Top Traditional and Modern Japanese Sports

Sports fans in Japan enjoy both traditional and modern Japanese sports. Traditional sports include sumo and martial arts, while modern sports include baseball and golf. To be able to learn more about Japanese and their love for sports, read this article further.



Sumo is the national sport of Japan. It is a Japanese wrestling style which was used in ancient times to entertain Shinto Gods. Nowadays, regular Japanese and even tourists take time to see or witness sumo live.

Unlike modern wrestling where an opponent can be beaten either by submission or count, the rules of sumo is much simpler. In Sumo, whoever leaves the ring first or touches the ground loses.

If you want to watch Sumo live, look for a dohyo near you. A dohyo is an elevated clay ring covered with sand.


Judo is literally translated as “the gentle way”. It was adapted by Japanese Jigoro Kano from the ancient martial art form jujitsu.

Unlike other martial arts, the main objective of judo is not only to win but also to train one’s body and soul. Furthermore, in Judo, technique is more valuable than stamina.


Kendo is literally translated as the way of the sword. It is the Japanese equivalent of fencing. The Japanese warriors used swords as their primary weapon for centuries. Swords are symbolize the samurai. Modern kendo uses bamboo swords.

Just like in judo, training the mind in Kendo is crucial.


Traditional and Modern Japanese Sports

Traditional and Modern Japanese Sports


Baseball is called Yakyu in Japanese. Currently, it is known by many as the most popular sport in Japan. As a matter of fact, there are two Japanese baseball leagues in the country- he Pacific League and the Central League. As in the U.S., games are usually broadcast live during baseball season. High school baseball tournaments are also broadcast nationwide.


Unknown to many, golf is also very popular in Japan. Although success of Japanese golf players are not that high, the hectares of lands used for golfing in Japan is obvious. As further, evidence of golf’s popularity in the country, there are actually some golf courses that are laid out on two or more floors.

Ryo Ishikawa

Image from Google


Isao Aoki

Many sports that stem from the west have found another home in Asia’s industry through Japan and the nation’s fascination of many foreign activities, including, in this case, the art of golfing. Culturally, the Japanese prioritize a variety of values, many of which are embodied in the sport of golf, as seen through the high popularity the sport enjoys among the middle aged adults. Values such as patience, precision, persistence, power and passion are all required to be excel in the sport of golf, many of which are historically integral to success in Japanese history – which are also responsible for Golf in Japan being played differently to the rest of the world.

The country has given birth to quite a few different successful names in the industry, especially in the youth circuits, with there having been quite a few Japanese pro golfers that have virtually exploded onto the professional golf scene – well, exploded as much as possible in a sport such as golf, wherein experience is one of the most valuable assets to have, and talent alone does not gain victories.

Isao Aoki is one of the older names that has made its ways around the professional circles, representing Japan for a fairly long amount of time. He is, in fact, one of the single most successful golfers to have ever come out of Japan. Born in 1942, his introduction to golf was as a caddy himself in his time as a schoolboy to earn some extra pocket money. At the age of 22 he became a pro and would turn out to be one of the most celebrated names of the Japan Golf Tour, winning over 50 events over the span of his career. For five years in his career he also topped the Japan Golf Tour Money list, with a total estimated earnings of almost 1 billion Japanese Yen, which at the time was worth even more than it would be today. Aoki also saw a bit of international success, bagging a win in the PGA and European Tours each, as well as numerous Champion Tour wins. He even represented Japan in the Champions Tour playoffs, with limited success.

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Ryo Ishikawa

Japan. The land of the eccentric – a country bathed in the history of an incredibly varied culture, both modern and ancient. An Asian country that has made its impact in international sport like few others and has surprised many with its mastery over competitive sports ordinary dominated by the western countries. In both football and baseball, Japan has been a force to be reckoned with, and more recently, the nation has set its sights on raising more talent to bring into the prestigious sport of golf.

