1st Edition

The Crisis in Pro Baseball and Japan’s Lost Decade The Curious Resilience of Heisei Japan

By Paul Dunscomb Copyright 2024

    This book examines Japan’s Heisei era through the lens of the crisis in Japanese professional baseball of 2004, challenging the narrative of decline that dominates the discourse on the period.

    The story of this crisis reveals much about the Japanese psyche during the “Lost Decade,” about the nature of change during Heisei Japan and of the nation’s resilience. The business of professional baseball provides crucial insights as it achieved its basic form at the same time as Japan’s postwar political economy, and shared many characteristics with it, including systemic inefficiencies that post-“bubble” Japan could no longer sustain. The book traces how the crisis unfolded and the cast of characters who appeared during it (including team owners, players, IT entrepreneurs and ordinary fans), revealing much about the push and pull of continuity and change in Japan.

    Featuring an in-depth analysis of the key participants and developments of the crisis in baseball, this book will be a valuable resource for students and scholars of sports management, Japanese history and Japanese culture, particularly of the Heisei era.

    Introduction: The Squeeze  1. Baseball as Business within Postwar Japan’s Political Economy, to 1992  2. Lost Decades: Troubles for Japan and NPB, 1992–2003  3. The Storm Gathers, Then Breaks, January–June 2004  4. The Crisis Broadens, Then Deepens, June–July 2004  5. Unstoppable Forces Meet Immovable Objects, July–September 2004  6. The Strike, September 2004  7. The New Normal, September–December 2004  Conclusion. “When You Come to the Fork in the Road, Take it.”               


    Paul E. Dunscomb is Professor of East Asian History at the University of Alaska Anchorage, US. He is author of Japan’s Siberian Intervention, 1918–1922: A Great Disobedience Against the People (2011), the first ever complete narrative of the event in English, and Japan Since 1945 (2014) for the Association for Asian Studies Key Issues in Asian Studies Series. He has written and presented extensively on matters relating to the history of Heisei Japan. His current research project marries his knowledge of Alaskan and Japanese history into a new and comprehensive look at how the Second World War affected the fate not only of Alaska and its peoples but also the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin and residents of Northern Japan.

    “Dr. Paul Dunscomb expertly shows that Japan's pro baseball is both a national sport and a barometer of national change. Accessibly written with remarkable detail, Japan's Pro Baseball Crisis of 2004 challenges prevailing views of Heisei-period Japan through the story of an industry in crisis, its major players, and the larger lessons it teaches about society, economics and resilience.”

     Alisa Freedman, Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture, University of Oregon, USA.



    “Baseball may be Japan’s national pastime, but in 2004 the financial struggles of the Japanese professional leagues erupted onto the headlines as a full-fledged spectator sport. In a fast-paced

    narrative that takes readers into the boardroom (as well as the locker room), Paul Dunscomb tells

    the engrossing story of a pivotal moment in the evolution of Japanese baseball, when elite club

    owners, players and their unions, maverick tech entrepreneurs, a sensationalistic sports media,

    and loyal (but often marginalized) fans jockeyed for the future of the game. Adeptly

    contextualizing professional baseball within the sweeping changes in society, politics, and

    business during Japan’s millennial “Lost Decade,” this volume is an essential addition to the

    scholarly literature on Japanese sports and a major contribution to the history of contemporary


     William M. Tsutsui, Professor of Japanese History and President, Ottawa University (Ottawa, KS), Canada.