Sports Monks

Everything You Need To Know About Sports In Japan

In this country, physical preparation has always been a key component for its citizens. Since ancient times, men participated in various martial arts, and women in traditional dances, such as Mai and Odori. Both had strong religious components tied in, such as Sumo largely being associated with the Shinto belief. Now, sports are a big part of Japanese culture and are also a large form of entertainment both for spectators and participants.

There are modern sports that took off not so long ago in the Far East country, that are widely popular and some even surpassing traditional ones. Good examples are Baseball, which was introduced in the nineteenth century, and football (soccer in the US). We are going to discuss these sports, as well as how they impacted and continue to do so throughout history, in this post.

Budo (roughly translated as Martial Way)

Historically, martial arts weren’t restricted to only physical exercise and fight practice. In Japan, for those who practiced Budo, it was a way to live their lives. Disciplines such as Sumo originated approximately in the first millennium AD, and have since changed dramatically. They can be found in both samurai warrior traditions and those of ascetic monks that existed (and continue to do so) during Feudal and Imperial Japan.

Sumo

If we are looking for a simple definition, this martial art is a form of close-contact wrestling, where a sumotori (the athlete) strives to push his opponent out of a ring called Dohyo. The rules are not too complex, with the main point of the event is either pushing the other athlete out or making him touch the ground with any part of his body other than his feet.

This is the sport that makes people think of Japan immediately. Have you seen any other competition where two gigantic Asian men fight against each other? With its history spanning many centuries, this martial art is well preserved and practiced in the modern-day world. The best thing we can suggest is for you to see it with your eyes, that way you will fully comprehend what kind of attraction it is. You could also try competing, but it would probably be too dangerous as all the athletes are heavy-class.

Judo

A more modern Japanese martial art, it was invented by Jidoro Kago. With its origin coming from the ancient practice of jujutsu, judo’s big difference is its emphasis on competitiveness, with the goal being to take down the opponent to the ground, immobilize or force the opponent to submit. 

Jidoro Kago was highly successful in reviving interest in martial arts in Japan, and the sport subsequently entered the Olympics. The teachings and pedagogy of Judo spawned several other well-known sports: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga and Sambo. It also heavily influenced MMA and wrestling. 

Aikido

This martial art is now practiced all over the world, with official federations in over 140 countries. And for a good reason. It is different from any other fighting style you can think of, as it’s actually focusing on protecting yourself from an enemy, without damaging them. It is based on redirecting attacks, throws, and pins.

As with other Japanese martial arts, this sport derived from another less known practice. It was developed by Morihei Ueshiba, and virtually all Aikido practitioners pioneered with him. Now, there are many styles of the sport, but all of them ultimately based on the main teachings of Ueshiba.

Western Sports

Football

About twenty-five of the Japanese population has an interest in football in some capacity in the past few years, according to statistics. This sport is highly popular both among aspiring participants and thrilled spectators. The first national football club was founded more than a century ago in Tokyo, and the sport was actually introduced to the Far East country during the Meiji period, by foreign employees who resided there.

The liking for the game grew strong over the years, and the national team had its first victory in the Olympics in 1936, over a then strong Swedish team. It’s a rapidly growing industry, and in the last twenty years, the national team has made a big improvement in the worldwide arena. The women’s team is also highly successful, even beating Germany in 2011. Check out an article about football in Japan at soccerfanjapan.com to get more information. 

Baseball

This is the most popular sport in the country. Shocking right?! Over forty-five percent of the total population watch the National Championships. The Nippon Professional Baseball League is the most widely watched sports event in the country, both by television ratings and live spectators. 

The game was introduced to the country in 1872, and remains popular ever since, only growing in popularity each year. In high school and college, this is the most sponsored sport and has a similar culture to that of the USA. If you’d like to read a full post on why this the case in the country, click here.


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