium
October 6, 1970Koichiro Sasaki (Kintetsu Buffaloes)3–0Nankai HawksŌsaka Stadium
August 21, 1971Yoshimasa Takahashi (Toei Flyers)4–0Nishitetsu LionsKorakuen Stadium
October 10, 1973Soroku Yagisawa (Lotte Orions)1–0Taiheiyo Club LionsMiyagi Stadium
August 31, 1978Yutaro Imai (Hankyu Braves)5–0Lotte OrionsMiyagi Stadium
May 18, 1994Hiromi Makihara (Yomiuri Giants)6–0Hiroshima Toyo CarpFukuoka Dome
November 1, 2007Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons)1–0†Hokkaido Nippon-Ham FightersNagoya Dome
April 10, 2022Rōki Sasaki (Chiba Lotte Marines)6–0Orix BuffaloesZozo Marine Stadium
  • †: 5th game of Japan Series; In NPB, no-hitters or perfect games achieved by multiple pitchers in one game are considered unofficial. However, it is recognized by the WBSC (World Baseball Softball Confederation, the international governing body of baseball) as a perfect game.

International play

Since 1986 an All-Star team from Major League Baseball (MLB) is sent to a biennial end-of-the-season tour of Japan, dubbed as MLB Japan All-Star Series, playing exhibition games in a best-of format against the All-Stars from NPB or recently as of 2014 the national team Samurai Japan.

The latest series also celebrated the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Japan's professional baseball by holding an exhibition game of a joint team of Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants against the MLB All-Stars at the Koshien Stadium on November 11, 2014.

Agreement and systems

  • Nippon Professional Baseball Agreement
  • Registered as an under controlled player
  • Developmental squad player system

See also


  1. ^ Waldstein, David. "Ace Favors Fewer Starts to Protect Pitchers' Arms: Rangers' Yu Darvish Pushes for a Six-Man Pitching Rotation," New York Times (July 21, 2014).
  2. ^ "Tokyo Yomiuri Giants | Team Information". Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  3. ^ McKillop, Peter (18 May 2001). "Letter from Japan: Go West, Young Man". TIME. Archived from the original on March 22, 2005.
  4. ^ Axisa, Mike (29 October 2016). "Focus shifts to Shohei Otani posting decision after Fighters win Japan Series".
  5. ^ Reaves, Joseph A. Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia (U. of Nebraska Press, 2002), p. 77.
  6. ^ "Nagata, Masaichi". Hall of Famers List. The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Archived from the original on 1 January 2020. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  7. ^ Kleinberg, Alexander (December 24, 2001). "Where have you gone, Masanori Murakami?". Major League Baseball. Archived from the original on August 18, 2002. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
  8. ^ "Nomo Retires from Baseball", News,, The Associated Press, July 17, 2008, archived from the original on 23 May 2016
  9. ^ Whiting, Robert (April 2004). The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of our National Pastime. Warner Books.ISBN 0-446-53192-8. p. 146.
  10. ^ "Players by birthplace: Japan Baseball Stats and Info". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  11. ^ "The Official Site of The Colorado Rockies: Official Info" (Press release). Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved December 22, 2011.
  12. ^ "Shohei Ohtani first Japanese player voted to start in All-Star Game since 2010". The Japan Times. July 2, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  13. ^ Wertheim, Jon (April 6, 2017). "Shohei Ohtani is a two-way superstar who could change the face of baseball". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  14. ^ Salvador, Joseph (July 4, 2021). "Ohtani Makes History as MLB Finalizes All-Star Rosters". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  15. ^ "He's Back, We're on TV, and Your Reading Assignment". 13 June 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16.
  16. ^ Kスタ宮城の復旧工事開始 完了まで約5週間 [Restoration work for K-STA Miyagi started, approximately 5 weeks until completion]. Sports Nippon (in Japanese). March 22, 2011. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  17. ^ a b "Ryozo Kato resigns as commish," (September 19, 2013).
  18. ^ Berry, Adam (September 15, 2013). "Balentien breaks Oh's Japanese home run record". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  19. ^ "Japan's new plan to beat deflation – more baseball". thestaronline. 2014-05-20. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  20. ^ "Japanese baseball to play remainder of preseason without spectators due to virus fears". The Japan Times Online. 2020-02-26. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  21. ^ Tarrant, Jack (May 25, 2020). "Baseball-Japan's baseball league to start on June 19". National Post. Reuters. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  22. ^ "After three-month virus delay, Japan opens its shortened baseball season". Associated Press. 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  23. ^ "お待たせ!プロ野球7・10に6球場一斉観客解禁…上限5000人". June 23, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-10-06. Retrieved 2020-11-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ a b "Foreign Player Restrictions?". Japanese Baseball.
  26. ^ Announcement on the official names of the new ballpark and its surrounding district NH Fighters Press Release, Jan 2020
  27. ^ (In Japanese)
  28. ^ Fighters could start trend with building of own stadium Japan Times, 2016
  29. ^ Nippon Ham Fighters select Kitahiroshima for new stadium, Yakyu DB 10/31/2018
  30. ^ Ichiro Suzuki hit .353 for his Japanese career (1993–2000), but did not have enough at-bats to qualify for career leadership.

Further reading

  • Fitts, Robert K. (2005). Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game. Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-2630-2.
  • Johnson, Daniel (2006). Japanese Baseball: A Statistical Handbook. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-2841-4.
  • Whiting, Robert (2005). The Samurai Way of Baseball: The Impact of Ichiro and the New Wave from Japan. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69403-7.
  • Whiting, Robert (1990). You Gotta Have Wa. Vintage. ISBN 0-679-72947-X.

External links

Media files used on this page

Translation to english arrow.svg
(c) Tkgd2007 at en.wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0
This is a one-way "translation arrow" icon, drawn by myself in the style of, and modeled after :Image:Translation_arrow.svg. It is meant to more accurately illustrate the process of translating from one regional written language into english
Baseball current event.svg
Author/Creator: , Licence: LGPL
Baseball with clock to represent a "current sports or baseball event".
Flag of the United States.svg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: PD
Flag of Japan.svg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: PD
Author/Creator: vedub4us, Licence: CC0
SVG drawing of a baseball.
Npb teams map.svg
Author/Creator: , Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Location map of Japan Equirectangular projection. Geographic limits to locate objects in the main map with the main islands: * N: 45°51'37" N (45.86°N) * S: 30°01'13" N (30.02°N) * W: 128°14'24" E (128.24°E) * E: 149°16'13" E (149.27°E) Geographic limits to locate objects in the side map with the Ryukyu Islands: * N: 39°32'25" N (39.54°N) * S: 23°42'36" N (23.71°N) * W: 110°25'49" E (110.43°E) * E: 131°26'25" E (131.44°E)