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University of California Press
Colonial Project, National Game: A History of Baseball in Taiwan / Edition 1

Colonial Project, National Game: A History of Baseball in Taiwan / Edition 1

by Andrew D. Morris
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In this engrossing cultural history of baseball in Taiwan, Andrew D. Morris traces the game’s social, ethnic, political, and cultural significance since its introduction on the island more than one hundred years ago.
Introduced by the Japanese colonial government at the turn of the century, baseball was expected to “civilize” and modernize Taiwan’s Han Chinese and Austronesian Aborigine populations. After World War II, the game was tolerated as a remnant of Japanese culture and then strategically employed by the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Even as it was also enthroned by Taiwanese politicians, cultural producers, and citizens as their national game.
In considering baseball’s cultural and historical implications, Morris deftly addresses a number of societal themes crucial to understanding modern Taiwan, the question of Chinese “reunification,” and East Asia as a whole.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520262799
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 11/24/2010
Series: Asia Pacific Modern , #6
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 290
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Andrew D. Morris is Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He is the author of Marrow of the Nation: A History of Sport and Physical Culture in Republican China (UC Press) and coeditor of The Minor Arts of Daily Life: Popular Culture in Taiwan.

Read an Excerpt

Colonial Project, National Game

A History of Baseball in Taiwan
By Andrew D. Morris


Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-520-94760-3

Chapter One

Baseball in Japanese Taiwan, 1895–1920s

[Formosa] has served the purpose of educating us in the art of colonization. INAZO NITOBÉ, THE JAPANESE NATION, 1912

Japan's southern island of lush betel nut, Island of high mountains, now our island, A beautiful young island, TTK, TTK, Rah—T—Rah—T—Rah—K.


In December 1998, Asahi Shimbun CEO Nagayama Yoshitakamade a short visit to southern Taiwan. He told his hosts that he had only one purpose for making this trip: to fulfill the lifelong wish that his friend, the famed and recently deceased author Shiba ryotaro, had never realized—to run a lap around the bases at the Jiayi institute of Technology. Shiba late in life became known as an influential Taiwanophile, but his nostalgic view of a Japanese Taiwan, centered on its baseball culture, is perfectly common some six decades after the end of the colonial empire. The mimetic qualities of Nitobe Inazo's quotation in the epigraph are also telling, and his and Shiba's views provide appropriate bookends to a twentieth century of close, complicated ties between Taiwan and Japan.

Japan's career in Taiwan and its own vibrant baseball culture sprang from the same historical moment in 1895. This was the year that Meiji Japan, after defeating the Qing dynasty, seized its first colony—the malarial, bandit-and-opium-ridden island of Taiwan. This was also the year that Chuma Kanoe, a recently graduated star student-athlete at Tokyo's elite No. 1 High School, who later would publish Japan's first book of baseball research, coined a new Japanese name for the popular sport of besuboru. This new name, yakyu—literally, "ball game in the open"—reflected perfectly the Meiji colonialist ambitions that were so often voiced in the language of expanse and open space. The pastoral imagination already built into American baseball, after spreading to Japan in the 1870s and 1880s, was refracted into an important element of the Meiji colonialist vision of different East Asian nations' territories as so much open, wild, available space.

John Noyes has written on this idea of "colonial space," explaining that the "colonial landscape is not found by the colonizer as a neutral and empty space, no matter how often he assures us that this is so. This is one of the most persistent myths of colonization." Indeed, the "open" game of baseball surged in popularity in Japan at the exact moment of the Meiji empire's emergence as a world power and concomitant grab for colonial territories throughout East Asia. The familiar and often-propagated stereotype of baseball in Japan is that the game was an inspired but overdisciplined mimicry of amore authentic American baseball culture. However, it is easy to see how this cultural form's resonance was more likely its perfect fit within Japan's new "colonial narrative"—which, according to Thomas Nolden, displays the spatial practice of colonialism (for instance, conquest and settlement) by representing the space of colonized land according to concepts of modern knowledge. In this and the next chapter I will attempt to treat yakyu in Taiwan from within this understanding of its importance to the half-century of Japanese colonial rule, emphasizing the complicated, layered, and contradictory subject-positions constructed by and for those players and spectators participating in the national game.


