Japan’s Pearl Bowl is a popular Spring tournament

Almost every year the Japanese X League stages a spring preseason tournament involving all the top teams in the league that culminates with the Pearl Bowl, which will be held June 19 this year at the Tokyo Dome. The final attracts big crowds with attendance of upwards of 15,000-20,000 expected.

This year the 39th edition of the Pearl Bowl kicks off at 2pm on April 22nd at Fujitsu Stadium with the defending champion IBM Big Blue taking on the Bulls Football Club. The Lixil Deers will take on the newly promoted Fuji Xerox Minerva AFC at 5pm the same day.

Twelve teams will compete in this year’s Pearl Bowl tournament. The 12 teams are divided into four groups of three with the winner of each group advancing to the semi final.
All games are in Kawasaki with the exception of the final which will be played at Tokyo Dome.

The Pearl Bowl is limited to teams in the Kanto area. Those in Kansai play a similar but smaller version called the Green Bowl. It’s seen as a pre-season type of event by most of the people involved and the teams use it as a chance to blood new players and try out plays in a live setting.

2016 Peal Bowl Winners IBM Big Blue – John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, June. 13, 2016

IBM’s victory last year was the club’s first title of any kind and it served as a confidence builder with Big Blue being one of the best teams in the country last season, narrowly missing out on a place in the X Bowl to eventual champions Fujitsu Frontiers. The team they defeated in last years final Lixil Deers still hold the most Pearl Bowl titles with eight however.

IBM Big Blue’s Yoshiaki Fuji (31) and Shogo Nakatani (1) after their 2016 Pearl Bowl win – John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, June. 13, 2016

It’d be a major surprise if Lixil, IBM, Fujitsu and Obic don’t progress to the semi finals but with teams still trying to build cohesion and give new players time on the field don’t be surprised if some of the group games are more competitive than might normally be expected.

Source: Insidesportjapan.com

John Gunning is a Tokyo based sports writer. He is a sumo commentator for NHK and covers MMA and American football for national and international publications.