All You Need To Know About the Football That Happens In Japan

Japan is a very diverse place. They excel in a lot of things like in their technological advancements as well as their extremely effective public transportation system. They are known to be into all kinds of fashion and they too are lovers of sports. There are plenty of popular sports played in Japan like baseball and basketball but a sport that has been gaining popularity there of late is the game of football or soccer.

By Wankichi67 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

The History of Japan’s Football Leagues and Associations

As popular as football or soccer has gotten in Japan, you should know that the sport didn’t originate here. There are multiple supporting documents credited by the JFA or Japan Football Association saying that the sport got to Japan because of the man who was Lieutenant-Commander Archibald Lucius Douglas. He was a part of the Royal Navy in the 1870s and it was during that period of time that he taught his Japanese navy cadets the game as well as its rules. He was also able to use his position as an instructor at the Imperial Japanese Navy Academy found in Tsukiji, Tokyo to spread this game even more in Japan.

By Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr [CC BY 3.0 br (], via Wikimedia Commons

It progressed in Japan and by the year 1917, Japan was able to put together their first Japanese association football club named the Tokyo Shukyu-dan. Most teams that pioneer a sport get lost in history but the Shukyu-dan team is still alive and well in the football scene of Japan. Nowadays, they play in the Tokyo Prefectural amateur league. Since the founding of this first football club, the years that followed were the ones wherein more and more clubs formed. By 1920, there were already enough teams for football associations to organize the high school, university, and regional tournaments for willing participants.

An example of such a tournament was the Emperor’s Cup established in 1921 which served as the something similar to the national cup at the time. Another example would be the AJWFC or the All Japan Works Football Championship which was meant the football lovers in the labor force. Only company teams were allowed in these tournaments and it somewhat pioneered the industrial leagues that are seen in Japan presently. The AJWFC also paved the path for leagues like the AJICFC or the All Japan Inter-City Football Championship to be established decades later. This particular league was the first of its kind to separate the city teams from the other FCs or football clubs that are made up of players from various cities and places. Unfortunately, these “All Japan” leagues wouldn’t reach the 1970s because, by the year of 1965, the Japan Soccer League replaced both the AJWFC and the AJICFC.

In 1930, another great milestone would be attained by the football players of Japan as the Japan national association football team played a game against China and the match ended in a 3-3 tie. For those who do not know, in the game of football, even if the match ends in a tie, other rules in the tournament may give other guidelines as to how a tourney is won. In the case of the match in 1930, the tie that Japan was able to attain gave them their very first title at the Far Eastern Championship Games. This gave them a lot of confidence and it eventually led them to participate in the 1936 Olympics Games hosted in Berlin. In these games, they were able to obtain their first Olympic victory as they won over the Sweden team with a match score of 3-2 in favor of Japan.

Everybody could see that Japan had fallen in love with the sport. With this passion fueling they play, they were able to propel their play to the next level and they even used an international platform to accomplish it in. This event was the 1968 Olympic Games that was held in Mexico. By that time, the JSL or Japan Soccer League had been able to produce numerous stars that participated and contributed greatly to the run that the Japan team made in the 1968 Olympics. They made it passed the qualifiers and then ended up winning the bronze medal. It was a huge win for everyone because it was their very first medal won in the football Olympics. The gravity of the win showed as soon after Japan’s victory, a second division in the JSL was instantly made to accommodate more players and grow more talent.

The win in the Olympics did more than just open up another league. It opened the eyes of the Japanese to a new possibility which is why this was also the time that openings for professional players opened up in Japan. Initially, the foreigner pros were the ones taking the spots because the Japanese players still had to play amateur due to their day-time jobs, among several things. This certainly hindered the growth of the natural baseball talents in Japan and also forced the Japanese players who wanted to make a living through the game to look elsewhere for a job. An example of such an athlete is Yasuhiko Okudera, who was the first Japanese player to ever play pro football abroad, specifically for the FC Koln which was a German team in the European league.

Japan made a lot of progress on its own but the aid of external entities definitely also played a part in developing the sport further in Japan. For example, the Union of European Football Association and the South American Football Confederation, which are both part of the governing bodies of FIFA, decided to make Tokyo their neutral venue for the Intercontinental Cup. This move made it possible for the people of Japan to be more aware and interested in the game of football on an international level.

1998 marked the year that Japan reached the epitome of football competition as it was during this year that they played in the FIFA World Cup for the very first time in history. This one was held in a stadium in France and, although they didn’t win anything, they went home smiling because of the experience. It was a dream for so many of them and it finally came true when this happened. Japan’s involvement with the FIFA World Cup would continue as in 2002, Japan united with the Republic of Korea to co-host the cup. As a result of this wonderful cooperation, both countries were given the FIFA Fair Play Award, which recognizes the best showcase of sportsmanship throughout the cup. They haven’t missed a FIFA appearance since they started in 1998 and they show no signs of that changing any time soon.

