Japan’s growing militarism in Asia during the 1930s put the nation on a collision course with the United States. While the two governments jousted against one another, U.S.-Japan civil society exchanges flourished like never before. While Hollywood movies and jazz music were massively popular in Japan, baseball topped the list of favorite American cultural imports for Japanese from all walks of life.

Major League Baseball (MLB), the U.S. professional organization, considered the financial risk of dispatching its top players across the Pacific for off-season exhibition tours. The construction of the first modern steel and concrete stadium in Tokyo helped solidify the decision, and the Major League All-Stars visited the country in 1931 immediately following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Three years later, the MLB tour, starring George Herman “Babe” Ruth, was welcomed by rapturous crowds.

The 1934 tour gave rise to Japan’s first professional baseball club, Dainippon Yakyu Kurabu, the forerunner of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants. Its star pitcher, 17-year-old Eiji Sawamura, astonished the visiting majors by striking out several players, including Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, in succession. Although World War II would temporarily disrupt professional baseball’s development in Japan, the public remained captivated by the sport.




米国のプロ野球組織である「メジャーリーグ・ベースボール (MLB)」は、オフシーズンの巡業ツアーで有力選手を太平洋の反対側に派遣する財政リスクを検討していました。しかし、東京で初めて近代的な鉄筋コンクリート球場が建設されたことが、派遣決定の後押しとなり、満州事変直後の1931年、MLB選抜チームが来日しました。3年後には、「ベーブ・ルース」ことジョージ・ ハーマン・ ルースといったスター選手を擁したMLBチームが日本を訪れ、熱狂的な歓迎を受けました。