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Kashima Antlers

Japan, like many other Asian nations nowadays, is predominantly ruled by western sports in the active lifestyle department. Despite football being the single most popular sport across the planet, it has only managed to reach the number two spot in the Land of the Rising Sun. Regardless, the sport is widely popular and Japan has even managed to make waves in the international scene of the sport, strongly representing its geographical location. Locally, the highest level of football is played in the J. League Division 1, consisting of 18 teams – a system very similar to the way the famous English Premier League and German Bundesliga are structured.

One of the teams in the J. League’s first division is the Kashima Antlers. A somewhat amusing name, a bit of a play on words by its founders. The term “Kashima” is the name of a city, a port city in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and translates to “deer island” in English, making the club’s moniker of Antlers quite apt. Outside of Kashima, the Antlers also represent the rest of the Ibaraki Prefecture, including the towns and cities of Itako, Kamisu and Hasaki.

Despite the Ibaraki Prefecture being somewhat small and generally only known for its importance in the shipping industry, its football team is one of the most successful teams to ever compete in the J. League Division 1. Ever since the club’s participation in the highest level of Japanese national football, the team has managed to win the league title a whooping seven times, finishing an average of 3rd place across the board. On top of that come a record of winning the Emperor’s Cup four times as well as the J. League Cup another five teams, resulting in an unprecedented 16 titles on the national level. This figure becomes even more impressive when one considers that it has only been roughly 20 years since the club’s entry into the level of professional football, a feat not many other teams can boast about.

The club’s roots go all the way back to 1947, when it was founded by a metal-working company in the city of Osaka. The team didn’t become successful until the very late 80s and early 90s, when it finally managed to rise to the top of the J. League’s second division and eventually broke into the first division. Under new management and sponsorship, the team rapidly shaped up to take the Japanese football world by storm, and continues doing so every season they participate in.

First image by hdlogo.wordpress.com

Second image by seethecup.com

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Teiken Boxing Gym

Professional level boxing in Japan follows a slightly different structure than it does in other countries. The Japanese Boxing Commission regulates the sport, setting its rules – however, it is also these rules that prevent the growth of the sport in Japan on an international level.  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 – meaning that the gyms have a lot of autonomous control over the state of the sport.

A few of the gyms in Japan have reached levels of fame due to producing some of the best boxers to compete nationally – and the Teiken Boxing Gym is one of them. The history of the gym dates back almost 100 years, established back in 1926, and is today a member of the East Japan Boxing Association, which in turn is a branch of the Japan Pro Boxing Association, all regulated by the Japanese Boxing Commission.

Behind the Teiken Boxing Gym is the Teiken Promotions Inc, a company with an impressive international reputation, being responsible for the management, training and promotion of many internationally successful boxers, both Japanese and foreign. The gym has several branches across the Land of the Rising Sun, with its main one being in the country’s capital, Tokyo, its Kagurazaka neighborhood specifically.

One of the most significant problems with boxing in Japan is that most Japanese boxers are not recognized by the internationally important boxing organizations, such as the WBO, WBC or WBA, meaning its fighters cannot compete at all at their sanctioned events – this mainly stems from the somewhat odd set of rules that govern Japan’s boxing scene. However, Teiken Boxing Gym doesn’t have that problem – with its parent company being Teiken Promotions, it is uncommon for them to simply export their promising talent to a western country once the fighter is ready to take on the international stage.

Masao Ohba is a name that fans of the boxing scene might recognize – and is also one of the most important ones in the history of the Teiken Boxing Gym. Ohba was the first to bring an international title to the gym, winning the world title for the flyweight division.

First image by notifight.com

Second image by boxing.com

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Emperor’s Cup

Quite a few tournaments are held throughout Japan for the sport of football, which has despite international market share dominance only managed to reach second place in terms of popularity in the ever illustrious Land of the Rising Sun.

None of these, however, is as large and as important as the Emperor’s Cup. There is much to be said about this particular event, which sets the pace for Japanese football throughout every year. The Emperor’s Cup has the longest and most diverse history of all the competitive football events in Japan, having history dating back all the way to just after the end of World War I, 1921. In fact, prior to the outbreak of World War II, there had actually been a time wherein Japan’s Emperor’s Cup also hosted teams from outside south-east Asia, including Korea and Taiwan.

Nowadays, the point of the competition is to determine the single strongest football team across Japan. The cup is held annually and any team is free to enter it as long as they are recognized by the Japan Football Association. Using this format, one can expect to see some interesting match ups, as all levels from the best of professional football all the way to high schools and collegiate teams are in attendance.

Of course, it is to be expected for the teams participating in the J. League, the highest league for professional football on the national level, to consistently win, which they normally do. Regardless, those willing to push themselves and those wanting to prove themselves all get an equal shot at impressing potential sponsors and talent scouts, which has given rise to careers on more than one occasions.

