Basketball in Japan

Before the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships in Manila started, Japan was at a high, hoping to bag at least a third place finish to be able to qualify in the FIBA Worlds in Spain. Just like in 2006, the Japanese especially the Japan Basketball Association was very optimistic that their time has finally come once again.

In 2006, Japan was the host of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Being the hosts, they were able to automatically qualify for it. In that competition, Japan had some memorable run as they went up and won against Panama, before having the chance to upset a strong New Zealand team.

Unfortunately, in 2010, they did not qualify for the FIBA World Championship. But they believed that they had the chance to enter the 2014 version.

Japan needed a top three finish at the FIBA Asia competition in the Philippines. Amidst threats from powerhouse teams such as Iran, China, South Korea and the host nation, Japan was very positive about their chances.

Japanese Team Captain

Japanese Team Captain

The players and coaching staff are in a good mood after beating an under-strength Philippines team to complete a three-game sweep of their friendly series. But the Philippines were literally under strength in that win as 6 of their players were not able to suit up since they were still playing in their local league. Instead, two cadets players suited up for them just to fill up the roster.

“We entered our training camp in May and we were able to play the kind of defense we wanted for the first time today,” he said.

The coach of Japan, Kimikazu Suzuki, says everything depends on the team’s ability to play lock-down defense.

Unfortunately, Japan was not able to eventually win a third place finish in the 2014 Asia Cup. Instead, they only two games.

Image from FIBA


Japan National Basketball Team

The Japanese National Basketball Team represents Japan in international basketball competitions. With two basketball leagues in the country, the Japan Basketball Association won the rights to govern the Japanese basketball team.

Japan has been a member of FIBA since 1936, one of the founding members of FIBA Asia. Given this, Japan has one of Asia’s longest basketball traditions. Looking at it generally, it can be said that the national basketball team of Japan is one of the most successful in Asia. Unfortunately, in the recent years, Japan has failed to keep up with other Asian countries such as Iran, China, Korea, and even the Philippines.

Team Colors

Team Colors

But generally, Japan has won the Asian Basketball championships twice, and is the second leading nation in the qualifications event. More impressive is that Japan has actually qualified for the Olympic Games six times, and for the FIBA World cup for four times.

In the last decades, Japan brought forth several of Asia’s elite basketball players who competed in the NBA and in Europe. These players include Yuta Tabuse, J.R. Sakuragi, Takuya Kawamura, Takumi Ishizaki and others.

Japan’s national team had its first international tournament at the 3rd Far Eastern Games held in Tokyo in 1917. Japan representative at this time was the team of the Kyoto YMCA. Later, the team was a founding member of the Olympics Basketball competition in Berlin 1936. Henceforth, they participated almost every time until 1976. Team Japan was a regular at world tournaments. It had its debut at the FIBA World Championship in 1963. It was the top team in Asia, as it won the championship there in 1965 and 1971. Since the rise of China, Japan declined a little bit and appearances at global events became scarcer.

Most recently, Japan tried to qualify for the FIBA World 2014 through the FIBA ASIA qualifiers. Unfortunately, the team failed to enter even the semi finals. Eventually, it was South Korea, the Philippines, and Iran who qualified and went to Spain.

Image from Wikipedia



Japan in the 2013 FIBA Asia Tournament

Last August 4, 2013, Japan matched up against the hosts of the 2013 FIBA Asia Tournament, the Philippines. With the help of the Philippines sixth man (the crowd), the hosts rallied to a 90-71 victory against one of Asia’s most successful basketball teams. The game was held in Manila, specifically in the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Philippines improved to 2-1 in Group E and dropped Japan to 1-2, as wins against eliminated teams, namely Group A’s Saudi Arabia for the locals, are not factored into the second round tally.

The Philippine Team dubbed as Gilas Pilipinas had another excellent third quarter, but this time, they were able to hold on. On August 3, it can be remembered that the Philippines enjoyed a double digit lead only to squander it and eventually lose to Chinese Taipei by two points. But against Japan, a 29-15 scoring deficit was took advantaged by the Philippines, for good.

With Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, and Marcus Douthit, the Philippines was able to get a 10-0 run against Japan. A 75-51 advantage at the start of the fourth was enough for Gilas to shift into cruise control, despite a last 12-4 push by the visiting team.

Jeff Chan of Gilas Pilipinas against Japan

Jeff Chan of Gilas Pilipinas against Japan

Douthit top-scored for the Philippines with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Chan notched 16 points, making 4-of-5 attempts from beyond the arc, while LA Tenorio and Ranidel De Ocampo chipped in nine markers each off the bench.

