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The most popular sports in Japan

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Sumo Wrestlers
The most popular sports in Japan. Photo/ Boutique Japan.
  • From traditional martial arts to international leagues, sports have always been a big part of Japanese culture. 
  • If you consider yourself a sporting enthusiast, there are lots of sports to explore in Japan.
  • Japanese people enjoy participating in and watching sports every weekend.

Japanese people enjoy participating in and watching sports every weekend. But have you ever wondered which sports are more popular in Japan?

Well, if you consider yourself a sporting enthusiast, there are lots of sports to explore in Japan. From traditional martial arts to international leagues, sports have always been a big part of Japanese culture. 

Traditional sports like sumo wrestling are immensely popular. However, imported sports like baseball and tennis are also loved by the Japanese people. 

Here, we will discuss the top ten most popular sports in Japan.

1. Baseball

Baseball is by far the most popular sport in Japan. The sport was introduced to Japan in 1872 by American expatriate Horace Wilson.

Baseball

Japanese baseball player. Photo/ CBS Sports.

It has developed over the years to become the most loved sport in the country. According to Unique Japan Tours, 45.2% of Japanese consider baseball as their favourite sport.

Most Japanese refer to it as yakyu or puro yakyu, and they attend the league games on weekends.

2. Sumo Wrestling 

Sumo wrestling is a traditional sport in Japan. It originated from the Japanese Shinto ritual, which depicted a human wrestling a god.

Sumo tournaments become famous in the Asian country in the late 17th century. As of now, the country holds six major tournaments every year.

Sumo Wrestlers

Sumo wrestling. Photo/ Boutique Japan.

3. Football 

You must be aware that football is the most popular sport in the world and so it should not be a surprise that it is one of the most popular sports in Japan.

Lieutenant-Commander Archibald Lucius introduced football in Japan by teaching it to navy cadets between 1873 and 1879.

Football associations in Japan were organized in the 1920s, while the national team was formed in 1930.

4. Tennis 

Japanese people started playing tennis in 1878 after five tennis courts were opened in Yamate park.

The sport became more famous when a man known as George Adam brought western-style PE teachings to Japan and started to promote tennis within his teachings.

Over the years, tennis has taken a prominent place in Japanese culture.

5. Golf 

Golf has risen from humble beginnings in Japan to become one of the most popular sports.

Arthur Hesketh Groom, a British man living in Japan, was the first to open a country golf club in 1903. The club began as a nine-hole course, but by 1904, nine other holes had been constructed to create a full 18-hole course.

In 1904, the first golf club for local Japanese people was opened. The sport became famous among the people even though it was usually played by the elite.

After World War II, the middle class began playing golf, which made it even more popular.

PGA TOUR

Golf. PHOTO: Golfmagic.

6. Boxing 

Boxing was first introduced to Japan when Commodore Mathew Perry visited Shimoda, Shizuoka. The navy soldiers under his command used to spar with their friends wrapped in leather aboard their ships.

The Japanese military directors became interested in their fighting style and asked a sumo wrestler to fight in a competition with an American boxer. And that’s how boxing became famous in Japan.

7. Basketball 

Basketball started in Japan in 1930 after the formation of The Japan Basketball Association. It became known to many people afterwards hence becoming one of the most popular sports in Japan.

The Japanese basketball national team is one of the best national teams in Asia.

8. Auto Racing 

Auto racing competitions officially started in Japan in the 1920s. The first popular track for competitions was opened in 1936.

The Suzuki circuit was opened in 1962 and has since hosted several world-class racing events.

Auto racing

Auto racing in Japan. Photo/ WebBikeWorld.

9. Pro Wrestling 

Pro wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Japan. It became known to many people after the first match was televised in the 1950s.

Here, the wrestlers are choreographed, and the winners are decided before.

10. Skiing, Snowboarding & Other Snow Sports

70% of Japan is mountainous, which means there are plenty of hills to ski down when it snows.

Skiing is taught in Japanese schools, which explains why it is one of the most popular sports in the country

Abraham Odhiambo is an avid sports fan who loves to write about football, boxing and wrestling. He's a big supporter of Manchester United. He's pursuing a bachelor's degree in Communication and Media at Egerton University.

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