April 24, 2019

Japan: NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), 2019 – location map, with profile-boxes of the 12 teams, and NPB titles list (1950-2018)./+ illustration for 2018 Japan Series: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks win 2nd straight title.

Filed under: Japan,Japan: Baseball — admin @ 8:59 am

Japan: NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), 2019 – location map, with profile-boxes of the 12 teams, and NPB titles list (1950-2018)

By Bill Turianski on 24 April 2019;
-Nippon Professional Baseball (
-Official website…

    2018 NPB: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks win 2nd-straight title
    (And the Hawks have won 5 of the last 8 Japan Series titles).

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have won the Japan Series title in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. The Hawks are from Fukuoka, the 4th-largest city in Japan {5.5 million metro-pop.}. Fukuoka is the largest city on the island of Kyushu, which is the southern-most of the 4 major islands that make up Japan. In 2018, the Hawks celebrated their 80th anniversary as an NPB franchise. The franchise had began in Japan’s second-city, Osaka, in 1938. From 1947 to 1988, they were the green-clad Nankai Hawks. In 1989, the franchise moved from Osaka, to Kyushu Island, becoming the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. In 2005, with a change in corporate ownership, the team changed its name to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. In 2019, the franchise celebrates its 30th season on Kyushu Island (see map at the foot of the illustration below).
Photo and Image credits above -
Yuki Yanagita (OF), Yanagita hits Sayonara Home Run (10th inning of game 5), photo by KYODO via Hawks Sh! logo, from Yuito Mori (Relief Pitcher), photo from Rick Van den Hurk, photo by Kyodo via Kai throwing out a runner in Game 1, photo by KYODO via Takuya Kai aacknowledges applause after his 5th caught-stealing putout, screenshot from an NPB video via Celebration at mound after last out (Mori and Kai), photo from Ceremonial tossing of manager (Kimiyasu Kodo), photo unattributed at Blank map of Japan from [dead link]. Fukuoka skyline with Japan Rail line in foreground, photo by Getty Images via

Thanks to all at the following links…
-Blank map of Japan, by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) at File:Japan location map.svg (
-Globe-map of Japan, by Connormah at File:Japan (orthographic projection).svg (
-Map of Japan’s regions, by Ken Nashi at
-Map of Tokyo (Kantō MMA) metro-area, by Kzaral at File:Tokyo-Kanto definitions, Kanto MMA.png.
-Baystars B-star 2019 cap logo from photo at
-Seibu Lions mascot/photo from
-Chiba Lotte Marines new mascot (Mystery Fish), from
-Saitama Seibu Lions mascot, image from
-Thanks to this site for attendance figures, 2018 Season Attendance Figures of NPB (Japan Professional Baseball) (
-Thanks to Type Speed, for requesting this map (via twitter), and for helping me find alternate logos and mascot illustrations. ([@0TypeSpeed0].)
-Thanks to the guy who runs the twitter feed for the Reddit/NPB page, for finding mistakes, on my map, here (

April 25, 2018

Japan: NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), 2018 – location map, with profile-boxes of the 12 teams, and NPB titles list (1950-2017).

Filed under: Baseball,Japan,Japan: Baseball — admin @ 12:07 pm

Japan: NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), 2018 – location map, with profile-boxes of the 12 teams, and NPB titles list (1950-2017)

By Bill Turianski on 25 April 2018;
-Nippon Professional Baseball (
-Official website…

The map-page…
The map-page features a location-map of the 12 NPB teams in Japan, with team profile-boxes overlaid. The main map is augmented by an inset-map of Greater Tokyo (at the lower-left of the map-page). At the upper-left of the map-page is a globe-map showing Japan’s location in East Asia. Below that, at the far left, is a small multi-color map of Japan, showing the country’s regions within the four primary islands (plus Okinawa) which comprise Japan, as well as NPB representation within those regions. At the upper-right of the map-page is a chart showing NPB titles by team (1950-2017), as well as Central League-/-Pacific League titles won by each team (see: Rules in NPB and league format section 4 paragraphs below for more on that). Below that is a small chart showing NPB representation in Japanese cities (the 8 cities in Japan with a population of more than 2 million in their metro-areas).