Despite the general dominance of the J. League Division 1 and Division 2 teams, it is also generally unlikely for teams to achieve an aptly named “double,” which would be to win both the Emperor’s Cup as well as their respective division. The winning team of the tournament is rewarded by being allowed to wear a special emblem on their jerseys in the following season to signify their status as the year’s winner.

Another very important facet of the competition is its international significance. The winning team of the Emperor’s Cup is guaranteed a spot in the following season of the AFC Champions League which is the premier Asian football competition for professional clubs, organized by the Asian Football Confederation. Only the best of every region is admitted, either by winning a specific tournament or placing in the top spots of a nation’s highest league.

First image by reds-fan.net

Second image by fifa.com

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Chiyonofuji

Sumo is an interesting sport, especially when viewed from a non-native Japanese perspective. The sport is historically and culturally one of the cornerstones of Japanese competitive sport, having much history associated with it and its development. Given that it is a one on one contact sport, some fighters naturally stand out among their competitors, for a variety of reasons.

One of the stand-out names in the list of amazing Sumo wrestlers is Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, whose original name had been Mitsugu Akimoto prior to becoming a professional Sumo wrestler. He was born in the midst of 1955 and managed to claim the title of yokozuna during his professional career. The title of yokozuna is not given out lightly, as it indicates that he has managed to reach the very highest rank in the sport, something that many aspiring fighters hope to achieve one day.

In his time as yokozuna, Chiyonofuji managed to accomplish a variety of impressive feats. The easiest to see was that his average weigh-in during official matches amounted to 120kg, which is really rather light for the sport, especially given his title as the best. Additionally, in his time as yokozuna, he also managed to win a total of 31 championships, a feat that has only been beaten by the prolific Taiho Koki, who is hailed as the best Sumo wrestler to ever compete following the end of World War II, with his 32 victories. Another feat that he had only been beaten by Taiho is the fact that he held onto the title of yokozuna for a long time, being the bearer of it for a whole ten years, falling just one year short of Taiho’s time.

One record he did manage to set was that he had won more tournaments in his thirties than any other wrestler before him, even more impressive especially since he retired in his mid thirties. In the 21 years of his professional career, Chiyonofuji also broke the record for most career wins, amounting to 1045, of which 807 were in the highest division. Additionally, he also set the record for most amount of consecutive wins in the Kyushu tournament, one of the six most significant Sumo tournaments held over the year, by winning eight times in a row. Chiyonofuji also set the record for the highest win-streak in Sumo wrestling following the war, going undefeated for 53 matches.

First image by sumodb.sumogames.de

Second image by sumoforum.net

 

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Omiya Ardija

Football, or soccer as it is called in some countries, is the single most popular sport across the world. In Japan however, the popular sport has only managed to take hold over the spot as the second most popular sport played in the country, interestingly enough as the Land of the Rising Sun has taken an even greater liking to the American bat-sport, Baseball.

Regardless, football does have its place among the Japanese and is played very competitively across all levels, so competitively in fact that the Japanese compete at the highest possible levels Internationally and formed their own local professional leagues. The highest level of national soccer in Japan is played in the J-League Division 1.

One of the 18 teams to compete in the J-League’s highest level is Omiya Ardija. The team’s origins is the city of Saitama, located in the prefecture of the same name. The sport of football has a strong presence in the prefecture, resulting in the club having a decent following and support back home. The name of the club stems from the Spanish word “Ardija” – meaning squirrel. The actual spelling, and subsequent pronunciation of the word had been disregarded in an effort to make the name more comprehensive among the Japanese. The reasoning behind the name was that prior to calling Saitama City their home, the club originally stemmed from the city of Omiya which merged with neighboring towns to form Saitama as a city. Omiya’s local mascot had been a squirrel, which would be easily recognized by the locals as their team’s mascot.

Despite the strong football background present in the home of the club, Omiya Ardija isn’t one of the strongest competitors in the J. League Division 1. Instead, the team normally finds itself among the middle or lower parts of the 18-team-bracket, finishing between spots 12 and 15 consistently over the past few years.

The club plays in the home stadium of Omiya, the NACK5 Stadium Omiya. Like the club, the stadium has plenty of history behind it, having actually served as one of the locations for the Summer Olympic Games held in Japan in 1964. IN addition to that, the stadium is the oldest football-only stadium in the country, having even been host to the legendary Diego Maradona at one point in the late 70s, when he competed at the World Youth Championships held there.
First image by thefootyblog.net
Second image by footballfashion.org

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Saitama Seibu Lions

Baseball is one of the most popular sports of all time in Japan – in fact, it has reigned supreme as the single most popular sport across the Land of the Rising Sun for the past decade or so, with the modern, generally American, sport being a very big deal in the southeast Asian pacific country.

The highest level of professional baseball in Japan is played in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, which itself is split into two conferences – the Central League and the Pacific League, each home to six independent teams, with the best of both leagues competing against each other in order to claim the All-Japanese title.