At the end of 1895, just months after taking the frontier island of Taiwan from a partially relieved Qing dynasty, Japan integrated it (along with most of Okinawa) into its new Western Standard time zone (seibu hyojunji). Taiwan would now be integrated into, if still left an hour behind, the modern Meiji order in many ways. There was still much dirty work to do in addressing societal "evils" never mastered by the Qing. In justifying the often violent measures taken against brigands and Taiwan's Austronesian Aborigines, even the famed educator Nitobe admitted that the Japanese had to serve as a "cruel master," and London's admiring Spectator still had to predict that much of Japan's work in Taiwan "might mean something unpleasantly like extermination." Besides these institutional prerogatives, the cause of civilization and "colonial success," which could only be gained through "justice seasoned with mercy," also depended on cultural forms that would reproduce these new colonial ties and hierarchies in everyday life.

Modern sport was well established by this moment as one crucial way of showing a people's fitness for inclusion in the new world order. Yu Chien-ming has discussed how, even from the earliest years of Japanese rule, colonial planners felt responsible for making use of "globalized notions of physical education to transform Taiwanese bodies." In Taiwan, sport would become part of Japan's "civilizing process" as colonists strove to exhibit the qualities that made Japan so superior to the backward culture of the vanquished Chinese. Chief Civil Administrator Goto Shimpei was well known for his support of physical culture as state policy; in 1903 the Taiwan Nichinichi Shimpo reprinted older comments of his on the relationship between men's and women's fitness and national economic strength. This policy could take the form of activities designed for Taiwanese subjects, like physical education in schools for boys and girls, or movements against the "low customs" (roshu) of women's foot binding or men's Manchu-style queue ("pigtail") hairstyles. Or it could be illustrated through aggressive physical forms such as judo, kendo, sumo, or even equestrian events, which were explicitly restricted to Japanese participation at this time of armed resistance toward the new regime. A 1933 book published by the Taiwan Sports Association reflected on the activities of this earlier era that served as such visible colonial "elements of control" (toseiteki no mono)—hinting clearly at physical culture's important position in the relations and hierarchies of colonialism.

Sport's very presence in Taiwan, then, had implications in terms of both global culture and local reception. in recent decades, Sony cofounder Akio Morita coined the phrase global localization, which one observer has described as "brand strategy at one side of the spectrum and customer expectations the other." Likewise, an online dictionary (no printed ones have bothered) defines glocalization as "the creation of products or services intended for the global market, but customized to suit the local culture." While my interest is hardly somer cenary, it is important to see how the term has come to apply more broadly to cultural trends of hybridizing across local and global meanings and settings. For example, in his study of Tokyo Disneyland, Aviad raz uses the term glocalization to describe the tension between global cultural production and local acquisition and "the more colorful and playful themes characterizing the (usually ingenious) local practices of consumption."

It is fitting with regard to my study that much of the discussion of "glocalization" originates in Japan. The native term that Roland Robertson associates with this discourse is dochakuka, which has historically been used to describe the act of adjusting to regional markets. The complicated cultural position of baseball during Japan's colonial occupation of Taiwan well represents this tension between imperialist and globalizing forces and the "expectations" and demands of a Taiwanese population. The colonial project opened up a space for hybrid identity among those Taiwanese who took part in Japanese social and cultural rituals while also negotiating meanings of status and opportunity within their own society.

