Japanese sports 日本のスポーツ
Competition in the archipelago
There are a number of traditional sports in Japan to which the Japanese are very attached, but the inhabitants of the archipelago have also adopted many imported sports!
How well do you know Japanese sports? Traditional, martial or imported, they still unleash passions in the archipelago.
Of course, the national sport of Japan is sumo. It is a form of wrestling that has existed for 1500 years. It was long considered a religious Shinto ceremony to celebrate the kami, Shinto deities, rather than a sport! Even today the world of sumo is still strongly rooted in the world of ancestral traditions: everything related to combat and even the gestures of the wrestlers are part of rituals to be respected.
This type of Japanese sport comes from budo or the way of combat. The techniques and the art of warlike practices developed through several disciplines during the Muromachi period (1338-1573) then the samurai took over the perpetuation of these different arts.
In the Meiji era, when the feudal system disappeared, martial arts evolved to take on an educational role and physical and spiritual work. Kenjutsu (fencing) became kendo, jujitsu (flexibility technique) turned into judo and aikido, then kyujutsu (archery) became kyûdo. And later around 1920, karate, the traditional martial art of the kingdom of Ryukyu (former name of Okinawa) was introduced to the main islands.
Kemari is a Japanese sport less known abroad than karate or judo. Yet it was the most popular sport in the Heian period (794-1185). It's a kind of football that is played by 6 or 8 people with a buckskin ball. The rule of the game is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible without using your hands. Little practiced nowadays, you can sometimes attend this game in Shinto temples during ceremonies. It is then practiced in the special dress of the time. We recommend Shiramine-jinja in Kyoto, the sports kami temple.
The ekiden is an athletics event, it is a kind of relay because as the name suggests: eki (station) den (transmit), it consists of passing a kind of scarf (tasuki) which constitutes the relay and this during a race which can be several tens of kilometers.
The first race took place in 1917 on the Tokaido road between Kyoto and Tokyo in 508 km in relay with 23 runners. The ekiden is very popular in Japan. The distance and number of runners may vary. Many races are held every year, including the famous Hakone Ekiden , which is a college race. It takes place every year between January 2 and 3 and measures nearly 217 km on which 10 runners and 21 universities compete. This race is broadcast on television, there are always moving dramas and heroes that unleash passions.
It is a track cycling competition that appeared in 1948 in Kokura on the island of Kyushu. This sport was opened to sports betting for the first time during the reconstruction of the country after the war. The keirin became a world championship event in 1980. Today, the keirin is an international sport registered in the Olympic Games since 2000.
It is a game with two teams of five people. It was invented for children in 1947 by Mr. Suzuki by taking the idea of croquet with a simplified rule. In the 1960s, gateball was very popular with the elderly because it did not require a lot of physical effort to play it.
This is the American sport that arrived in Japan during the Meiji era when Japan opened up to foreigners. Since then, baseball is a very popular sport, it has even almost become the national sport in Japan. Twelve professional teams, divided into two leagues, take part in the interclub baseball competition. Each team plays 143 games during the regular season. The matches are broadcast on television and often a topic of conversation in Japan. During the summer holidays, the high school baseball tournament is organized. It is a very important summer event in Japan. More than 4000 high schools participate each year in the hope of becoming the best team in Japan.
Arrived in Japan in the Meiji era in 1868, it was popularized thanks to the Keio university club. Rugby is now a major sport in Japan: the country is ranked sixth in the world rankings in number of licensees! The Japan Rugby Union Championship, also called Top League, is the competition bringing together the best rugby union clubs in the country. It has 16 clubs whose defending champion is the Suntory Goliath team from Fuchu since 2016. In 2019, Japan will host the Rugby World Cup, organized every four years since 1987.