Spring 2022 Staying Connected Webinar Series
Squeeze Play: The Crisis in Japanese Professional Baseball of 2004 and the Resilience of Heisei Japan
Little noted at the time, and all but forgotten now, the announcement that the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix Bluewave on June 13, 2004 planned to merge their franchises set off the most serious crisis for Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) since the start of its “modern era” in 1950. The imminent prospect of a reduced number of teams and a single consolidated league brought home how the crises of the Lost Decade (1992-2004) had reduced Japan since the start of the Heisei period in 1989. Yet the outcome of the crisis proved that despite everything Japan remained extremely resilient and that prospects for irreversible decline were not inescapable. The crisis actually represents something of a turning point in the history of Heisei Japan, but far short of the transformational change many had hoped for. Examination of the crisis gives us insights into the death agonies of postwar Japan’s political economy and what may have replaced it.