The topic of baseball presents unique problems with any analysis of globallocal linkages at this time. Baseball—so typically of the Meiji period in Japan—arrived in Taiwan as the national sport (kokugi), but with a history in Japan of only two decades. Thus, the very fact of Japan's introduction of the game to Taiwan indicates that any treatment of the game must account for this double-layer of imperialism and colonialism wound tightly within Japanese baseball. The heated debates among Meiji politicians over which colonial model Taiwan should follow—the French example of assimilation and integrated empire, or the British pattern of a separate legal system for each colony—remind us of the careful planning that went into the cultural politics of colonialism. indeed, every cultural and educational import was judged carefully by how it would contribute to the proper functioning of what Goto called this "colonial laboratory."

During the first two decades of baseball's career in Taiwan, the game was maintained as a purely Japanese realm. Yakyu was imported to the colony around 1897, at which time it was the pastime of colonial bureaucrats, bankers, and their sons in Taihoku (Taipei). in 1906, the first organized games were held between teams from the Taiwan Colonial Government High School, the National language (Kokugo) School Teacher Education Department, and the Taihoku Night School Association. it is appropriate that those who would teach Japan's "national language" to colonial subjects were also involved with cultivating Japan's "national game" in Taiwan, as kokugo was understood by many as a tool to unite Asia and provide for "linguistic assimilation of subjugated people into the Japanese nation."

These competitions in baseball—another activity soon imagined to integrate the empire—soon spread around the island. in the south, sugar corporations became the center of baseball culture. Taiwan's status as a potential "sugar bowl" was one reason for Meiji Japan's interest in the island at a time when the newly modernizing empire was importing three-quarters of their increasing sugar consumption. The fertile coastal plains in the Tainan area were the first lands planted by corporate-imperialist entities like the Colonial Government and Mitsui Sugar. These large southern plantations became the equivalent of company towns, with dormitories, Japanese-style homes, schools for Japanese children, and, of course, the baseball fields that hosted this crucial element of the colonial enterprise. (Importantly, the labor needs of these sugar enterprises meant that there were many Han Taiwanese laborers on hand who absorbed baseball culture in this setting.) By the mid-1910s there were teams all over Taiwan representing businesses, occupational and medical schools, military units, railroad and postal offices, bureaucratic and legal agencies, engineering firms, banks, newspapers, private clubs, and merchant associations. In 1915, northern and southern baseball associations were established in Taihoku and Tainan in order to further organize and routinize this colonial institution.

A 1915 Japanese collection of photos from Taiwan evokes the ways the game fit in with other elements of colonial prerogative and achievement. As ample sequence of eight photos from this English-subtitled albumwent: "Phajus grandifolius lour," "The installation of the God at Kagi Shrine," "The Head Office, Taiwan Gendarmerie Station," "The Base-Ball Matches by Vigorous Youths of South Formosa," "Formosan Customs No. 14: Formosan Mending Formosan Shoes," "Park at Chosokei," "The Athletic Meeting of the Japanese and Formosan School Children throughout Ako Prefecture," and "Railway Car Station of Hokumon." The Japanese were in Taiwan not only to get access to the island's natural resources and to construct empire, but also to study, to interrogate, to monitor, to understand, to define, and then to reshape Taiwan culture and society in the image of their modern Japanese home islands.

These baseball teams and competitions served the same functions—of class, racial, gender, and political status—as cricket clubs did in the British Empire. Stakes were high, though, and the "thunderously renowned" and recently graduated Waseda University pitcher Iseda Go's propitious arrival at the colonial Business Property Bureau (Shokusan kyoku) in 1914 began a new era of recruiting ringers from the home islands into the Taiwan baseball scene. Many of Iseda's friends and teammates followed, as industrialists, fire chiefs, sugar CEOs, and colonial officials invested much money to attract Japanese star players to play in Taiwan.

On 18 June 1915, a baseball game held in Taihoku captured much of the significance of the sport in Japan's successful colony. Two all-star teams, featuring the best players of the Prefectural Government, railroad Bureau, Civil Engineers, Finance Bureau, and Business Property Bureau squads, met in the Twentieth Anniversary of [Colonial] rule Commemorative Game. This celebration (marking the anniversary of the peaceful assumption of rule in the capital of Taihoku) mimicked early Taisho-era notions of unity and was the perfect way to demonstrate the fair, sporting, and enlightened Japanese commitment to their colony.

