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12 Jaw-dropping Japan Football Facts!

Here's some amazing facts about the world of football in Japan and... mythical creatures?

Beano Team
Last Updated:  February 28th 2024

Like the United States of America, football – or "soccer" – has only enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent years. The Japanese men's national side have appeared in many World Cup competitions, while players like Brighton & Hove Albion's Kaoru Mitoma are stars in the English Premier League! Here's 12 facts that you might not know!

1. There's two ways to refer to football in Japanese!

Football in Japanese is written as フットボール or futtobōru. Sometimes it's called sakkā, which is from the English word... soccer!

2. Football seasons in Japan last 11 months!

The J.League season usually starts in February or March and runs through December, and follow a similar number of games played in other leagues around the world. The exact dates change from year to year.

3. There's an anime football character called Oliver Atom!

Tsuchida Productions

Oliver Atom is a fictional character from the anime and manga series Captain Tsubasa. The series, created by Yoichi Takahashi, follows the football journey of young, skilled player named Tsubasa Ozora. Oliver Atom, known as Taro Misaki in the original Japanese version, is one of Tsubasa's teammates and pals. Oliver is a midfielder and he's influential on getting young people interested in the beautiful game!

4. The national men's team have qualified for the last seven World Cups!

The men's national team have enjoyed a good run of success when it comes to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup. They've played at France in 1998, South Korea and Japan in 2002, Germany in 2006, South Africa in 2010, Brazil in 2014, Russia in 2018 and most recently at Qatar in 2022.

5. The bird on the national team's badge is a mythical creature!

The Japan national team's badge features a crow with three legs. This creature from Shinto mythology is called Yatagarasu. The red circle in their claw represents the Japanese flag, known as Hinomaru.

6. Japan's leading goalscorer is Yoshito Okubo!

Born on June 9, 1982, in Kakegawa, Shizuoka, Japan, Okubo had a successful career and represented teams like Cerezo Osaka, Vissel Kobe, and Kawasaki Frontale. Over the course of his career, he scored 191 goals between 2001 and 2021.

7. At international games, Japan's fans chant 'Nippon Olé!'

Nippon is Japanese for Japan, and olé is the Spanish word to use when you're cheering your team on!

8. Pikachu was the national team's mascot at the World Cup!

Pikachu was chosen as one of the official mascots for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The Pokémon Company collaborated with the Japan Football Association to create a special version of Pikachu dressed in a football uniform to mark the occasion. Maybe they inspired their goalkeeper to 'catch 'em all'. Ahem.

9. The football league in Japan is called J.League!

There are three divisions in the Japanese Professional Football League and consist of 60 teams in total! Yokohama F. Marinos are the most recent winners of the J1 League, their fifth in total!

10. The men's and women's national teams have different nicknames!

Japan football facts

The men's team are called 'Samurai Blue' and the women's squad are called 'Nadeshiko Japan'. Nadeshiko is a term in Japanese that originally referred to a pink fringed carnation, Dianthus superbus, which is a symbol of femininity and grace.

11. They've won the AFC Asian Cup 4 times!

A sports trophy

The AFC Asian Cup is an international football competition Asia, organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). It's held every four years and began in 1956. They've won it four times in total – 1992, 2000, 2004, 2011 – and were runners up in 2019!

12. Only two teams have won the top league four times in a row!

A trophy being held aloft

This record goes to Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Tokyo Verdy. Sanfrecce Hiroshima also won the J.League Cup in 2022!