Does Japan Baseball Have Ties?


Japan baseball, or Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) for short, is a professional baseball league in Japan and one of the most popular sports in the country. It is known for being highly competitive and producing some of the finest players in the world. But does Japan baseball have ties to Major League Baseball (MLB) and other professional baseball leagues around the world?

History of Baseball in Japan

The sport of baseball first came to Japan in the late 19th century, brought by American teachers and students. It quickly grew in popularity and by the 1920s, it had become one of the most popular sports in the country. The first professional baseball league in Japan was founded in 1934 and was called the Japanese Baseball League (JBL). The JBL was the predecessor to the current NPB, which was founded in 1950.

American Influence on Japan Baseball

The American influence on baseball in Japan is undeniable. The rules and regulations of NPB are largely based on those of the MLB and the league has adopted many of the same customs and traditions of American baseball. For example, the NPB has adopted the American system of having two leagues with three divisions each, as well as the practice of having an All-Star Game.

The American influence on Japan baseball is also evident in the number of American players who have played in the NPB. Some of the most famous American players to have played in Japan include Don Mattingly, Randy Bass, and Kevin Youkilis. The NPB has also seen a number of Japanese players make the jump to the MLB, such as Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, and Hideo Nomo.

Major League Baseball & Japan Baseball Ties

In recent years, Major League Baseball and Japan baseball have had an increasingly close relationship. The two leagues have a reciprocal working agreement, where players from each league can move to the other for a certain period of time. In addition, MLB teams have started to invest in NPB teams, with the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, among others, all owning parts or all of NPB teams.

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The relationship between MLB and NPB has also been strengthened by the annual Japan All-Star Series, where MLB teams travel to Japan and play against teams from the NPB. This series has been running since 1986 and has featured some of the biggest names in MLB and NPB.

Exchange of Players & Coaches

In addition to the reciprocal working agreement between MLB and NPB, there has been an increase in the exchange of players and coaches between the two leagues. Every year, a number of NPB players make the jump to the MLB, with many having great success in the league. On the other hand, MLB players have also been known to make the jump to the NPB, such as former MLB All-Star Andruw Jones.

The exchange of coaches between the two leagues has also been growing in recent years. In 2015, the NPB’s Yomiuri Giants hired former MLB manager Bobby Valentine as their manager, while the MLB’s Seattle Mariners hired former NPB manager Don Wakamatsu as their bench coach.


It is clear that Japan baseball and Major League Baseball have an increasingly close relationship. The two leagues have a reciprocal working agreement and exchange of players and coaches, as well as a number of joint initiatives such as the Japan All-Star Series. It is clear that the ties between these two professional baseball leagues are only going to grow in the years to come.