Abe Isoo and baseball - New social relations beyond the family-state institution

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Book Chapter

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Gavin, M. (2012). Abe Isoo and baseball - New social relations beyond the family-state institution. In R. Starrs (Ed.), Rethinking Japanese Modernism (pp. 452- 470). Leiden, The Netherlands: Global Oriental.

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2012 HERDC submission. FoR code: 220209; 200202

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Abe Isoo, who was a professor of economics at Waseda University, is regarded as the father of both socialism and baseball in Japan. In 1901, as well as establishing the first socialist party in Japan, the Social Democratic party (Shakai minshuto), he formed the Waseda University Baseball Club, appointing himself as its president. During the Russo-Japanese War, he took a student baseball team to the United States to play against American students, thereby initiating Japan into the world of international sporting competition. With Kano Jigoro, the master of the Kodokan school of judo, he also played a vital role in establishing the Japan Amateur Sports Association (Dai Nihon Taiiku Kyokai, JASA), and in organizing Japan’s first Olympic team, which competed at the 1912 Stockholm Games. Abe believed modern team sports and international sporting competitions to be vital instruments for the transformation of Japanese society from isolation to a position of international acceptance. Japanese enthusiasm for baseball today largely derives from Abe’s promotion of the sport during this period, the so-called ’winter’ of the socialist campaign in Japan. This chapter focuses on Abe’s desire to modernize Japanese society and awaken people to ’a new behavioural pattern’ of social relations through his promotion of baseball, focussing on his role in the press controversy over ’the evil influence of baseball’ on education (1911).

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