sports in the japanese american community
Sports have always played an integral role in the Japanese American community. Sumo, kendo, judo, Asahi baseball and Zebras basketball were all very popular pre-war sports. During Internment, the Asahi baseball team also took the name Zebras, continuing through the 1950s, while Zebras basketball continues to this day.
Beginning in the early 1900's, baseball became a very popular community pastime among Japanese Americans. In San Jose, the most prominent team was the Asahis ("morning sun"). The players were initially Issei (first generation) but after 1917 the members were mostly Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans). In 1935, the Tokyo Giants played the Asahis at Asahi Field (North 7th and Younger Streets). The Asahis beat the Giants in a tight game. In 1936, the Giants got their revenge.
During World War II when the community was incarcerated, baseball provided much needed recreation and a sense of normalcy in the desolate camps. The San Jose Zebra team, which was formed in the camps, continued to play during the resettlement period (post 1945). The Zebras played as a team until 1963.