Tokyo Big6 Baseball League

University Baseball League

Baseball is one of the popular sports in Japan. And in particular, the Tokyo Big6 University Baseball League has a long history. When we think about the origins of Japanese baseball, we realize what an important role the Big6 League played in the early 20th century.

Jingu Stadium in Tokyo
Jingu Stadium.

It began with the first match between Waseda University and Keio University in 1903. And the first ‘tournament-style’ competition was held among Waseda, Keio and Meiji in 1914. And 1926 saw the completion of Jingu Stadium in Tokyo in the Kanto Region. The stadium has been a sacred place for the Big6 League since then.

Watching a university baseball game in Japan.

Japanese Professional Baseball

When we look at the history of Japanese professional baseball, we will notice the present-day Yomiuri Giants team formed in 1934. And the current competition style of professional teams, which we Japanese call a ‘pennant race’, started in 1936, with the foundation of the forerunner of the current Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB).

Photo taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 & Hexanon 50mm f1.7

So now you understand that the Tokyo Big6 League is as old as (or even older than) the Japanese professional baseball. Maybe it’s not an overstatement that Japanese baseball started with the birth of the Big6 League. The League currently competes two times a year, in the spring and fall, at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. Although a professional baseball team, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, plays at Jingu Stadium, for many people the stadium is more closely associated with the Big6 League. Actually the Japanese imperial family once visited Jingu Stadium to watch a game between Waseda University and Keio University in the spring of 1994.

Tokyo Big6 Baseball League

Jingu Stadium

I myself visited Jingu Stadium on a hot day in mid-May. A friend and I walked a few minutes from Gaiemmae Station to Jingu Stadium to see a game between Waseda and Rikkyo in the sixth week of the Tokyo Big6 University Baseball Spring Championship. The stadium was crowded with people and full of shops, and we paid the 1,500 yen admission fee. The number of spectators seemed large for a student competition; even at this stage of the championship, it was still unclear which one would win. Rikkyo appeared to have the strongest team, and Keio had the second best. Some people also thought Waseda would win.

Tokyo Big 6 University Baseball League in Japan

We sat down among the students of Waseda University behind the protective net behind the home plate. We noticed a familiar figure just several meters away from us. It was Takeshi Okamura, the former head coach of the Waseda baseball team. The current head coach, Hiroshi Takahashi, took over his task in January 2015. Okamura’s presence added extra significance and made it a game they were not allowed to lose.

a baseball game between Waseda and Rikkyo

Before the Game

Before the game, we looked forward to seeing the performances of a couple of players. One was Takahiro Kumagai of Rikkyo, a right-handed hitting and throwing player and a potential pick in this year’s draft. Not only is he a team leader, but also a good fielder with speed. The other player, Masaki Kato, is Waseda’s cleanup batter, and he has been in such good form that he might win the triple crown. Waseda has a strong lineup, with the first three batters all hitting above .300.

spectators at Jingu Stadium

Announcement of players

When the names of the players were announced, everyone was a bit surprised because Kazuya Ojima was named as Waseda’s starting pitcher. Formerly he was the ace of Urawagakuin High School when they won the national high-school competition, but he sprained his right ankle during training just before this spring championship. It was his first game since the injury.

the Tokyo Big6 University Baseball League
In the top of the ninth.

The Game Started

The game started at 11 a.m., and it became a pitching duel between Ojima and Rikkyo’s Tanaka. But in the bottom of the fourth, Kato, Waseda’s cleanup, hit a double to right field and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Kato was cut down at the home plate after Rikkyo’s catcher, Fujino, predicted Waseda’s squeeze attempt and called for a high pitch. But the subsequent batters produced three consecutive hits, giving Waseda one run in this inning.

a game between Waseda and Rikkyo in the Tokyo Big6 University Baseball Championship.

Rikkyo tried to come back in the subsequent innings but was shut out by Ojima’s almost perfect pitching. Waseda won 1-0 against Rikkyo, keeping alive their hope of becoming the season champion.

神宮球場

It was a tension-filled game with a lot of fine plays. So there was no doubt that the fans really enjoyed watching it. If there has been a game’s MVP award, no one would have argued with giving it to Ojima, who allowed Rikkyo only two hits and one walk. His fastest ball on that day was 139 kilometers (86 miles) per hour, but he had excellent control of his curve balls.