And in that endeavor, the Land of the Rising Sun has been rather successful, producing several names that have gained recognition and success in one of the most international sports played across the world. One of those names is Ryo Ishikawa who has the moniker of Hanikami Ōji – “the bashful prince.”


Born in 1991, Ishikawa is literally young enough to be the son of some of the older veterans that compete in professional golf, assuming of course that they had given birth at a fairly young age. Ishikawa exploded onto the scene in 2007, making his name known by becoming the youngest winner ever of an event part of the men’s Japan Golf Tour. He won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup at the tender age of 15, an age most teens struggle with the awkwardness of puberty instead of winning professional golf tournaments. What was all the more impressive was his entry into the tournament as an amateur, also making it his very first tour appearance. Of course, one has to keep in mind that the player with the highest rank on the Official World Golf Ranking was only ranked in the lower part of the 100s, meaning that Ishikawa wasn’t up against the best in the world – or even the very best in Japan – still, a highly impressive feat that garnered a lot of attention.

A short year later and Ishikawa decided to turn into a pro golfer, managing to win another Japanese tournament in the same year, managing to become the youngest player to ever break into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings.

Another year later and Ishikawa began competing in the PGA Tournaments at the tender age of 17. Of course, here he wouldn’t be able to simply come onto the field and beat out the best the world had to offer, but only 2 years later he had gained enough experience on large tournaments to start placing high in the tournaments, continuing his streak of becoming the youngest ever golfer to break into the top 50 rankings.

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Hideki Matsuyama

When one thinks about popular sports, ball-based sports such as football, basketball or even baseball may come to mind immediately. That holds true for Japan as well, with their fascination for western sports dominating the rankings in terms of popularity, the top two being baseball and football. One sport that many often tend to forget about however, is golf – and interestingly enough, said sport is also a strong contender for the number 3 in the list of most popular sport across the Land of the Rising Sun.

Some don’t consider golf as a sport – well those that do have most likely never played a full round of 18 holes themselves or they wouldn’t make such claims. Golf is a more exclusive sport, a fact that also holds true for Japan as the sport is marketed more towards the middled-aged, corporate-class of men. Despite that, Japan has also given birth to some of the most exciting talent on the youth circuit of the sport, as evidenced by none other than Hideki Matsuyama.

Born in 1992, Matsuyama is young enough to be the son of some of the current veteran golf pros, assuming they had started parenthood early enough. He pretty much exploded onto the golf scene out of nowhere, managing to win the Asian Amateur Championship at the tender age of 18, two years below the legal age of alcohol consumption in his home country. Following his surprise victory, Matsuyama was given the chance to compete in the 2011 Masters Tournament, wherein the best of the best across the world compete for one of the major titles in golf. Matsuyama entered the tournament as an amateur, in turn going down in history as the first Japanese amateur to compete in the prestigious event. He put down an incredible performance – and while not winning the tournament as a whole, managed to achieve the lowest score as an amateur across the board, winning the Silver Cup in doing so – rather easily too, as he was the only amateur who made the first round cut, which eliminates all competitors who had not achieved an adequate score, from further competing in the competition.

From there, his golf career just began, followed by a gold medal in the 2011 World University Games and successful defense of his title in the Asian Amateur Championship.

Matsuyama comes from the city of Matsuyama which is the capital of the Ehime Prefecture, both of which in turn are located on the island of Shikoku, a popular tourist destination.

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Ryo Ishikawa

May 20, 2007 marked the beginning of a bright career for a young Japanese golf player. Barely 16 years old, Ryo Ishikawa won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup, making him the youngest player to win the tournament. This was Ishikawa’s first tour appearance and he competed as an amateur with a sponsor exemption. From then on, this young Japanese golfer’s career was never the same.