Led by Takeuchi, Japan managed to whittle down the lead in the fourth, 79-63, using a 12-4 run with four minutes remaining. But a Jimmy Alapag trey cut it short, to start a last 12-4 rally, highlighted by Gary David’s first three-pointer of the tournament, coming from the right corner, to bag this victory.

Japan’s head coach Kimikazu Suzuki rued that his team was only down by 10 at the half and couldn’t catch up afterwards. “We’re sad that we couldn’t play our basketball. They kept their style and we couldn’t stop their style,” he said.

Image from KC Cruz of Gma Network Philippines



Yuki Togashi

Who said the NBA is not for Asian players? Who also said that the NBA is only for those who are six foot and above in height? Yuki Togashi, a Japanese basketball player almost proved these statements to be false.

Earl Boykins, Mugsy Bogues, and Nate Robinson, these are the players who like Togashi are also regarded as the smallest nba players. However, what makes Togashi different from the aforementioned is the fact that these guys are strong and athletic, letting them endure the physicality of the NBA. But Togashi makes up for it with two things- speed and heart.

In the 2014 off season, Yuki Togashi was invited by the Dallas Mavericks to play in their NBA Summer Camp. It can be remembered that the Dallas Mavericks was also the team that drafted another Japanese player in Yuta Tabuse.

In his Summer League debut, Togashi quickly became a fan favorite. His daredevil drives and uncanny floaters got him the respect of the viewers despite his size. Back home, he was averaging 15.3 points and 7.6 assists per game. However, in his Summer League play, he failed to finish in double digit average.

Of all the places for Yuki Togashi’s basketball story to start, it’s at Kevin Durant’s high school alma mater, Montrose Christian. He played for their varsity basketball team and graduated in three years, but returned to Japan after failing to receive any Division I scholarship offers.

Mavericks scout Luca Desta originally thought it was a joke when a mutual friend told him he should look at Yuki, but his opinion changed after watching film.

Unable to land a team this season, expect Togashi to try it out once again next year. After all, it is not only his game that could improve any NBA club, but also the global popularity he can give.

Image from rantsports


Yuta Tabuse

The National Basketball Association is a league that consists of people all over the world. Be it Americans, Canadians, or even Asians, you’ll surely find one there. However, there is only one Japanese basketball player in modern times who was able to set foot on an NBA court. His name is Yuta Tabuse.

Yuta Tabuse is a 5 foot 9 inches point guard, who once played for the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-2005 season. Historically speaking, he is the first Japanese born player in the NBA.

At an early age particularly in high school, Tabuse was already exposed to fame. When he led his school to three straight national championships, some started to refer to him as the “Michael Jordan of Japan”.

Michael Cooper, former NBA player and Tabuse’s coach with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, said of him, “He automatically changes the game because of his quickness and distributing the ball. He’s the best fundamental player I’ve been around in a long time,” and Suns assistant coach Marc Iavaroni said, “I liked his energy, I liked his courage.”



Tabuse played basketball at an early age of nine. According to him, it was not hard for him to fall in love with the game, especially since he was not good in baseball and soccer. He attended Noshiro Technical High in Akita Prefecture, where he led his team to national championships all three years he was there and did not lose a single game.

In 2004, Tabuse joined the Phoenix Suns’ training camp and made the opening night roster. He scored seven points in his first NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks on November 3, 2004. However, he was waived by the Suns on December 16, 2004 and rejoined the Jam for the remainder of the season.

Currently, Tabuse plays for the Link Tochigi Brex in the Japanese Basketball League.

Image from Wikipedia


Basketball in Japan

In an article released by APG Sports, written by Kaz Nagatsuka, it was repeatedly insisted that Japanese basketball is fast declining. The title actually caught my attention. It was posted as “Basketball in Japan Is a Directionless Mess with Few Fans, Few Stars… Oh! But Plenty of Teams”

The writer, Kaz Nagatsuka could actually have a valid point. As reported by the same website, Japan has 33 professional and semi-pro basketball teams. With this big number of basketball teams, it could seem as if basketball is the primary sport in Japan. However, it is not a secret to many that basketball is well behind other modern sports such as baseball and football.

Comparing the number of basketball teams in Japan to that of China and America, it can easily be noticed that Japan’s is really so much more. China and America with much larger populations and fan base have 18 and 30 teams in their respective basketball leagues.

According to apgsports, basketball in Japan lags embarrassingly far behind its rivals in the the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) and J-league (soccer) in terms of fan participation, stadium ticket sales, televised games, as well as ad revenue that would normally be derived from broadcasts of games.