Jingu Stadium in Tokyo, Japan | 早慶戦

After the Game

We were so glad to see Waseda win that each of us bought a canned beer at 500 yen and cheered together. Then, we took a train ride to the Yanaka district and visited our favorite ramen restaurant. We again ordered beer and cheered together, hoping that Waseda would take the champion . . .


Getting There (English Map)

You can reach Jingu Stadium in various ways. Perhaps, one of the easiest way is to use the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. The stadium is just a five-minute walk from Gaiemmae Station of the Ginza Line. You can also use other railway lines such as the JR Chuo-Sobu Line and the Toei Oedo Line, although you need to walk a bit longer.

Other Photos

Photo taken with a Hexanon 50mm f1.7
Announcement of today’s game.
Failed squeeze attempt
Failed squeeze attempt in the bottom of the fourth.
Ramen noodle in Japan.
Ramen noodle.

Conclusion

If you would like to watch a baseball game in Japan, or eat ramen noodle for lunch after the game, please send an e-mail from the Rates/Contact page of this site.

Photographs: taken at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo,
by Koji Ikuma, with Fujifilm X-T1
equipped with a Hexanon 50mm f1.7 lens.


Outbound Links

Official website of Jingu Stadium.
Tokyo Big6 Baseball League official website (Japanese only).

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Reference Links (New Window)

Link to Vintage Camera Lenses
Link to Tetsu Sawamura official site
Tetsu Sawamura official website (Japanese only).

Outbound Links (New Window)

Shurijo Castle Park
Link to Kusatsu Onsen website
KUSATSU-ACCOMMODATION.JP introduces a large range of accommodations, including Japanese-style inns and large resort hotels, located in the Kusatsu Onsen hot springs area in northern Kanto.
Link to Koshu Valley .com
Insider's guide to the Koshu Vally (Katsunuma) wine region. Katsunuma Town in Yamanashi Prefecture (in the Chubu Region) is known as the birthplace of the Japanese wine industry. And the wine from this area has been attracting growing attention from wine drinkers overseas.
Link to Shimanto City Tourism Association
Shimanto City Tourism Association. Flowing through the western part of Southern Shikoku, the Shimanto River is called 'the last clear river in Japan'. And some of the 'chinka-bashi bridges' across the river are now popular tourist attractions in Shimanto City.
Link to Fukuyama Hiroshima Tourism Guide
FUKUYAMA HIROSHIMA Tourism Guide includes the information about Tomonoura, a small fishing town that flourished in the Edo Period as an important transportation hub.
Link to Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourism Association
Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association. The Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido extends a long distance into the Sea of Okhotsuk. Registered as UNESCO's World Natural Heritage Site in 2005, this area still has a considerable amount of pristine environment.
Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center. Straddling both Aomori and Akita Prefectures in the Tohoku Region, Shirakami Sanchi is home to the large-scale primitive beech forest. In 1993, this mountainous area was registered as one of Japan's very first UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Link to Itsukushima Shurine website
Itsukushima Shrine official website. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Itsukushima Shrine attracts a lot of tourists and religious worshippers every year. The shrine is located on Miyajima Island which is known as one of the three most scenic places in Japan.
Link to Wakayama Prefecture World Heritage Center
Wakayama Prefecture World Heritage Center. Many religious structures and old paths in the Kii Mountains in southern Kinki became UNESCO's World Heritage sites in 2004.
Link to Kamikochi website
Kamikochi official website.
Link to Ise Jingu website
ISE JINGU official website. Located in the Kinki Region, Ise Jingu is one of the most important religious establishments in Japan. This Shinto shrine has been revered by successive emperors throughout the history, and receives an annual visit from the prime minister of Japan.
Hiraizumi Tourism Association.
Link to Amanohashidate Tourism Association
Amanohashidate Tourism Association. Located in northern Kinki, Amano-no-hashidate has been known as one of the three most scenic spots of Japan since long time ago.
Link to Historical Village of Hokkaido website
Historical Village of Hokkaido is a large open-air museum located in Sapporo, Hokkaido. In the compound, there are more than 50 buildings of historical importance, which were relocated and restored.

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