After 250 years of Japan’s self-imposed diplomatic isolation, baseball reached its shores on the waves of Westernization that swept across the nation in the 1870s. Beginning with Horace Wilson, young American oyatoi, foreigners hired by the Meiji government, introduced the team sport to Japanese youth.

In the 1880s, Japan’s overseas labor migration began in earnest, and this stream of individuals, along with their love of baseball, traversed the Pacific. Settling in Hawaii and along the West Coast, these Japanese immigrants and their children formed town baseball teams, just like their American neighbors. Businessmen, engineers, and study-abroad students, such as Hiraoka Hiroshi, also brought back from the United States knowledge, techniques, and equipment for playing the game.

With the opening of regular transpacific maritime routes, baseball exchange between the United States and Japan increased in the 1900s and 1910s. Among those who formed this expanding sporting fraternity were U.S. Navy teams, American expatriates living in Japan, and both American and Japanese collegiate squads. Waseda’s Suishū Tobita managed his squad with an intensity that was soon adopted by other coaches and defined Japanese baseball. By the turn of the century, the vernacular word for baseball, yakyu, was coined and became part of the Japanese lexicon, symbolizing the indigenization of this American cultural practice.