Reformers look to fix Japan's damaging youth baseball culture

A junior member of the Yokohama Kanazawa V. Lux youth baseball club hits a ball during the team's training on Dec. 6, 2020, in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Kyodo)

Hampered by excessive, old-fashioned training methods, a win-at-all-costs mentality and the heavy burden placed on parents, participation rates in Japanese youth baseball have been tumbling at a rapid pace.

In an attempt to save the sport from a self-inflicted crisis, some youth clubs, sports academics and even professional players have raised their voices to push reform of the nation's notorious youth baseball culture.

Data provided by the Nippon Junior High School Physical Culture Association showed the number of junior high school students joining school baseball teams, including girls, stood at around 167,000 in 2019, down about 46 percent from some 308,000 in 2009.