Japan’s first rugby book published in 1909 criticised baseball, arguing that rugby was the superior sport[UPDATED: 9-11-2019]
Japan’s first book on rugby, Ragubi Shiki Futoboru (Rugby-Style Football), was published in 1909, a digital copy of which can be accessed online at Japan’s National Diet Library.
The book not only introduced the game and its rules to Japanese readers for the first time, but it also critiqued baseball, insisting that rugby was superior in terms of its sportsmanship.
‘Let’s play rugby, not baseball!’ its foreword states, which then also goes on to quote a famous Japanese baseball player of the era Shin Hashido (1879-1936), who apparently held similar views, saying that, ‘In the future, I will play rugby instead of baseball’.
Baseball, despite its popularity, was controversial and considered harmful by some sections of the Japanese press and society, which argued that playing the sport would turn students into ‘non-achievers’ and ‘delinquents’, and not the disciplined loyal heroes Japan wanted to develop. Baseball arrived in Japan in advance of rugby in 1872 while rugby only arrived on Japanese shores in the 1890s.
Japanese books of this period mostly focused on introducing new sports and their rules to readers, and not on tactics and game-winning strategies or inspiring narratives associated with the sport.
Since the publication of Japan’s first book on the sport, rugby and sports literature in general have grown considerably in Japan to the extent that one can now find inspiring narratives, heroic tales of winning teams and individuals, as well as multiple formats and styles including anime, mangaas well as books.