EMPIRES OF FUN
In the early and middle 1930s, the governments of the United States and Japan cast about for ways to iron out their growing differences in the realm of diplomacy and military strategy. The Japanese military aggression that erupted in Manchuria in September 1931 severely strained the nation’s relationship with the United States. Yet as historian Inoue Toshikazu has shown, throughout an era bookended by Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations in March 1933 and the start of its full-scale military aggression in north China in 1937, Japanese officialdom still defined its geopolitical interests largely within the time-tested formula of keeping peace and cordiality with the Anglo-American informal entente in Asia. Since most of such diplomatic efforts and maneuvers took place outside the formal collective security framework of the League of Nations, and because Japanese government officials periodically blurted out bombastic anti-Western rhetoric that was often miscontextualized or unduly magnified by the international media, the underlying continuity from earlier times could all too easily be obscured from view, missed both by contemporaries and by historians in later decades.1 In this period of uneasy transition, baseball, too, was an element of the continuity in U.S.-Japanese relations. The game beloved by both Americans and Japanese was one of the cultural forces that helped to keep, albeit peripherally, the bilateral relationship from drifting irreversibly apart. Since Waseda University’s pioneer West Coast tour, the tradition of regular U.S.-Japanese baseball exchanges taking place in the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Japan (including Korea and Taiwan), and the Philippines had already spanned three decades and, as such, entrenched itself as a fixture of U.S.-Japanese cultural trade and social interaction.
This transoceanic institution had a renewed flowering in the middle