Why is baseball popular in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan?

Baseball is very popular in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea but not other Asian countries. Why is that?

If I had to guess, it’s probably because during early 20th century when baseball was the most dominant sport in America, Japan got caught up in it – at this time Japan was militarily the most dominant country in Asia. They were influenced by global trends and baseball was a global trend at the time. To this day, Japan boasts the best professional league outside the MLB.

South Korea and Taiwan were colonies of Japan at that time and they too got caught up in the baseball trend. Remember, Koreans and Taiwanese were forced to speak Japanese during that time.

Baseball wasn’t popular in China because during that time China was very fragmented. The Qing Dynasty had collapsed just decades earlier and China under the ROC was fragmented among various regional warlords all vying for control, and Manchuria was under Japanese control at the time. Most Chinese were impoverished and illiterate at the time. Except for Shanghai which was considered the ‘Paris of the East’ at the time, the other parts of China wasn’t a good time for Chinese people (hence why Communism became popular) and they hardly had any leisure time to preoccupy themselves with baseball  (which required substantial equipment, team + setup to play, compared with basketball or other sports).

Basketball became popular in China because of Yao Ming; when he joined the NBA he brought along a billion fans with him. Taiwanese also watched Yao Ming as one of their own.

Basketball is not as popular in Japan and Korea because they didn’t have any star player in the NBA. On the other hand – Japan and Korea have professional players in the MLB – Ichiro Suzuki and Ryu Hyun-Jin respectively, whereas China has none – and that is another reason why baseball isn’t as popular in China.


Which professional sports team had the greatest era of unchallenged dominance?

New York Yankees (1921–1964)

20 World Series titles and 29 AL pennants in 44 years. Never has another professional sports team been so dominant. The Yankees won almost half of all the World Series titles during this 4 decade dominance. Legendary players such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle etc played for the team during this dominant time.

Boston Celtics (1957–1969)

13 seasons. 11 Championships (8 won in a row). 12 Finals. This coincides also with Bill Russell’s career, which started and ended at the exact same times. No other NBA team has been so dominant. Only lost one Finals during this remarkable span. No other player in professional sports history has as many rings as Bill Russell. In addition to Russell, this legendary dynasty contained such HOFers as Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman, Sam Jones, and John Havlicek.

Montreal Canadiens (1953–1979)

During this 27 year period, the Canadiens won a remarkable 16 Stanley Cups, almost 60% of the time! Such legendary NHL players as Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur played for the Canadiens during this time.

Green Bay Packers (1961–1967)

5 Super Bowl wins in 7 years. Not quite as long a period of dominance as the other teams I mentioned but as dominant an NFL team as you can get. They had such notable HOFers as Bart Starr, Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung.