I am surprised to learn that the Japanese national cricket team ranks at number 37 in the world, and is an associate member of the ICC, the International Cricket Council. While the team sheet includes one Gavin, one Patrick, and one Prashant (it is not uncommon for British and sub-continental ex-pats to furnish the majority of players for minor national teams, just as the English national team is often padded out with a few South Africans) most of those playing are in fact Japanese.
The first game of cricket played in Japan took place in 1868 at the Yokohama Cricket Club, which had been founded by British merchants. A memorial game to celebrate the 150th anniversary of cricket in Japan was held recently (somewhat prematurely, by my calculations) at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.
It would never have occurred to me to investigate Japan’s cricket standing were it not for the fact that one of our students, Toshimasa Wakimasu, is an enthusiast. He tells me he is a batsman, that he was introduced to the game by his games teacher, and that he once toured Dorset (or anyway, Bournemouth) with his team, which must have been surprising for everyone involved.
And in the end, perhaps it is not all that surprising. Japan is a melting pot when it comes to sport, with (relatively) strong football, rugby and baseball cultures alongside its own traditional disciplines. And it is the baseball which makes the modern connection. Baseball and cricket are spiritually akin: both comprise individual plays of bat against ball; both are heavy with statistics. To play one is to be on nodding terms with the other.
And then of course it remains a very minor sport. The first thing you see on the Japan Cricket Association website is a banner asking “What is Cricket?”, which links to this helpful video.