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What You Need to Understand About Japan’s Strong Sporting Heritage

Japan is home to amazing food and stunning natural sites, but sports fans are well aware that Japan has one of the strongest sporting cultures around the world. So, if you’re already intrigued to learn more, read on below for a primer on some of the country's most popular sports.

Baseball

America's favourite pastime has found a vibrant home in the East, with baseball being one of the most popular sports in Japan. It was first introduced into schools in 1872 and has since evolved into a major national sport. Boys of all ages play the sport, with the country even having their own take on America's Little Leagues. Similarly, the Japan Professional Baseball League is closely followed by fans season after season.

Sumo wrestling

Sumo wrestling is seen as stereotypically Japanese, and this centuries-old sport still remains an integral part of local culture. More sumo stables are allowing visitors to come and watch them practice, provided you call in advance and ask if it's okay to watch. There are several sumo stables in Tokyo, but those who prefer to watch a sumo match live, it’s best to plan your trip around a sumo tournament, which occur every other month of the year until November.

Golf

Over half of Asia’s golf courses are located in Japan, and it is quickly catching on with the locals. In fact, Gala Bingo’s article on sports etiquette around the world points out that locals take the customary hole-in-one treat a step further. While golfers from the rest of the world treat their friends to a beer after getting a hole-in-one, Japanese players go all out and treat their friends to a party. This kind of celebration highlights the strong sense of community that’s ingrained within Japan’s sporting culture.

Soccer

Soccer is very popular in Japan, and the country has produced players that have played with some of the best players in the world. Yahoo! Sports reports that midfielder Keisuke Honda made a stellar debut for his new club Botafago, scoring his first goal for the team. For fans back home, Honda is an icon and has represented a club from each continent – a feat no other player has ever accomplished.

Tennis

Speaking of talented players, it’s hard to forget Naomi Osaka! She's the first Asian to hold the top ranking in tennis singles, and made headlines everywhere after defeating Serena Williams during the 2018 US Open. Prior to Osaka, Kei Nishikori was the face of Japanese tennis.
The sport is that popular that tennis courts are present in most of the country's public parks even to this day.
Whether they're playing or spectating, locals see sports as a way to stay active and build communities in Japan. So, the next time you're in Japan, consider watching a sports match near you for a truly exciting experience that will allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Written by Jane Bays for JNTO

Head image sourced from Unsplash.

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