8 of the Most Popular Sports in Japan

Most of you definitely think Sumo is the only one sports that famous in Japan, you’re a little mistaken. Every country usually has a favorite sport, a sport that is loved by most of its citizens. Aside Sumo, there are 8 most popular sports in Japan you need to know. 


Baseball is a number one sports in Japan, because of the popularity of baseball, so often jokes appear that baseball is a “national sport” in Japan.  Most of student from several schools are fond of baseball (which the Japanese call “yakyuu”) and dream that one day being able to play in the national high school baseball final. The finals are usually held at the Hanshim Konshien Stadium, which has a capacity of 55,000 people. 

Baseball was introduced in the Meiji Restoration era or around 1872, while the Japanese professional baseball league was formed in 1936. Japanese baseball has a slight difference with baseball in America, especially of the size of the ball and the field which is smaller than In America. 

Soccer / football 

Who doesn’t love soccer? Most of every country loves to play soccer or even just being a fan of soccer. Japan is one of other country that loves soccer. Japan is familiar with modern football in the Meiji Restoration era. It happened between 1873 and 1879. But only in 1992 the professional league for Japanese football was inaugurated, namely the J- league. 

Japanese soccer players also have achievements in the world league, such as Hidetoshi Nakata (AS Roma, Italy), Kazuyoshi Miura (Santos, Brazil) or Shunsuke Nakamura ( Espanol, Spain).


British expatriate, Arthur Hesketh Groom is ‘in charge’ of bringing golf into Japanese sports culture.  It happened in the era of the Meiji Restoration (1868 – 1912) which indeed Japan to adopt many things from Western culture, including the sports section. Previously, golf was limited to certain circles, now golf can be played by anyone in Japan. There are no restrictions on age, social class or gender. If you guys are a fan of Doraemon, you must be realized that Nobita’s father’s is described as a golf player. 


Just like golf, tennis entered into Japanese sports culture during the Meiji Restorationt through foreigners who were in Japan at the time. Geore A. Leland is believed to become important figure that popularized tennis in Japanese society. Tennis is a special sport of the Japanese public, especially because through tennis, Japan won their first Olympic medal in the 1920s.

Emperor Akihito met his future wife, Empress Michiko, also at the Karuizawa tennis court in 1957. Have you read a manga or watched the anime “The Prince of Tennis”? The manga that tells about tennis has sold more than 50 million copies. That’s as popular as tennis in modern Japanese sports culture.


“Sports of the Gods” they said. Sumo is a prestigious sport, where tickets to watch live on the arena are quite expensive. The national champion of Sumo will get the elite title “Yokozuna”, the funny things is now more often held by wrestlers from countries outside Japan. Although it is an authentic Japanese sport, many Sumo professional athletes from outside Japan, such as from Mongolia.

Auto Racing 

Auto Racing has been in Japan since the 1920s, but the Tamagawa Speedway, which opened in 1936, became a permanent sporting event for the sport. Soichiro Honda, who later founded the car company by his own name, was one of the initial competitors in this new race track, while the newly formed Nissan competed with its own manufacturer team.


Boxing sports entered into Japanese culture through American sailors of the subordinate of the Sea Commodore Matthew C. Perry around 1854 in the port areas of Japan. The Japanese who are considered the ‘Founding Father’ of boxing in Japan are Yujiro Watanabe. Watanabe practiced boxing since he was 16 in America before returning to Japan and built the Nippon Kento Club boxing club in 1921. 

Various boxing federation were born from then on until finally becoming the JPBA (Japan Pro Boxing Association) in 2000. But only a few Japanese boxing athletes who is able to carve out names and achievements in world class boxing competition.

Pro wrestling 

Last but not least, pro wrestling is also one of the most famous sports in Japan. Do you remember “Smackdown” on TV? That’s pro wrestling! In Japanese pronunciation, Pro Wrestling is called “Puroresu” which stands for “Pro wrestling”. Although, basically not a pure wrestling sport (More an entertainment show/ show based on sports), but Puroresu is very popular in Japan. 

Those are 8 of the most popular sports in Japan. Want to know more about Japan?  You can learn the language first. By download Cakap application on App Store and Play Store, you can easily learn Japanese anytime and everywhere you want.