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Skateboarding in Japan

Skateboarding is generally not considered a traditional sport by any means. Unlike other sports which have histories dating back over a hundred years, Skateboarding became a “thing” sometime in the late 1940s and didn’t really gain popularity for about two to three decades afterwards. The Land of the Rising Sun is well known for their willingness to try everything, including sport. No matter where a sport comes from, if it’s a competition of some kind then the Japanese are more than likely to pick it up over time. The Japanese also seem to be fond of western sports, if the popularity levels of football, baseball and basketball are any indicator. Regardless of whether it’s western or not, Japan has always has a history of appreciating traditional sports such as martial arts, along side more modern sports – such as skateboarding.

Japanese skaters.

Skateboarding has arrived in Japan, but it is definitely not a huge hit as of now. While Skateboarding is frequently rated as one of the most popular sports among teenagers, commonly seen in the top 5 across the board. In Japan however, the fairly new sport isn’t even ranked in Japan yet. But it is represented in the Land of the Rising Sun, despite its minority of participants.

The sport exists in Japan and is gaining popularity fairly quickly, but is nowhere near as popular as something even like snowboarding or skiing is. One of the most significant factors hindering the growth of the sport is the obvious lack of space. Japan has one of the highest average real estate prices, making it impossible for things such as skate parks being constructed outside. This means that a lot of the skateboarding scene in Japan happens indoors, which severely hampers the main way skateboarding gained popularity in most western nations. There skaters would simply take their skateboards outside, whether it’d be in the suburbs or the city. This gave the sport an exposure to the general public and increase the popularity of the sport, especially among the youth who thought it was “cool,” especially as the sport gained its own celebrities and media coverage.

Japanese skater indoors.

However, a skating scene does exist in Japan. According to quite a few bloggers, skating differs in Japan also in terms of cultural attitude. While many people, especially the older generation, don’t know much about skateboarding, Japanese skaters are generally regarded as polite and well-groomed, a stark contrast to the general stereotype presented by the youth skaters in America.

First image by freshnessmag

Second image by hypebeast

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Basketball

Japan has firmly entrenched itself in the world of sport. Regardless of whether it’s a foreign sport, one they popularized themselves, a martial art or even a motorsport, chances are fairly high that Japan’s been involved in it at some point along the history of the nation.

The country also has taken a liking to many western sports. Rugby, football and volleyball just to name some of them. Both martial art competitions such as judo and karate as well as more traditional sports are large spectator events. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that Japan has also taken a liking to basketball, one of the most popular sports in the western world.

The sport gained popularity in the nation with two Japanese nationals competing for American teams in the most popular basketball league across the world, the NBA. Japan also competes on an in international level. 25 of 26 times the competition has been held, Japan successfully qualified to participate in the FIBA Asia Championship, one of the most important tournaments held in Asia as it doubles as a qualifier for the FIBA World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games. Japan was even the host of the FIBA World Championship in 2006, with matches played in 5 cities across the country.

Female japanese international mid lay-up

Nationally, professional level basketball is played in the Japan Basketball League, of JBL for short, as well as the Bj League. The JBL is divided into two divisions, the JBL and JBL2, with 8 in the first and 10 in the second league. The Bj league has 10 teams, divided into an Eastern and Western conferences. However there is no promotion or other relation between the Bj and the JBL. Therefore it has been announced that a National Basketball League would be established in Japan for top teams of both leagues to compete against each other, combining both a number of teams from the JBL and Bj league.

One of the competing teams.

An interesting piece of trivia is that the Japan Basketball Association attributes a significant amount of the sport’s popularity in the country to the manga “Slam Dunk!” created by Takehiko Inoue. The manga began being published in 1990 and has sold over 120 million copies in Japan alone. It tells the story of a delinquent youth by the name of Hanamichi Sakuragi who discovers his talent for the sport, despite his reluctance to join his school’s team due to his belief that the sport is for losers.

