Since 1950, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has been the highest level of baseball in Japan. In terms of structure and schedule, NPB shares many similarities with Major League Baseball. Composed of 12 teams divided into two circuits, NPB seasons consist of 144 games that begin in late March or early April, and end in October with playoff baseball.
As with MLB, the midpoint of the Japanese baseball season is marked by All-Star festivities and ceremonies, including a multi game All-Star Series. Schedules also feature a period of interleague play between teams of the Pacific League, which employs a designated hitter and features faster-paced games, and the Central League, which offers a more traditional style of baseball and could be likened to the National League of MLB. At the end of the regular season, six teams participate in the Japanese playoff system known as the “Climax Series”.
During this tournament, the three top teams from both the Pacific League and Central League compete in three stages of playoffs. At the end of the Climax Series, the two winners from each league meet in the best-of-seven championship known as the Japan Series. This playoff system has been in use since the formation of NPB in 1950, though Japanese professional baseball dates all the way back to 1934.
Though gameplay in the NPB may differ from MLB in various ways, such as six-man pitching rotations, tie ballgames, and enforced time limits, the passion for baseball is as strong in Japan as anywhere in the world. To find out more about the culture of baseball in Japan, read about our trip! For more about the teams of NPB, including history and stadium details, follow the links to the right.