The most popular sports to watch in Japan

For many years, Japan remained isolated from the world, a factor that inhibited the growth of its sports industry. With more people taking an interest in sports from other parts of the world, however, waves of change have blown across the Japanese sporting industry. As a result, the Japan sports industry is currently one of the fastest-growing sectors with the country enjoying a blend of local and foreign sports. In fact, most popular sports now boast of a huge following and viewership in the country.

Here are some of the most-watched sports in Japan:

  1. Baseball

Baseball tops the list of the most-watched games, and this is because it is the undisputed sport in the country. Although Japan has no official national competition, baseball remains one of its people’s favorite games, and it is taken seriously at different levels. The National High School Baseball is the most-watched sporting activity in the country. The sport was introduced to Japan in 1872, although it took over 60 years for a professional league to be formed in 1936. There are a few differences between the Japanese and American baseball, although they are mostly similar. Currently, baseball remains one of the most-watched sports in Japan.

  1. Soccer

Soccer was introduced in Japan by a British Lieutenant-Commander Archibald Lucius Douglas to the Japanese navy cadets between 1873 and 1879. The sport, however, did not penetrate well in Japanese society. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1920s when an official soccer association was established in the country. Japan’s first organized soccer national league was established in 1965 and has continued to develop. The Japanese Professional Football League was established in 1992, and the country’s national team engages in Olympic Games, the Football World Cup and other international tournaments. There is a professional soccer league in the country and several other amateur leagues. Some teams in the professional league even sign foreign players like Andrés Iniesta to play in the league, although each team is required to have a maximum of four players in its active roster.

  1. Tennis

Tennis is believed to have been introduced to Japan around 1878 after five tennis courts were built at Yokohama’s Yamate Park for foreigners’ use. During the same year, Gorge A. Leland got an invitation to introduce European-influenced physical education to Japan. What followed were deliberate efforts by the government to promote the sport, and this significantly made it popular. A soft form of tennis, however, emerged as an alternate sport because purchasing the standard tennis balls was expensive. This sport is still being taught in different schools in the country. Tennis is now widely watched in the country, and it forms an integral part of the Japanese culture. In 2015, Kei Nishikori became the first male Japanese tennis player to make it to the top 10 players in single tennis, a fete that has enhanced the sport’s popularity further.

  1. Sumo

Sumo is an indigenous sport, and many people in Japan consider it one of the national games. The competition has existed since the early Japanese civilizations. It originated from a Shinto ritual where a human wrestled a god. Professional sumo games and tournaments can be traced back to the 165th century, which occurred in shrines such as Tomuoka Hachim-gu. Wrestlers win by forcing opponents out of the ring or getting any part of their body except the feet to contact the ground. There are other rules governing the sport, and when violated, a player can be disqualified and his or her opponent declared the winner. Many people in Japan watch this game, and it is one of the few games that are included as part of casino games by bookmakers in Japan.

  1. American Football

American football is one of the fastest-growing sports in Japan. It was introduced into the country after the First World War in the 1930s. The highest American Football League in the country is the Japan X-League, which was founded in 1981. It was previously known as the Company League until 1996 when the name was changed. The league comprises of amateur teams that are mainly sponsored by multinational companies. There are also club teams in the country. With the many people following the American Football League in the country, it would be right to say that the sport has grown to become one of the most popular in the country.

Evidently, most internationally acclaimed sports are now popular in Japan as well. Discussed above are just some of the notably popular sports that deserve a special mention. Besides these sports, however, people also enjoy watching golf, martial arts games, boxing, rugby and cricket.

AFI
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