The team-profile-boxes feature basic info on the teams, including primary-cap-logo, location and venue, ownership, and titles, plus team mascots. Secondary logos are next to each team’s profile-box.

Demographics of Japan
The population of Japan is around 126.6 million {source: 2017 estimate, here at Japan en.wikipedia page}. This puts Japan as the 10th-most-populous nation on Earth. Japan is not very large in terms of land area, though: it is the 61st-largest country, at 377,972 km-squared (145,936 sq mi). That makes Japan slightly smaller than the US state of Montana, and slightly larger than the nation of Germany. The largest city in Japan (by far) is, of course, Tokyo…which is absolutely gigantic, and has a metro-area population that is the largest on the planet (at ~37.8 million). {Source.} Basically, 30% of the population of Japan resides in Tokyo’s metropolitan area. [Note: again, on the map-page, there is a list of the largest cities in Japan.] Japan has about the 28th-highest adjusted-GDP in the world {see this, List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita).

Nippon Professional Baseball was formed in 1950.
The set-up consisted of 12 teams, with 6 teams in the Central League, and 6 teams in the Pacific League. Like Major League Baseball back then, the teams in one league did not play teams in the other league during the regular season. This 12 team / 2 league format remains to this day. The Japanese mimicry of Major League Baseball’s format continued, when, in 1975, one league – the Pacific League – adopted the Designated Hitter rule (this was 2 years after MLB’s American League instituted the DH rule, while the National League did not). Nippon Professional Baseball continued to take its cues from Major League Baseball when inter-league play between the Central League and the Pacific League was introduced in 2005 (8 years after inter-league play was intstituted in Major League Baseball).

Rules in NPB and league format:
The rules in NPB are the same as in MLB, except with tie games going into extra innings…after 12 innings, the game is declared a tie (a draw) in the standings, except in the post-season, when tied games after 15th innings are abandoned, and then later re-played.

The 2 leagues both play 144-game regular seasons. Unlike in MLB, in Japan, the pennant-winner is crowned before the playoffs begin… the teams with the best regular season records in the two leagues are the Central League Pennant winner and the Pacific League Pennant winner. (In other words, unlike in MLB’s World Series, in Japan, the teams that meet to decide the NPB title in the Japan Series are not necessarily pennant winners.) The top 3 teams in each league make the playoffs. The pennant-winners (again, first place team from the regular season), gets a bye to the second round; while the 2nd-place and 3rd-place finishers play in the First Stage (a 3-game-series). Then the First Stage winners play the Pennant winners in the Second Stage (a 5-game-series). Those two playoff-winners then play for the title, in the Japan Series (a 7-game-series).

Distribution of NPB teams throughout Japan…
While it is true that Japanese baseball franchises do sometimes move, that is part of a broader trend of teams simply going to areas that had been historically ignored by Nippon Professional Baseball. Because as recently as 1988, 30 years ago, 9 of the 12 NPB teams used to be located in just two regions – the Greater Tokyo Bay area [the Kanto region], which previously had 6 teams (5 teams are located there now), and the central Japan/Osaka/Kobe area, which previously had 3 teams (2 teams are located there now). Since then, franchises have moved to Kysuhu Island (where the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks [est. 1989] are located), and Hokkaido Island (where the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters [est. 2004] are located. The Osaka region lost its 3rd team when the Orix BlueWave merged with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. And then when the only-ever players’ strike in NPB (in the late summer of 2004) forced the league to reverse their decision to contract to 11 teams in 2005, the new franchise (the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles) was not re-placed in the Osaka region, but instead put in the Sendai region north of Tokyo. There is one area that has never had an NPB team, and that would probably support one pretty well – the NW Honshu Island (main island) city of Niigata, which is on the west coast on the Sea of Japan. Niigata (population of around .8 million) is home to one of the highest-drawing J-League soccer teams in Japan – Albirex Niigata, who became the first-ever J-League team to average over 40,000 per game, in 2005.