Currently, there are two major basketball leagues in Japan. This was the scenario since the year 2005. This is obviously the reason why the number of basketball teams in Japan is so much. But with a lot of basketball teams, the level of competitiveness has definitely declined. There are a lot of issues in the two leagues as well. The battle of corporate ownership against city/town based team forming is still a growing issue until now. players have also preferred to go to teams where they can earn more instead of joining or staying put in teams where they can win. And more unfortunately, the dream of finally sending a Japanese basketball player in the NBA for a long run has dimmed.

Basketball is a modern sport

Basketball is a modern sport

A merger is the only viable course of action to improve the game of basketball in Japan. The only obstacle aside from legal and logistical hurdles is of will. The will of the corporations that own the stronger clubs and who resist any attempts to change over to an entirely professional league for the betterment of the game. Japan’s men’s basketball is at an important crossroads, it must take action sooner rather than later, as said by Nagatsuka.

Image from Google



J.R Sakuragi

Basketball is arguably the most popular sport in the world. However, in Japan, basketball is not the primary sport. Some may argue that traditional sports such as martial arts and sumo are the top sports in the country. On the other hand, others claim that modern sports such as baseball and soccer are. But still, the popularity of basketball in the country cannot be denied. As a matter of fact, Japan has been a consistent contender in the most prestigious competition in the region- the FIBA Asia Basketball League.

However, because of the Japanese’ natural lack in size, they have not qualified in any major FIBA event in recent memory. But in fairness to them, they have consistently been in the top 7 in Asia.

A player that can be lauded for Japan’s success in international basketball is no other than J.R Henderson, more popularly known as J.R Sakuragi.

J.R Sakuragi, born Milton Henderson Jr., is an American born professional basketball player. In the NCAA, he played for the UCLA Bruins getting a championship in the year 1995. As a pro, Henderson played with the defunct Vancouver Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association.

Unlike in America, Baseball is the number 1 sport in Japan, not basketball

Unlike in America, Baseball is the number 1 sport in Japan, not basketball

JR Sakuragi

The 6’8 forward was a two-time member of the All-Pac 10’s first team and appeared in 30 games for the Grizzlies during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season before embarking on an overseas career. That career eventually led him to the Japanese league’s Aishin Sea Horses and, eventually, the opportunity to play for the country’s national team as a naturalized citizen.

Because of Henderson’s appeal to the Japanese, they have finally decided to naturalize the power forward. In 2007, he officially became a Japanese citizen due to naturalization. With this, he also changed his name to J.R Sakuragi as a tribute to perhaps the most popular basketball icon in the country, Hanamachi Sakuragi of the Japanese Manga and anime, Slam Dunk.

It cannot be denied that J.R Sakuragi has done a lot for Japanese basketball. Without him, they wouldn’t have been in the run for the top spot in FIBA Asia. Unfortunately for the country, he is already planning to retire a year from now. This will definitely be a very big blow for the team and also for the country.

Image from Interaksyon


Japanese Women’s National Volleyball Team

The Japanese are known for many sports, particularly those related to martial arts. They were able to popularize sumo wrestling, aikido, and the like. But actually, the Japanese are well-diversified and really talented. As a matter of fact, they are also into modern sports. An example of this is volleyball.

As a testament to the success of the Japanese in the sport of volleyball is the current ranking of Japan’s national volleyball team in the women’s division. Currently, they are ranked third by the FVB. This is not an easy feat to reach.

The sport of volleyball is not new to Japan. Actually, arguably the most memorable Japanese volleyball moment in history is when their national team won against the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. What made this win even sweeter is the fact that they won it in front of their countrymen.

In the most recent Summer Olympics, Japan was able to qualify being the best team in Asia. In the 2012 Olympics, Japan had been placed on Group A with Russian Republic, Italy, Dominican Republic, the host Great Britain and Algeria. Japan finished third in the Group. In the quarter-finals, Japan faced the old Asian rival China. Saori Kimura and Yukiko Ebata each scored 33 points in this thrilling game in which China were beaten by 3–2. It was their first win over China in 11 years as far as FIVB games are concerned. Unfortunately, they were eventually beaten by the defending champions Brazil in the semi-finals.

Fortunately, Japan still had the chance to get a podium finish. In the third place battle against Korea, they were able to grab the bronze medal, the first since 1984. It was definitely a big breakthrough for Japanese volleyball.

Like Baseball, volleyball is a modern Japanese sport

Like Baseball, volleyball is a modern Japanese sport

The current Women’s Japanese volleyball team is led by head coach Masayoshi Manabe. The youngest player in the roster is Haruka Miyashita, 5’10” in height, who is only 20 years old. Contrary, the oldest player is Japanese volleyball veterans Hitomi Nakamichi and Saori Kimura, who are 29 and 28 years old, respectively. The latter is the captain of the team.

