Japan is a country where playing sports is very encouraged and affordable.
While Japan spent much of its history isolated from the rest of the world, the nation quickly embraced a number of sports that were introduced when it opened up at the end of the 19th century. Surprisingly, many remain the top sports in the nation to this day.
Read on to find out if your favorite sport made the Top 8!
Yujiro Watanabe, considered the father of Japanese boxing, trained from the age of 16 in California before coming back to Japan and establishing the Nippon Kento Club in 1921. A number of boxing federations and associations arose in the ensuing years, culminating in the formation of the All-Japan Professional Kento Association in 1931, which would eventual transform into the Japan Pro Boxing Association (JPBA), a name it has maintained since the year 2000.
The rules governing pro boxing in Japan are established under the Japan Boxing Comission (JBC) to encourage boxers to fight inside the country.
Golf remained almost exclusively a sport for expats and Western-educated Japanese for some time. The opening of a course in Tokyo in 1914 introduced it to members of Japan’s more traditional elite, with interest quickly expanding to see 71 courses opened across the country by 1940.
As the Japanese social class system was disrupted following World War II, more and more members of the new middle class began playing golf, creating a new wave of players. Golf was a new venue for conducting business and a sign of upward mobility until the collapse of the economic bubble in the early 1990s.
Tennis has taken a prominent place in Japanese culture. It was in tennis that Japan won its very first Olympic medals, both claimed by Ichiya Kumagai at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Japan’s Emperor Akihito met Empress Michiko on a tennis court in the resort town of Karuizawa in 1957.
The Prince of Tennis manga series has sold over 50 million copies. And since becoming the only male Japanese tennis player to ever be ranked in the top 10 in singles tennis, since 2015 Kei Nishikori has single-handedly put booster jets on the sport’s popularity.
Soccer, the world’s most popular sport, was the second in Japan. After winning out the group stage for the second time in World Cup 2010, its popularity boomed.
The first organized national league was organized in 1965, consisting of eight amateur company clubs. The Japan Professional Football League, commonly known as J.League, was formed, made up of nine teams from the semi-pro Japan Soccer League and the newly formed Shimizu S-Pulse.
There are now 18 professional soccer clubs in Japan. A number of star players have emerged from J.League, including Kazuyoshi Miura, Hidetoshi Nakamura and Shunsuke Nakamura, while several key players play for football clubs around the world, such as Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda. The men’s national team is known as the Samurai Blue.
While women’s soccer has less popularity outside of national tournaments, the Japan women’s national football team, known as Nadeshiko Japan.
Baseball has been the most popular sport in Japan for years because it has the longest history of professional league in Japan. Mainly, people in higher age support the baseball popularity. It is because they were brought up watching baseball, when Japan economy was constantly rising.
While most Japanese people would understand the word “baseball,” locally it’s called yakyu, or puro yakyu when describing the professional league. Even high school baseball is taken very seriously, with the National High School Baseball Championships (or Koshien) a much-watched event every summer.