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How popular is football in Japan’s sports world?
Jul 19, 2022, 1:07:00 AM

How popular is football in Japan’s sports world?

Across various countries considered top-tier sports nations, Japan is always near the top of the list. This is due to how they develop elite athletes that compete at international level. Football is an interesting topic for Japan because it is extremely popular in the country. 


Japan is a sports-loving country as they are always supportive of their athletes and teams. They have produced some amazing athletes in their history mainly in baseball. Since football is the world’s most popular sport and it has massive viewership, some people have asked the question ‘is football popular in Japan?’, the answer is yes. 


While the sport is already popular in Japan, it has not reached its solid potential. Let’s take a look at its popularity in the Land of the Rising Sun and see what the future looks like in the long run. 


Learn more about Asian handicap football betting

What does Japan think about football? 

Football has left a lasting impression on Japanese people. You can see the youth showing their love for the sport because there are football pitches at schools. Japanese football fans also have TV shows and movies centred on football as the main subject. 


A proof of football being a popular sport in Japan is the manga series Captain Tsubasa. This material has spawned anime series and video games that show exciting football moves. The franchise has become one of the most lucrative content pieces because it showcases how it can positively impact the Japanese youth. 

Japan is wild for football

With the presence of football across different forms of media, you can see that Japan is wildly in love with the sport. That is huge for the sport because it has tons of fans passionately supporting their players and teams around the country and even worldwide. If you encounter anyone asking ‘how popular is football in Japan?’, you should just show the number of people that support their players.


When Japanese players move out of the country to play football, you can expect that the fans back home will still support their fellow countrymen. This is not only true for football because you can see players like Shohei Ohtani thrive in the MLB or Yuta Watanabe play well in the NBA.

Who brought football to Japan? 

Football has been around in Japan for a long time despite popular belief that it’s only a recent craze. Japan’s football history can be traced back to the 1870s only a few years after the Football Association was established in London, England. 

History of football in Japan

After only eight years since the FA was established, English teachers went to Japan to teach the sport in Tokyo. Aside from the students, sailors in Kobe were also taught how to play the sport. 


Despite these reported instances, the officially recognised date for the birth of football in Japan is September 1873 when a game was played at the Naval Academy in Tokyo Bay. The game was organised by a British officer named Archibald Douglas. The match amused the Japanese spectators because they attributed the match to a game of kemari, which was an ancient ballgame connected to Shinto. 

Is Japan good at football? 

With all of their appearances at the World Cup in the 21st century, Japan is a solid football country. They have produced some special players in its history which has led to Japan becoming a solid nation for the sport. With the likes of Takumi Minamino and Takehiro Tomiyasu in the current national squad, you can tell that the country has considerably improved their football system since the decades before the 1998 stint at the World Cup. 

How many football teams are in Japan? 

With football’s popularity in Japan, they have created multiple leagues where Japanese footballers can follow their dreams. They have their own football system that involves tiers to separate the players and teams that are high and low-quality. 


Let’s take a look at the biggest leagues in the Japan football association and see how many teams are playing in those competitions. 

The J League system

The J1 League is the top level of Japanese football and is the gold standard of the system. The top-flight has 18 teams that are playing at the league table. After that, the next rungs on the Japanese football ladder are the J2 and J3 Leagues. 22 clubs play in the J2 while the J3 also has 18 clubs playing like the J1. 

Lower levels of Japanese football

Apart from the J League system, there are still some leagues that you need to know so you can learn more about the grassroots competitions in Japanese football. Here are some of them and how many clubs are playing in those leagues. 

  • Japan Football League - 16 clubs

  • Regional leagues - 16 clubs per region like Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, etc. 

Read about what you need to know about the rest of Asian football

Most popular football team in Japan

In those leagues, the J1 League is surely the best competition that Japan has created. Certain clubs have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Here are the examples of the most popular football club in Japan and the top reasons why they’ve become popular amongst the fan base. 

Gamba Osaka

As one of the most accomplished clubs in Japanese football history, Gamba Osaka deserves recognition. They have a 39,694 capacity stadium at the Panasonic Stadium Suita. Formed only in 1980, this club has proven to be one of the best teams in Japan because they have cemented its spot as one of the best-performing clubs in Japan. 


The 2014 J1 League season remains one of the most popular runs of all time because they managed to earn the title after just being promoted from the J2 League. That is a huge achievement for Gamba Osaka and their fans have not stopped their support ever since. 

Kawasaki Frontale

Established back in 1955, Kawasaki Frontale has been one of the most popular football clubs in Japan’s history. While they have been a long-running club for a few decades, Frontale’s success has come in recent years. They won four titles from 2017 to 2018 and from 2020 to 2021. Those were two back-to-back wins which cemented their status as one of the best of all time. 

Nagoya Grampus

For international fans, Nagoya Grampus was well known because it was managed by legendary coach Arsene Wenger. The French coach is known for his time at Arsenal after he coached Nagoya. Even after his exploits with the club, Nagoya grew into becoming one of the most popular clubs in the country. They have also signed some big-time players in the past including Dragan Stokovic and Gary Lineker on the team. 

Is betting on football legal in Japan? 

In Japan’s history, they have had an interesting relationship with the gambling world. Traditional sports betting with bookies was not allowed in the past and to this day, it has been banned by the Japanese government. Japanese football fans are clamouring for a chance to make sports betting accessible and legal in the country apart from the racing sports that get that treatment from the government.

Traditional sports betting is a big struggle

Traditional sports betting has been limited to only a few circuits in Japan. There is a popular culture for both horse and motorcycle racing in Japan which has led to a legal sports betting scene there for those two sports. Unfortunately, other sports like football and baseball are not available in the traditional betting world. 