First image by japantimes

Second image by akebono-brake

 

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Boxing in Japan

When it comes to any sort of fighting, Japan is normally renowned for its variety and highly prolific martial arts. Whether it’s the style of the Samurai, the deadly arts of the Ninja or traditional fighting styles such as Judo or Aikido – Japan is commonly associated with all of them. Boxing, however, is a fighting sport normally attributed to a more western culture, specifically the American one given their extensive advertising of fights and the country’s tendency to produce some of the very best boxers whose name are recognized globally – Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson for example.

Thus it comes as a surprise to many when they’re told that boxing does have quite a history in Japan and is a fairly commonly practiced form of sport. The history of the art is relatively short in Japan when compared to America, but it exists nonetheless. It started in 1854 when US sailors would often compete in sparring matches, which is how boxing was first introduced to Japan. 1896 saw the very first boxing gym opened in Japan and the country saw its first boxers being born.

Professional boxing in Japan is regulated by the JBC, the Japanese Boxing Commission. Under their rules, every professional fighter must contract a manager for them, and must further “belong” to a boxing gym which holds exclusive management rights for a boxer. If two boxers belong to the same gym, they’re not permitted to fight each other in an officially sanctioned match unless one of the fighters changes gyms. This however becomes a lot more difficult than it is in other countries due to contractual agreements not only with a gym but also with the manager and so on.

At the time of writing, Japan has accumulated an impressive overall record of boxers, both male and female. 76 male world champions and 16 female world champions have come out of the country, each winning titles in competitions – which, however, are not internationally recognized as such. The main issue with this is the fact that Japanese fighters tend to be dominant in the lower class weight divisions, especially below welterweight. Additionally, there is a lack of recognition between the JBC and the WBO and IBF, which are the World Boxing Organization and International Boxing Federation respectively, both of which are the two dominant international boxing organizations internationally.  They refuse to acknowledge any of Japan’s champions unless they begin to compete amongst each other as well as agreeing to defend their titles against foreigners, which they seem highly unlikely to agree to.

First image by theboxingobserver

Second image by shibainu on Wikipedia

 

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Rugby in Japan

Japan is well known for its involvement in all things physical, especially when it comes to sport. Whether it’s a solo competition, a team sport, a martial art, a combat art, even racing – Japan’s got it all. Thus it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Japanese have also taken up Rigby and made part of their own sports culture. Quite successfully too.

While Rugby is more commonly associated with the countries of the Commonwealth – especially England, New Zealand and South Africa, the rough full-contact sport has managed to take off in Japan too and become one of the popular sports played and competed in across the country. In fact, the sport has gotten so popular that Japan is now the fourth largest country in terms of total rugby players across the world. Over 3600 clubs exist in Japan, home to over 100,000 players. The sport ranks 3rd among the wide variety of sports played in Japan, trailing baseball and football by quite the margin. Nevertheless, it is a widely popular sport, played by all age groups in the country.

The sport itself has quite a long history in Japan, with the first match ever to be officially recorded being played in the late 1800s, as the sport was brought to Japan by the way of travelling westerners. In terms of growth, the sport didn’t begin to get a foothold until the 1920s, with even the Japanese Royal Family being vocal supporters of the sport.

Japan’s Rugby Union team is currently ranked 13th in the world, sitting right in the middle of the International Rugby Board’s standings. The sport is overseen by the Japan Rugby Football Union, which is a part of the International Rugby Board, even holding an executive seat.

In 2009 an announcement was held in Dublin, declaring Japan as the host for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, following the 2015 one held in England. Japan’s national team is called The Cherry Blossoms and are widely regarded as the strongest rugby team currently playing out of Asia. The team has only managed a single win in the Rugby World Cup since participating at every single one of them since 1987, but hopes to change this as they participate in England against the world’s best.

Japan’s “Top League” is the premier league for professional rugby in Japan, having been established in 2003 with the purpose of furthering the sport in the country. There are also several different cups and tournaments each year, some only for the professional level, some for the collegiate level.

First image by Reuters on odt.co.nz

Second image by rugbyworldcup.com

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Puroresu

Puroresu. The name itself has an odd sound to it, from a western point of view. And aside from the name of the sport, it will remain an oddity for those unfamiliar with it. When one uses the words “wrestling” and “Japan” in the same context, the immediate association is normally the famous Japanese Sumo Wrestling. Rightfully so as Japan remains the only country where the sport remains a seriously popular competition.