Similar to the model developed in Japan proper at this time, these teams—and many others representing government agencies and private corporations—competed throughout Taiwan in tournaments sponsored by government agencies and newspaper companies. The ties between media outlets and baseball in Japan are well documented (see, for example, the Yomiuri and Asahi corporations); William Kelly has described this adaptation of the schoolboy and amateur game as a form of "edu-tainment" designed to commodify the "spiritualism" preached in high school baseball for years. The colonial government's explicit involvement is also noteworthy; the curriculum of local branches of Tokyo's Colonial development University (formerly the Taiwan Society) included baseball practice as an important skill for future colonial bureaucrats as early as 1907. This pattern resembles greatly the uses of cricket in the British Empire, whose "Oxbridge-educated civil servants ... spread both the play and the philosophy of cricket in the belief that it created a cross-cultural bond amongst members of an artificial political entity," and "separated the rulers from indigenous society." Or, to paraphrase another scholar of cricket, baseball was brought to Taiwan largely "as a criticism of native lifestyles."

At this same moment, links to Japan proper and the growing Japanese understanding of Taiwan as a genuine part of their nation became formalized by the "extension of the homeland" (naichi encho) policy beginning in 1918. More and more Japanese were educated, officially registered, and even buried in Taiwan. It can be said that the realm of baseball in many ways anticipated this strengthening of colonial-metropolitan ties; starting in 1917, the colonial government in Taiwan began hosting visiting university teams from schools like Waseda University (which, along with Keio University, represents the oldest baseball tradition in Japan). During the summer of 1917, Waseda swept eight games in Manchuria and Korea, and that winter set off on a "southern expedition" (nansei, a term with military connotations) to their present and future colonies, Taiwan and the Philippines. Sport and Interest carried several articles about the visit a month in advance. in January themagazine published lengthy articles about each game; Wasedawon seven of eight against Taihoku and Taiwan all-star teams (which consisted only of Japanese players). The gameswere played before several thousand fans in the colonial seat of Taihoku and the growing port city of Takao (Gaoxiong), as a new and more intense "baseball fever" gripped Taiwan. This issue of SI also included a large photograph of the scoreboard after the one game when the Taiwan All-Stars were able to defeat Waseda. The private Hosei University (another one of the famed "Tokyo Big Six" baseball programs) visited Taihoku and the smaller southwestern city Kagi (Jiayi) the following year, winning eight of nine games against Ensui (Yanshui) Harbor Sugar and an all-star team from the capital.


Excerpted from Colonial Project, National Game by Andrew D. Morris Copyright © 2011 by The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Map of Taiwan


1. Baseball in Japanese Taiwan, 1895–1920s
2. Making Racial Harmony in Taiwan Baseball, 1931–1945
3. Early Nationalist Rule, 1945–1967: “There’s no Mandarin in baseball”
4. Team of Taiwan, Long Live the Republic of China: Youth Baseball in Taiwan, 1968–1969
5. “Chinese” Baseball and Its Discontents, 1970s–1980s
6. Homu-Ran Batta: Professional Baseball in Taiwan, 1990–Present
7. Conclusion: Baseball’s Second Century in Taiwan

Appendix: Taiwanese Professional Baseball Teams and National Origin of Foreign Players

Glossary of Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese Terms and Names
Selected Bibliography

Photographs follow page

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"An excellent read and a must study for anyone wishing to understand baseball in a global setting. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Morris offers an innovative reading of history."—China Review

"Captivating prose. . . . A much-needed view from the margins."—Pacific Affairs, Ubc

"Beautifully written."—American Historical Review

"Offers indispensable elements of knowledge and analyses to those intending to include baseball in their future studies of Taiwan."—China Perspectives

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