No legislation to prevent online sports betting

With no laws preventing online sports betting in Japan, this has become a haven for bettors all over the country. This means they can freely bet on their favourite football leagues around the world. 


Thankfully, Sportsbet.io is available because Japanese football fans can bet on their favourite sport. It is more convenient for them because this platform has language support and accepts cryptocurrencies.


Check out this betting guide for the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Who are the most popular Japanese footballers of all time?

Japanese football has had some iconic players in the country’s history. Some stars have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Here are the greatest and most popular footballers that Japan takes pride in. 

Kunishige Kamamoto 

While he is mostly known as a politician nowadays, Kamamoto was an icon for Japanese football. His biggest achievement has to be leading the way for the Japan national football team in the 1968 Summer Games as they won the bronze medal while he finished as the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals. 


Kamamoto is the all-time leading goal-scorer for Japan as he played for the national team for 13 years and scored 80 goals. For his club career, he played for Yanmar Diesel where he played 251 games and scored 202 goals. He played for 17 years for Yanmar as he cemented himself as a club and country legend. 

Kazuyoshi Miura

Often seen as the icon for longevity in football, ‘King Kazu’ started his pro career back in 1986 with the Brazilian club Santos. Ever since then, he has continued playing professional football. He is in his mid-50s and he cemented his place as one of the most legendary players of all time because he has proven that age is just a number in football.  


Miura is often described as a legend for Yokohama FC as he started there in 2005 and he has not left the club since. He holds multiple records in the J1 League and he holds one of the most unique distinctions in world football by playing in five decades from the 1980s to the 2020s.

Shinji Kagawa

As one of the best in recent memory, Shinji Kagawa has remained one of the most iconic Japanese players. He is a midfielder but he is well known for scoring goals from anywhere on the pitch. Kagawa played for 11 years from 2008 to 2019 in the Japanese national team. 


Kagawa is one of the most creative and skilled players in Japan’s history as he played the attacking midfielder position and innovated the playmaking role. He can also play on the left and right flank because he was a composed player who loved to make smart passes and creative dribbles. 

How Japan can perform in the upcoming World Cup

Japan has performed well in the World Cup and with that experience, the 2022 edition is promising for them. With many skilled players, you should expect that Japan has the likes of Minamino and Tomiyasu who are the stars of their clubs and national team. 


Japan is not the favourite to win the World Cup but they have the chance to surprise the rest of the competition because they can cement themselves as one of the top squads on both offence and defence. 

Japanese football betting tips you should know 

Japanese people love to make bets but some are not aware of how they work just yet. With that, people need to make the proper bets by learning tips they can use properly. Here is advice that you can look into that will help you immensely. 

Always look at how teams match up against each other

If a bettor knows how to understand how teams match up against each other, they will most likely thrive with how they make bets. If a team is playing better on offence, they will most likely face a big challenge against a defensive squad. 


If a player like Lionel Messi is on the other side, his team will be much better than any other because they are a well-oiled machine on offence. This is also true for a team with Virgil van Dijk as the defender because he will anchor the defence on his own as he cemented his stardom as a leader on that end.

Do not forget to check the news when betting 

You should understand that football is always in flux which means that there will be changes during a season. If you’re betting on a league, you should know that making the right decisions based on verifiable information is crucial to your wagers. If a player is out injured or a crucial player is involved in a transfer, that will affect the result. 


There will be news of all kinds around the football world which is why you need to stay vigilant and informed with the reports. If you consider all of the info that you read before you make your decision, you will most likely thrive with your wagers.

Learn more about football to recognise the smaller factors

When you learn more about football, you will most likely be aware of how small factors can affect the result. This is important to remember because a team that loves to move the ball around will get easier looks at the goal. As long as they keep scoring, that will be a crucial aspect for your bets. 


As you watch Japanese football, you will realise that certain teams have their playstyles and quirks that help them perform better. Some players love to do certain moves that help them separate from the defender which might be small in the big picture but they can significantly affect the game. Try to watch more games so you can make the best bets based on your knowledge.


Learn more about why Sportsbet.io is the best sportsbook

What is the best Japanese bookmaker for football?

You can rely on Sportsbet.io as the recommended Japanese bookmaker because it is the gold standard for these online betting platforms. It has one of the best interfaces that any user can understand. For the betting itself, you can expect that it will be easy to get into because the odds are there and they’re pretty accurate. Soccer betting in Japan is much easier with this platform being used.


Aside from that, the promos and bonuses that you can get at Sportsbet.io are second to none. They regularly change out these promos to keep the experience fresh which is a solid way to retain the customers. 


Sportsbet.io operates on three core principles which are fun, fast, and fair. You can see this with what they offer for bettors around the world, not just in Japan. You will have fun on this platform because you will be treated properly and the rewards that you can earn are top-notch.

Keep betting on Sportsbet.io using your crypto 

Betting on football in Japan is probably one of the best experiences that you can have. 


Don’t miss out on using Sportsbet.io as your favoured sportsbook. You can download the mobile app that will help you place your bets anytime and anywhere you want.


Apart from the usefulness of the platform, you should also know that cryptocurrency betting is a huge part of Sportsbet.io. Since Japan is a big fan of the crypto market, you should expect that Sportsbet.io is the optimal platform for users of digital assets where they can bet using Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and many more assets that are listed in the site’s roster of payment methods. 


Sportsbet.io is focused on giving its bettors a fun, fast, and fair experience. To make football betting more rewarding, you can also check out the site’s promotions which can help you net a huge amount of winnings. 


For more updates on soccer and other sports, go to Sportsbet.io


Words: Cholo Martin