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So your kid thinks they might like to start playing baseball in Japan?

Updated: Mar 4


If you live in Japan and have a baseball loving child who is begging you to start baseball, then this is the blog post for you! Read more to find out what it's really like to be involved a kid's baseball team in Japan.

My son started to show an interest at about 3 years old. We have video evidence of him jumping up and down with excitement the first time he hit a ball with a baseball bat. Fast forward to two years ago and he was regularly begging us to let him join a baseball team. At the time he was doing a very intro level soccer, which involved one hour a week and it took 15 minutes to get there by car. Then he discovered the magical sport of baseball and was obsessed. Our family lives in Fukushima but we support the Hanshin Tigers which have a huge following in the Kansai area, rather than here in Tohoku where many are either Giants (Tokyo) or Eagle fans (Sendai).

At the start of second grade here in Japan the begging had become hard to ignore so when a flyer from a team that practiced close to us appeared in my son's hand one day after school offering a "体験会" or trial training, we decided why not give it a go. Suddenly all the bravado and excitement was replaced by terror and he almost refused to go. However, both my husband and I decided that he would regret not trying even though it was scary for him so my husband took him to the trial training.

Well, two years on you can see that he joined and he is now a confident although still smaller member of the team. If I could go back two years, would we change what we did and start him at the start of second grade? I think we would. We also now know that the first year is going to be mostly just building up some stamina and strength and so to just do what you can. There is no need to attend every single training and every single tournament. Unfortunately, "participation" often looks like standing on the side line for hours when you are a new or smaller team member. Winning at all costs is still important even for these kids who range in age from 6-12. So it's good to just do what you can and what is doable for your family. You might need to have a bit of guts not to do what everyone else is doing! This was a stark contrast for me as a non-Japanese parent coming from New Zealand. I had to swallow a lot of opinions! But in the end, it's up to each family to decide how much they can and want to commit.

What should we ask when joining a baseball team?

This advice goes for any after school activities that you might be signing your kid up for but I would check the following things:

  • What are the training times? How about public holidays and school holidays?

  • How often do they travel to tournaments, where exactly are they and how do the kids and parents get there?

  • What are the start up costs as well as monthly fees? Are there any other types of expenses? Eg. Team dinners, Graduation ceremony costs, new year blessing ceremony costs...yes there could be quite a lot if it's a musical instrument/ballet then there will be costs for the annual performance

  • What role do the parents play in the team? Am I expected to be on duty? How often? What about roles such as treasurer, chairperson etc.

It also took me more than a year to get used to being part of this team. To get to know all the parents, figure out which kid belonged to with parent, what kind of duties I was supposed to carry out on my duty day etc. It was pretty tough but I could see that my son was getting a lot out of being in the team. His fitness of course improved but also his skill and his confidence in general. Instead of being shy, he started to say a loud "Good morning" or "Hello" to people around our neighbourhood as is good manners in Japan. Recently we have been given the task of PR or 広報担当 and have found ourselves building a website to help bring in new members to the team. It's been great to find a way that we can contribute to the team as we do not have the expertise to be a parent coach, for example.

My advice would be to visit a couple of teams, ask questions, and definitely attend at least a few trainings before making a decision about which one suits your family. Hopefully, for your own sake, it's the one that is closest to your house! You will be spending a lot of time with the people there so make sure you are welcomed and get a good vibe from the parents and coaches too. Good luck!


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