It has grown so much in Japan that even women now play the sport professionally. They actually reached one of their biggest milestones in the history of their team’s existence recently when, in the year of 2011, they played and took home 1st place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. They played the German women’s team. It was a tight game and anybody could have won but, in the end, everything just went Japan’s way as they achieved their greatest win as an established team so far.

The Football Teams in Japan and About the Current League Tables in Some Leagues

By Erik Drost (USWNT vs. Japan) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1993, football in Japan took another great step as the Japan Professional Football League was established. It is more commonly known as the J. League and it replaced JSL as the highest tier of Japanese football. It changed the image of professional football in Japan by making the teams that played in it fit the communities. This made the communities they represented cheer them on all the more and it eventually led to another immense growth in the popularity of the sport in Japan. They even offered the amateur non-company FCs to join their league for incentives despite the fact that they had no company backing them up.

This started a whole movement for the world of football in Japan and in a flash, there were football tournaments and championships everywhere. Nowadays, more and more leagues are becoming known. The J. League mentioned earlier presently has 3 divisions which are namely the J1, J2, and J3 divisions. Aside from the leagues that never stopped existing like the Emperor’s Cup, there are also leagues like the JFL (Japan Football League) and federations like the EAFF that help promote new and fresh leagues to encourage more players to come out and enjoy the game they love.

There are also teams that play exclusive cups like the J. League Cup, the All Japan Senior Football Championship, as well as the Japan Regional Football League Competition. These three leagues vary in their player restrictions but, without a doubt, the hardest to get into is the J. League Cup. This is because the players that are allowed to play in this particular league are those that come from the J1 division of the J. League. For example, the entire roster of the Cereza Osaka J1 team is eligible to join the cup should their FM or football manager decide to put them in there.

You probably already know about the men’s national team for the sport of football because of all the talk about them earlier. What you probably don’t know is that the women’s national team, though only being mentioned earlier for their FIFA Cup win in 2011, has more major awards than the men’s national team. The women’s team have won dozens of AFC Women’s Championship at varying places as well as several medals from the Asian Games that occurred during the years of 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2010. They have also earned a silver medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games so you shouldn’t take the women’s national team of Japan lightly in any sense because they are the real deal.

Japan’s Football Museum Found in Tokyo Wherein You Can Find Historic Kits, Shirts, Jerseys, and Many More

By Tsutomu Takasu [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Museums in Japan usually showcase samurai armors and weapons but you will be very glad to know that there is also one for football and if you want more Japanese football facts, you may also opt to check out this museum in Tokyo. If you check their website, it actually says that it is a 2002 FIFA World Cup Memorial but the trinkets you can find here about football go beyond the year of 2002. There are a couple of special and limited exhibitions that are held here once and a while but there are also certain attractions that are always available here.

The first would be the FA Silver Cup that was presented to the Football Association in England as a sign of their good relationship with one another. This silver cup symbolized the promotion of football on a national level and that is why it is one of the most sought out things to see when heading to this museum. You can also see an imitation of the player huddle that Japan and Korea co-hosted in the year of 2002. They even put on the blue jersey shirts and white shorts that were identical to the football kits used in those games.

There are obviously a lot of medals and trophies to be found here as well so it would be better to know the other stuff that is unique to this museum. Don’t worry because you wouldn’t need to put much effort into looking because finding the 1964 letter from Mr. Cramer should be enough of a unique attraction for you. Mr. Cramer was then the head coach of Japan’s national team and in this letter, he wrote about how the team is developing well as they trained with the Russian team, which was then known as the Soviet Union, and a lot of other foreign teams.

You will probably also be able to shop for some football gear as well as some futsal gear from shops like Adidas or any other sports store that you can see in the museum or near the museum. Considering the effectiveness of public transportation in Japan, going to this area from your home or moving around this area, in general, shouldn’t be hard at all as long as you know which stations to go down on. In this case, you’ll want to get to either Kanda Myojin or Yushima Seido because these locations make the museum just a 5-minute walk.

Japan is crazy and will continue to be crazy about football because it truly is such an exciting sport. Unlike the other sports like basketball wherein height is a tremendous advantage, the game of soccer can be played and dominated by anybody if they know how to maximize what they have. Japanese players aren’t gifted with freakish athleticism but with the hard work they put into their craft and the unwavering passion they have for the game, they have been able to show the world that soccer or football is a game for anyone and everyone in this world.