Baseball as a Shared Pastime
“Japan’s tomorrow must lift itself up with sports, and this magazine
aims to help polish the ball of a heart of New Japan.”
Bēsubōru Magajin [Baseball Magazine], April 1946
More than seven decades prior to the Occupation, baseball was embraced by the Japanese. The sport was introduced to elite Japanese students in the early 1870s by Horace Wilson, an American educator employed by the Japanese government to teach English at Kaisei Gakkō, the precursor of Tokyo University. Baseball went on to become the most popular sport across the nation among amateurs and professionals, until worsening conditions during the war made holding games impossible. Within two months of Japan’s surrender to the Allied Powers in August 1945, professional baseball teams, as well as school teams, were playing again and quickly won enthusiastic fans. Visits by such luminaries as Lefty O’Doul, manager of the 1949 San Francisco Seals Goodwill Baseball Tour, also revitalized the sport. Both occupiers and occupied participated in this pastime and promoted the game as a symbol of reconciliation and the newly-established partnership.
San Francisco Seals
Baseball was officially sanctioned by the occupier and the occupied as the “democratic” sport of the New Japan. A goodwill tour by the San Francisco Seals in 1949 continued to mend the breach between the two previously warring parties. General MacArthur supported the tour and overruled any opposition from Washington. At the first game of the tour on October 15, the Japanese flag and the American flag flew side-by-side in Kōrakuen Stadium, and the Japanese national anthem was played publicly and on national radio for the first time since Japan’s surrender.
This promotional poster for the goodwill tour prominently displayed the flags of both nations. 48,000 spectators attended the first game on October 15 in Kōrakuen Stadium and more than a half a million Japanese and American spectators attended the series.