Japanese sports 日本のスポーツ
Sumo wrestling can be staggering.
Kyudo, Japanese archery
Kendo, a Japanese martial art
Kamari, Japanese football
A question of sport
There are many traditional Japanese sports which the Japanese enjoy, but over time they have also adopted many other sports from around the world...
Are you familiar with any Japanese sports? Traditional, martial, or imported from abroad, Japan has always been passionate about sport.
Obviously the national sport of Japan is sumo, a form of wrestling that has existed for 1500 years. It was long considered a Shinto religious ceremony to celebrate the kami, Shinto deities, rather than a sport! Even today the sumo world is still strongly anchored in the world of tradition: everything related to combat and even the wrestlers ritual gestures and falls are scrupulously respected.
Martial ArtsThese types of sports comes from Japanese budo, or 'the way of battle'. The techniques and the art of war developed across multiple disciplines in the Muromachi period (1338-1573) and the samurai continued the perpetuation of these arts.
In the Meiji era, with the disappearance of the feudal system, martial arts evolved to take an educational role, both bodily and spiritual. Kenjutsu (fencing) became kendo, jujitsu (technical flexibility) turned into judo and aikido, and kyujutsu (archery) became kyudo. Later in 1920, karate, the traditional martial art of the Kingdom of Ryukyu (the former name of Okinawa) was introduced to the main islands.
KemariKemari is a Japanese sport less known abroad, when compared with 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 with 6 or 8 people and a buckskin ball. The rule of the game is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible without using your hands. It isn't practiced much today, but you can sometimes see the game played in Shinto temples during ceremonies, with players wearing the special clothes of the time. We recommend Shiramine Jinja in Kyoto, dedicated to the kami of sport.
EkidenEkiden is an athletics event, a kind of relay race as the name suggests: eki (station) den (transmit), the aim is to repeatedly pass a kind of scarf (tasuki) during a race that can last tens of kilometers.
The first race was held in 1917 on the Tokaido Road between Kyoto and Tokyo, for 508km with 23 relay runners. The ekiden is very popular in Japan. The distance and the number of runners may vary. Many races are held each year, including the famous Hakone Ekiden, a university race. It is held annually between January 2 and 3 and is nearly 217 km long, with 10 runners and 21 universities competing. This race is broadcast on television, and is always full of drama and heroes who show their passion onscreen!