Image from Zimbio


Bo Taoshi

Japanese are known for their fondness with sports. They were able to popularize Sumo wrestling, taekwando, and other forms of martial arts. They were also able to make foreign sports such as football and baseball as their own, as the Japanese are definitely into them. But did you know that there is a sport that is relatively unknown to foreign men but is very popular in Japan?

I am referring to the sport called Bo Taoshi. The term Bo Taoshi in English is literally translated as “to bring down”. In layman’s sense, the sport is simply a capture the flag like game, but was modified in various ways.

Bo Taoshi is popular especially in Japanese high schools and junior high schools. It is often played during physical education classes and part of some school’s curriculum.

In YouTube, Bo Taoshi became a talk among many as a video posted there displayed cadets at the National Defense Academy of Japan playing the game. In the said video, there were almost two hundred men playing the game of Bo Taoshi.

Bo Taoshi is a modern Japanese sport

Bo Taoshi is a modern Japanese sport

Speaking of videos in YouTube, did you know that there is a video in the popular social networking site that reveals the existence of Kopinos? Kopinos are children with Korean fathers and Filipina mothers. This issue is very similar to that of Korean Comfort Women, which is coincidentally also a problem in Japan where Bo Taoshi started.

Going back to Bo Taoshi, traditionally, the National Defense Academy of Japan will include 150 players. The 150 players will be divided into two, with 75 attackers and 75 defenders. The defenders begin in a defensive orientation respective to their own pole. While the defenders are setting up their position, the attackers simultaneously assume position some measure away from the other team’s pole.

A team is victorious if it is able to lower the pole of the opposing team to about thirty degrees before their opponents reaches this goal. Previously, the angle was slightly lower but was changed in 1973. The previous angle was only 45 degrees.


Barrier – The Barrier is the largest part of the defense. The main goal is to protect the pole

Pole Support – the Pole Support has a vital role – to hold the pole in an upright position

Interference – those attacking the attackers in order to interrupt them in a harassing manner

Ninja – this is the single man at the top of the pole. This is one of the most important positions on defense.


Springboard/scrum – the scrum acts as stepping stones so their offensive teammates can jump over the barrier and have easy access to the pole.

Pole attackers – in charge of taking the ninja down and using their weight to bring the pole down.

Image from Japaoemfoco




Skiing and Snow Boarding

Japan is one of the few countries in Asia that experiences four seasons. Because of this, they have the luxury of having two different type of sports- winter sports and summer sports. This is why Japan is lucky as they are able to join both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics.

Part of Summer Olympic sports are the likes of basketball, volleyball, and other martial arts. On the other hand, winter sports include the sport that will be discussed in this article which is ski and snowboarding.

The sport of skiing and snowboarding is definitely taken care of in Japan. With world class ski resorts, the sport is preserved without a doubt. Most ski resorts in Japan have high quality snow, beautiful sceneries, and state of the art equipment.

Most ski resorts in Japan can be found on Japanese Onsens and Ryokans. Onsens and Ryokans are a big part of the Japanese culture. With this, skiing and snowboarding has been an integral part of the rich culture of Japan. Hence, it is not only a sport but is also considered nowadays as an art.

If you are interested to try skiing or snowboarding, the perfect place for you to go is in Hokkaido or Nagano. The two are actually part of history as the winter Olympics were held in these cities in recent decades.

Hokkaido and Nagano are also two cities that played a big part during the Second World War, or what is known in Vietnam as the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War, the term Lai Dai Han was used a lot, unlike nowadays that the term is relatively unknown to many. During this time, neither skiing nor snowboarding was popular.


Baseball like skiing and snowboarding is a modern sport

Baseball like skiing and snowboarding is a modern sport

Obviously, skiing and snow boarding are done during winter, particularly in the months of December until April. The best snow conditions can be found particularly during the months of January and February.

While skiers still outnumber snowboarders on most Japanese ski slopes, snowboarding also enjoys a big popularity, and the number of resorts welcoming snowboarders and providing special snowboarding facilities, such as half pipes, has been increasing.

The typical cost of a one-day pass for large ski areas is around 4000 to 5000 yen. Many resorts also offer half day, multi-day, nighter and season passes. Furthermore, ski holiday packages, which include transportation, lift pass and accommodation, are available at competitive rates through travel agencies.

Skiing is a modern sport

Skiing is a modern sport

If you wish to experience either skiing or snow boarding or even both, make sure to reserve early on since by December, ski resorts are usually fully booked already.

Image from Wikipedia