One of former Mets reliever Ryota Igarashi’s Japanese baseball cards from my collection. Note the use of English lettering for the team name on his jersey.

If you’ve ever looked at Japanese baseball cards, you might have wondered why the team and players names are printed in English letters on the team uniforms.  The Japanese Baseball Cards blog has an interesting discussion of the question, along with some cool photos:

The first professional baseball team in Japan was founded in late 1934 and called the “Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Kurabu” (the great Japan Tokyo baseball club). …

The team spend the 1935 season barnstorming in the US.  They were fairly successful, winning 93 of 102 games against semi-pro and Pacific Coast League teams.  According to Reaves – “The only minor drawbacks to the team’s popularity in the States were their kanji characters and their cumbersome Japanese name.  They rectified both by renaming themselves the Tokyo Giants and adopting a uniform identical to the New York Giants…”

About Paul

I'm a child of the 1980s who never completely grew up and is still trying to figure things out. I root for the New York Mets, even though that doesn't always reflect well on my judgement, and I've been writing about them and other baseball-related subjects at since 2007. I write about other things at Contact me at

2 responses

  1. Why do Japanese baseball uniforms use English lettering?

    Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways? Why does sour cream have an expiration date?


  2. Will in Central NJ says:

    Interesting post, Paul, and a topic on which I’m sure many have asked the question about English lettering on Asian pro baseball uniforms.

    Partial disclosure: I’m of Asian descent (as Paul knows). I also have in-laws in South Korea who follow the game there.

    A good number of Asians born abroad who have a decent education (from a good HS or university) can read, and write, English at a very basic level. It is in speaking or conversing where there can be difficulty. Having said that, there is still “cachet”, for sure, in English-lettered merchandise, products and sports uniforms in Asia. That might be why we often see English-branded pro sports uniforms in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. I hope that’s all helpful, friends.