Ishikawa, also fondly nicknamed Hanikami Ōji or “Shy Prince”, started playing golf at the age of six when his father brought him to a practice field. Interest in the game coupled with a natural swing propelled the young boy to play well and eventually win several championships, the first of which was the Yokoo elementary school principal cup championship at the age of 13. He proceeded with his winning streak all through high school, winning Japan’s National Junior High Championship. He turned professional in 2008 and won another tournament, the Mynavi ABC Championship. By the end of his first season as a pro, he finished fifth on the Japan Golf Tournament Organization’s money list, and became the youngest player to reach the Top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

In 2009, his second season as a pro, he played in PGA Tour tournaments for the first time. He played in the Northern Trust Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the 2009 Masters Tournament. He finished 71st the Transitions Championship. By the end of 2009, Ishikawa had four wins in Japan, led the money list, and was among the Top 50 in the world rankings.


Ryo Ishikawa

In May 2010, Ishikawa made another record by shooting a 58 in the final round of the Crowns tournament in Japan making it the lowest score ever posted on any of the world’s major golf tours. Colorful golf outfits have become the trademark of the young golfer. He has been said to “push the limits” of golf fashion. Ishikawa’s on-course style is far from his shy nickname. He is often seen in brightpastels, plaids, cleanly tailored shirts and pants, and the ever presentbicep band. His impeccable dressing style definitely makes him stand out in the crowd. Whatever it is he is wearing, Ishikawa exudes the same creativity and versatility he shows in his game.

Ishikawa takes golf fashion a notch higher

His fast climb to the top did not prevent Ishikawa from helping his own. He donated all of his 2011 tour earnings, plus an additional ¥ 100,000 for every birdie he made during the year, to the victims of the 2010 Japan earthquake. The bright outfits after all, perfectly fit the bright outlook that is inside this young man’s heart.


Photos from Golf Digest and Zimbio


Golfing in Japan

Japan is known to be a land of nice surprises. This seemingly small cluster of land boasts of more than 2,300 golf courses and over 500 driving ranges to keep the average golf enthusiast on his toes with excitement. Consistent with the Japanese goal of perfection, these courses and ranges are kept in tip-top shape to ensure pure playing pleasure for everyone.

How do you make a game exclusively yours? It all boils down to knowing the basics of playing golf in Japan. First, you determine where you want to play because this determines how much you will pay. The more exclusive courses in Japan would mean dishing out at the very least an annual membership fee of ¥25,000.00 to enjoy playing privileges for one year. This is on top of the green fee of ¥7,900 on weekdays or up to ¥12,000 on weekends. Fortunately, many golf courses have opened their doors to day-golfers who can expect to spend around ¥15,000 to ¥20,000 for a round. If you want to forego the extras, you can always “self-play” without a caddie, cut down on the beer at lunch, and spend as low as ¥6,000 for a day on the course.

Once you set your budget, you now find a buddy to play that round with. Most courses do not allow single players. Twosomes are a minimum. This is perhaps borne out of the practice of discussing business while playing golf. To try to get into a flight might be mistaken as trying to get into someone else’s business. Besides, it is always more enjoyable to play with a friend. Golf clubs are seldom for rent so if you plan on playing golf, you must remember to bring your set. You can arrange to have your set delivered to your course of choice a couple of days before your scheduled play for about ¥1,500. This service saves you the trouble of dragging your set with you to and from the course. Just a simple reminder: golf sets are usually taken to the caddie masters and you will get to see them when you start to play, so do not make the mistake of packing your playing clothes or shoes in your golf bag A few more reminders are necessary before the game. Lunch between the front and back nines are mandatory. Take this time to enjoy the beauty of the course and the sumptuous meal before you. You can later on decide to hop into a hot tub like most players after a game. This, and a bottle of cold beer can define this adventure as exclusively yours.

Assuming that you have chosen well your course, your set, your clothes and your playing buddy, all that is left to do is to enjoy your game. Since Japan is a place of surprises, keep an open mind. Who knows? You might find yourself back for another round.

Images are taken from Golf in Japan and Destination 360