Puroresu is different, however. The name stems from “professional wrestling” which is roughly translated in Japan as “purofesshonaru resuringu” which is then shorted to “Puroresu.” The term became popular among foreign fans through the online network Usenet. Puroresu as a whole has its roots in American show-wrestling and can be compared to the hugely popular wrestling organizations WWE and TNA. The fighters are presented similarly to their American counterparts, in over-the-top costumes, their own entrance music and their own personalities. However, the major difference is that while in the American WWE it is generally known and accepted that the fights are staged and scripted, the fights are treated as real fights in Puroresu with far less emphasis on theatrics. Despite the fact that Japanese wrestling is quite different from the aforementioned American one, the term “Puroresu” in itself refers to all professional wrestling, including the American WWE or TNA.

This difference has given Puroresu its own little niche in the entertainment industry. Fans who prefer more realistic fights than they get from the WWE but not as extreme as those shown in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Competition) were quick to harbor an interest in the Japanese Puroresu scene. Promoters tend to keep fictional story lines at the very minimum however, normally only restricted to embellishing prior confrontations between competitors. Gimmicks, such as situational weapons as often seen in WWE, are almost never seen. Due to the seriousness of the competition, and the tendency of the participants to land full-contact strikes, doctors and other medical professionals are required to be on-site during each competition, regardless of venue and promoters.

Most fighters competing in Puroresu bouts often have background in one or more martial arts. Despite this, the events draw thousands and more into watching them, treating the sport just like they would a high level martial art competition, thus classifying Puroresu as a combat sport. Matches are won through either pinning, submission, knockout, countout or disqualification, making it similar in terms of criteria to what western fans might be used to.

First image from keepingthespiritalive

Second image from Puroresu Central

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History of Japan at the Winter Olympics

Similar to its relationship with the Summer Olympic Games, Japan has a decidedly intricate history with its counterpart, the Winter Olympic Games. The Winter Games are held every 2 years prior and after the Summer Games, taking place in the winter months as the name implies. The Japanese Olympic Committee was formed in 1911, one year prior to the first ever modern Summer Games, and oversees the Japanese team for the Winter Olmypics as well.

As of now, Japan has competed in 20 instances of the Winter Games. The notable exception to Japan’s tendency to compete in all events the nation is invited to comes in the form of the 1948 Winter Games – held in the same year as the 1948 Summer Games, which Japan also did not compete in. The reasoning behind this can be attributed to the fact that World War II had ended less than 3 years prior and Japan at the time was still occupied by Allied Forces, and placed on several international sanctions. Aside from that incident, however, Japan has competed in all Winter Olympic Games.

The Land of the Rising Sun has played host to the Winter Olympics on two occasions. The first was in 1972 when Japan hosted in the games in Sapporo and its Hokkaido Prefecture with the second time was in 1998 in Nagano City and Prefecture. Prior to hosting in 1972, Japan had only managed to win a single medal overall – a silver medal in 1956 Slalom event. The country’s performance did not pick up until they hosted themselves, when Japan managed to pick up its first gold and bronze medals respectively. The following Winter Games were slightly lackluster from Japan, until their first major highlight came in 1992, in which Japan won a total of 7 medals.

However, Japan’s Winter Olympics highlight so far has been the second time they hosted in 1998. Here Japan showed an extremely dominant performance, winning a total of 10 medals, of which 5 were golden, finishing 7th in the standings.

Japan’s strongest sports at the Winter Games are Ski Jumping and Speed Skating. Those two categories alone make up 26 of Japan’s accumulated 45 medals. There have also been displays of talent in the Figure Skating competition, where Japan won 2 gold medals over the years.

More recently, Japan finished 17th in the 2014 games held in Sochi, Russia, and hopes to reach the 50 medal mark at the 2018 games held in South Korea.

