By Shane Barclay
Since 1950, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has been the highest level of baseball in Japan. Composed of 12 teams divided into two circuits, NPB seasons consist of 143 games that begin in late March or early April, and end in October with playoff baseball.
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 NPB playoffs. The second and third-place teams in each league play each other for the right to play the leagues’ two first-place teams in the “Climax Series.” At the end of the Climax Series, the two winners from each league meet in the best-of-seven championship known as the “Nippon Series” (also known as the Japan Series). This final series has decided the champions since the formation of NPB in 1950, though Japanese professional baseball dates back to 1934 with the formation of the Yomiuri Giants.
For more about NPB baseball, including team overviews and stadium profiles, follow the links in the “Japanese Baseball” dropdown menu above. Though certain aspects of NPB are unique to Japan, such as tie ballgames after 12 innings, six-man pitching rotations, bringing the outfielders in with two outs and a pivotal runner on 2nd base, and designated visiting team cheering sections, the passion for baseball is as strong – or perhaps stronger – in Japan as anywhere in the world. If you’d like to experience Japan’s unique baseball culture for yourself, consider one of our guided tours!