History of Cricket in Japan
Japan’s cricketing roots date back to 1868, when British merchants and Royal Navy officers played a friendly match on a grassless patch of land in Yokohama. History says that the first cricket club in Japan was formed in Yokohama in 1868 in the dining room of the Yokohama home of 23-year-old Scotsman JP (James Pender) Mollison, who was mad about cricket and who had only recently become a local resident. On that day, he and his cricketing friend Ernest Price and a few others founded the Yokohama Cricket Club (YCC) with Mollison as the president and Price as secretary, according the YCC’s(now YC&AC) website.
Robert-Gilles Martineau, a French man living in Shizuoka can be considered as the granddaddy of cricket in Japan. Martineau, who spent his younger days in England, where he fell in love with cricket, and Professor Makoto Yamada from Kobe Gaidai University together established the Japan Cricket Association(JCA) officially in July 1987 with Professor Yamada as the Chairman and Martineau himself as its first Secretary. The JCA under the duo’s stewardship obtained the MCC Affiliate Membership in July 1988 with the help of Lt. Col. John Stephenson then Chairman of the MCC (this was later replaced by another name, Japanese, in the present official history of JCA). Martineau says that a letter or even an e-mail enquiry to the MCC will be suffice to prove this history.
Martineau and the Shizuoka Cricket Association(SCA) also secured an integral Japanese translation of the Laws of Cricket but this was later appropriated without recognition, according to Martineau. After many years of developing cricket at all levels, national and international, Martineau and the many expatriates who had helped form it decided to hand over management to the Japanese members.
Shizuoka Kytes, a Shizuoka based cricket club, and the SCA introduced cricket in three elementary schools in Shizuoka, which helped the JCA to obtain MCC funds. At some point of time, the Kytes had maintained the best cricket ground in Japan in Shizuoka.
The Kanto Cricket League (KCL) is the first formal cricket league in Japan, starting in the early 1990’s (exact date not recorded) involving teams in the Kanto area of the country. In those early years it was known as Kanto Cup(KC) and almost all the players, with several notable exceptions, were non-Japanese, mainly from India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
Originally comprising only a handful of teams, the KC gradually expanded over the years. In 2001 the JCA approached the KC administrators with a request that it become an official JCA league since that would provide JCA a strong official competition in order to qualify for Associate status with the ICC. In its AGM held in 2002 at the YC&AC, the KC agreed to become an official competition under the auspices of the JCA. The league was then renamed Kanto Cricket League. As a result, several Japanese teams joined the KCL competition. Eventually, however, differences arose between the directions the JCA and the original KCL teams wanted to take, and these reached a head at an EGM called in June 2006 at a restaurant in Meguro, Tokyo. At that meeting, the original KCL was disbanded, but a ‘new’ KCL, was immediately formed to take its place, and that competition is now going on with teams competing in two groups.
Starting with only 9 teams in 2006, the new KCL has now grown to 12 teams and is considered to be the strongest of the cricket competitions in Japan. Games are played on 4 or 5 grounds in the Kanto area (locating suitable grounds is still one of the main problems in playing cricket in Japan). Teams from the KCL competition also regularly compete in overseas 6-a-side tournaments and also engage in foreign tours to such venues as Hong Kong, The Philippines and Thailand. Individual members of the KCL are also involved in projects coaching Japanese school children.
Japan, an Associate member of the International Cricket Council, is now home to an estimated 3,000 players and 200 teams, including those for U15s, women and university students, in every region of the country. Sano in Tochigi prefecture is considered the sport’s spiritual home, with five pitches and plans for the international ground.
The Japanese season runs from April to November.