First image by Qurren on Wikipedia

Second image by How Hwee Young on Canda.com

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History of Japan at the Summer Olympics

Japan as a country has a very long and active history when it comes to the Olympics, especially the Summer Olympics. Held every 2 years interchanging with its counterpart, the Winter Olympics, Japan has competed at the Olympic Games ever since 1912, forming the Japanese Olympic Committee in 1911, one year prior to the start of the games. The island nation went on to compete every time with the notable exception of the 1948 games following World War II due to the political climate, as well as the 1980 games due to the American boycott of the games held in Russia at the time.

Historically, Japan required some time to reach international levels of competition in order to win medals, with its first medal won in 1920 and subsequently its first gold medal two instances later in the 1928 competition.

There have been two instances wherein Japan managed to break into the Top 3 in overall medal count over the years – 1964 and 1968.

Ever since Japan’s first time competing, the country hosted the Summer Olympics once – 1964 in Tokyo. Over the years, the nation’s athletes have managed to win a total of 398 medals in the Summer Olympics, leading across the board in most gold medals won in the Olympic Judo competition. It’s is expected of the country to break the 400 mark in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Brazil. .

Currently, prior to the 2016 games, Japan is overall ranked 13th in globally in terms of total gold medals accumulated, and 12th in total medal count at the Summer Olympics. This also means that Japan is the only Asian country aside from China to be in the top 15 for both total overall medals and total gold medals. Regionally, Japan is the only strong competitor to China, but unfortunately cannot compete with the gigantic nation due to sheer size and available resources. Trailing Japan with a rather large gap is South Korea, who has won only 81 gold medals compared to Japan’s 130.

Japan’s strongest categories in the Olympic games are Judo, Gymnastics, Wrestling and Swimming. Those four categories alone make up 302 of Japan’s 398 total medal count, showing a high level of dominance in those sports. Judo especially is where Japan shines, with the Land of the Rising Sun holding the highest amount of medals ahead of all countries with a whooping 72 of which 36 are gold. The closest competitor is France with 12 gold medals and 44 medals over all. Japan’s dominance is unsurprising given their status as founders of the sport, but is highly impressive regardless.

First image from Themescompany

Second image by Julian Finney on Sunshine Coast Daily.

 

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Japan and the FIFA World Cup

Japan has a long history when it comes to football, especially when it comes to the biggest sporting event across the planet – the FIFA World Cup, held every 4 years. With the island nation’s recent qualification to participate in the upcoming 2014 installment of the event, we should take a look at the history shared between the two, as well as the upcoming milestone of participating in the cup once more.

Japan’s history with the World Cup started decades ago in 1938, when they qualified but withdrew from the tournament – most likely due to the political reasons and the impending World War II. Consequently, Japan was banned from even playing in qualifiers for the 1950 World Cup due to international sanctions and still being occupied by allied forces.From the 1954 Cup onwards, Japan either did not enter the qualifiers at all, or failed to qualify. From 1970 onwards, Japan continuously attempted to qualify, however remained unsuccessful until 1998, where they qualified for the first time and managed to hold their on during the group stage of the competition.

2002 is the year many football fans associate when it comes to Japan. Rightfully so, as the Land of the Rising Sun played co-host to very first asian FIFA World Cup alongside South Korea. Managing to the advance to the Round of 16, Japan finished 9th out of 32 overall which is rather impressive for a nation with such little history in the sport itself. After another defeat in the group stage in the 2006 installment held in Germany, Japan repeated its 2002 performance in 2010 by finishing 9th in the round of 16 in South Africa.

It took close to two years following the South African World Cup for Japan to qualify for the upcoming 2014 competition held in Brazil. Under the training regime of the team’s new coach, Alberto Zaccheroni, the Japanese football team showed impressive improvement over the span of 3 games and due to the win to loss ratio of their qualification competitors, Japan managed to qualify.

The country even made a bid for the 2022 World Cup to be held in Japan, and only Japan, this time. However Qatar got the appointment for the 2022 installment, which could however still change in Japan’s favor in the case that the middle eastern nation stays behind on the construction of stadiums to host the cup.

An amusing bit of trivia that came about recently is Japan’s appointment of the globally known character “Pikachu” from the popular Pokemon franchise as their official team mascott for the 2014 World Cup.

First image by Nakata Hidetoshi on Wikipedia

Second image taken from Gamerant