Post Bubble Culture

When one thinks of Japan, beyond the more traditional aspects of the culture, the Japanese fervent passion for baseball often comes to mind.  Whether you’re an avid sports fan or a casual follower, you’ve probably heard that the Japanese love, ironically enough, “America’s pastime.”  But it’s become more than just a pastime to the Japanese:  baseball is now.  It was then, and, for the forseeable future, will be.  It’s a constant in the lives of the Japanese:  for the first 70 years of Japanese professional baseball, when a game was scheduled, it was played.  But then came 2004, and all of that changed.

Times were tough in the economy following the collapse of the Bubble Economy in the early 1990s.  The lost decade (失われた10年) lasted until 2003, even taking its toll on professional baseball.  It claimed its first victim a year later, after the 2004 season, an entire team, the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes, had to be bought out by a team based just down the road in Kobe, the Orix BlueWave, merging the two together into the Orix Buffaloes, upsetting the traditional balance of teams in Japan’s two leagues (the Pacific was reduced to 5, while the Central stayed at 6).  There was not enough time for negotiations, however, and the players did the unthinkable, they struck for the first time in league history.  There would be no baseball in Japan on September 18 and 19th of 2004, marking a very dark two day period in Japanese baseball history.  Teams changed owners all the time; the fans knew this.  But the strike made fans, especially those Kintetsu fans, realize that nothing is untouchable during an economic recession, not even a game.