One of the teams competing in the Pacific League, the Saitama Seibu Lions is one of the most prolific baseball teams to compete in the sport, competing against teams such as the Orix Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

The team is heralded as one of the wealthiest teams in the league, owned by the Seibu Group as well as Yoshiaki Tsutsumi who had, at one point in recent history, been heralded as the single wealthiest man on the planet. Due to this large corporate backing, the club enjoys financial privileges in terms of talent acquisition and facilities available for use.

There is much history associated with the team itself, having undergone many changes since its founding in 1950. Even then, however, the team displayed dominant performances, managing to win the league 4 times in the first decade of being a NPB-level team. The Seibu Lions originally hail from the Fukuoka prefecture, but migrated to the city of Tokorozawa in the Saitama prefecture, just north of Tokyo.

The Seibu Lion’s most successful times in the NPB’s Pacific League were witnessed during the 80’s and part of the early 90’s, when the team’s crushing performances allowed them to place at the very top of the Pacific League standings several years in a row, as well as win the Japan Series by defeating the best team of the Central League.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Seibu Lions is its relationship with the famous American Baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. A special kind of agreement exists between the two teams and its respective management, referred to as a “posting system,” a system which allows the transfer of players between the Japanese NPB and American MBL and is doing wonders for both clubs.

First image by neweracaptalk.com

Second image by zimbio.com

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Taiho Koki

Sumo wrestling is a big deal in Japan. The sport is one of the most iconic ones throughout the nation, especially considering its historical and cultural importance. The lifestyle of a Sumo wrestler isn’t easy, but their profession draws large crowds of spectators – giving birth to a few legends of the competition, fighters that have stood out among the rest. It is, after all, a contact sport.

Some fighters and competitors make a name for themselves through their impact on the development of the sport, some do it by performing well consistently. Some, however, do so by simply crushing their opponents mercilessly, over and over again – and Taiho Koki is one of them.

Taiho Koki was the so-called 48th person to have claimed the yokozuna title, a title representing the highest rank in the Japanese Sumo system. In addition to that, he is often considered to be the best competitor in the post World War II period, having been born when the war was still raging brutally. In 1961, at age 21, he became the youngest ever person to claim the title of yokozuna, and it would be many years after him for someone to replicate the feat. In the span of 11 years, between 1960 and 1971, he managed to win 32 individual tournaments – an incredible figure today and just as impressive as it had been during his time. There had also been two separate instances wherein Koki won six major tournaments consecutively. On top of that comes the impressive fact that he had been the only wrestler to have won at least one championship in every year of his career in the highest division – so impressive in fact, that he is the only person to have done it up until today.

In the actual ring, Koki was known for his techniques involving the opponent’s belt and giving himself enough leverage to win by straight up pushing his opponent out of the ring, something he had actually done enough times to account for one third of all his victories. He would practise his techniques with all the other members of the highest rank, something he was well known for.

Following his retirement, Taiho Koki decided to become the head of a stable and take the reigns of developing the next generation. He became the head coach of the Taiho stable, managing to set the groundwork for the young blood which would eventually bring more championship titles to the stable itself, before he passed away.
First image by chijanofuji.com

Second image by sumoforum.net

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Chiba Lotte

Professional Baseball in Japan is one of the most rigorously supported and followed happenings in the Land of the Rising Sun. The sport, at its highest level, is regulated by the Nippon Professional Baseball organization, which in turn oversees the two leagues that separate the teams by geographic location.

The two leagues that professional teams can compete in are called the Central League and the Pacific League, with each having their own six unique teams competing against each other every season, with the winner of each league being able to face the winner of the other league in a final match at the end of the season to determine the best baseball in Japan for that season.

Many of the teams that are now at large with huge amounts of fan followers have their beginnings rooted several decades ago. One of the teams with such an history are the Chiba Lotte Marines, founded in 1950 along with a few other teams that are still very much relevant today as inaugural members of the Pacific Leauge. The foundation of the team can be traced back to the Mainichi newspaper company, under which the organization grew for over 20 years. It was then when the Korean candy and sweets manufacturer, a company by the name of Lotte, purchased the team, giving it its new moniker of being the “marines,” as reference to their sea-side located home.

The Chiba Lotte Marines call Chiba city, of the Chiba prefecture, which in turn is located in the Kanto Region, as their home. Its stadium, the QVC stadium, is located only half an hour away from Tokyo itself, in a general south-eastern direction if one follows the coastline. The home turn of the Chiba Lotte Marines is infamous throughout the NPB as one of the hardest courts to play on – first and foremost, the weather conditions can be rough. Not very surprising, given the location near the sea, an important factor to consider as a spectator in the colder months of the year, reflected by the often low amount of actual live viewers in the home stadium. Fans prefer the warmth of their homes while watching their team play.

The Marines have a decent track record in the league, having given birth to some of the all-time Japanese greats in the baseball industry, including Hiromitsu Ochiai, Choji Murata as well as Leron Lee, each a legend in their own right.

First image by sportslogos.net

Second image by japantimes.co.jp