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Contesting the Myths of Samurai Baseball: Cultural Representations of Japan's National Pastime

Contesting the Myths of Samurai Baseball: Cultural Representations of Japan's National Pastime



Almost right from the introduction of baseball to Japan the sport was regarded as qualitatively different from the original American model. This vision of Japanese baseball associates the sport with steadfast devotion (magokoro) and the values of the samurai class in the code of Bushidō, in which greatness is achieved through hard work under the tutelage of a selfless master.

In Contesting the Myths of Samurai Baseball Keaveney analyzes the persistent appeal of such mythologizing, arguing that the sport has been serving as a repository for traditional values, to which the Japanese have returned time and again in epochs of uncertainty and change. Baseball and modern culture emerged and developed side by side in Japan, giving cultural representations of this national pastime special insights into Japanese values and their contortions from the late nineteenth century to the present day. Keaveney explains the origins of the cultural construct “Samurai baseball” and reflects on the recurrences of these essentialist discourses at critical junctures in Japan’s modern history. Since the early modern period, writers, filmmakers, and manga artists have alternately affirmed and debunked these popular myths of baseball. This study presents an overview of these cultural products, beginning with Masaoka Shiki’s pioneering baseball writings, then moves on to the long history of baseball films and the venerable tradition of baseball fiction, and finally considers the substantial body of baseball manga and anime. Perhaps what is most striking is the continuous relevance of baseball and its values as a point of cultural reference for the Japanese people; their engagement with baseball is a genuine national love affair.



Publication Date



Hong Kong University Press


Hong Kong


Asian History | Asian Studies | East Asian Languages and Societies | Japanese Studies | Sports Studies


Description, cover image, and reviews courtesy of Hong Kong University Press.

Subject Areas

Baseball -- Japan -- History; Baseball -- Social aspects -- Japan; Baseball films -- Japan -- History and criticism; Baseball in literature -- History and criticism; Bushido -- Japan; Popular culture -- Study and teaching -- Japan

Author/Editor Bio

Christopher Keaveney is Professor of Japanese at Linfield College. He holds a Ph.D in Japanese and Comparative Literature from Washington University (St. Louis), an M.A. in Japanese Language and Literature from Washington University (St. Louis), and a B.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Manhattan College.


“A fascinating study of samurai baseball and the culture it represents viewed through historical and contemporary literature, poetry, manga, and movies. An important, original work that is full of insights. Christopher Keaveney has put enormous effort into researching this book and he is to be congratulated. I learned a lot by reading it.” - Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and The Meaning of Ichiro

“Keaveney’s book offers a nuanced introduction to the Japanese model of samurai baseball along with an analysis of many of the works that treat the guiding principles of that model. A fresh look at Japan’s national pastime.” - Bobby Valentine, former MLB player and manager and former manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball

“Christopher Keaveney effortlessly combines a thorough knowledge of Japanese baseball—its players, managers, fans—with the cultural productions surrounding it. The result is a nostalgic trip through history and an edifying survey of literature, film, and manga.” - David Desser, professor emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Contesting the Myths of Samurai Baseball: Cultural Representations of Japan's National Pastime