Foreign player restrictions:
4 foreign players on the 25-man active roster allowed, with no organizational limit.

Minor leagues in Japan:
Each NPB team has 1 minor league team in its organization, and most of the minor league teams use the name and uniforms of their parent-club, and the minor league team also plays in the same area as their parent-club (exception – in location: Hokkaido’s minor league team is still located in the Tokyo Bay area).

Japanese-born players in Major League Baseball
Up to the 2018 season, a total of 55 Japanese-born players have played at least 1 game in Major League Baseball. {Source: List of Major League Baseball players from Japan.} The biggest restriction is the 9-year rule, disallowing any NPB player without 9 years’ tenure with a NPB team’s organization, and along with that, another impediment is the ‘Posting’ system {see this:[Posting system]}.

Current [2018] Japanese-born players in MLB…

Photo credits above – 1996 BBM Ichiro card, from 2001 [Mariners/Keebler stadium-giveaway-item] Ichiro card, from 2001 Topps Ichiro card, from

Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners OF (age 44). Once he finally retires, Ichiro will become the first Japanese-born player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he will probably be elected on the first ballot. After all, he is one of the 31 players in all of Major League Baseball history that is in The 3,000 hits club [and there has never been any allegations of doping/steroid abuse wrt Ichiro]. Ichiro, who prefers to be referred to by his first name, played in NPB for 9 seasons with the Orix Blue Wave (1992-2000), where he was a 7-time All-Star (1994–2000), a 3-time Pacific League MVP (1994–1996), and was part of the 1996 Orix Blue Wave team that were NPB champions (see 1996 trading card above). Ichiro was signed by the Seattle Mariners in Nov. 2000, becoming the first Japanese-born position player to sign for an MLB team. In the following year of 2001, amid heavy coverage by both Japanese and North American media, Ichiro was the first player to lead in Batting Average and Stolen Bases (.350/56), since Jackie Robinson did it in 1949. And he became only the second player to win the AL Rookie of the Year award and the AL MVP award (the first was Boston’s Fred Lynn in 1975). Ichiro played 11-and-a-half seasons for Seattle (2001-12), then played 2-and-a-half seasons for the New York Yankees (2012-14), then played 3 seasons for the Miami Marlins (2015-17). He returned to the Seattle Mariners in 2018, as a 44-year-old. Excerpts from the Ichiro Suzuki page at…”Ichiro has established a number of batting records, including MLB’s single-season record for hits with 262. He achieved 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons, the longest streak by any player in history. Between his major league career in both Japan and the United States, Ichiro has the most hits by any player in top-tier professional leagues…In his combined playing time in NPB and MLB, Ichiro has received 17 consecutive selections both as an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, won nine league batting titles and been named MVP four times…He is also noted for his longevity, continuing to produce at a high level while approaching 43 years of age…In total he has over [4,450] hits in his career.”…{Excerpts from}

Junichi Tazawa, Miami Marlins Relief Pitcher (RHP) (age 31). Tazawa never played in NPB. He was un-drafted out of high school, and so he played for the company team of Nippon Oil in the corporate league [unaffiliated with NPB], and was MVP in that company-league’s post-season in 2008. It was then, circa late-2008/early-2009 that Tazawa became the first amateur Japanese ballplayer to shun the NPB, and sign with an MLB team (the Boston Red Sox) {see this article from 2008 from, Amateur Tazawa bypassing Japan leagues for MLB}. Tazawa worked middle relief for the Red Sox for 7 seasons (2009; 2011-16), and was part of the Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series championship team, making 13 appearances in the 2013 post-season including 5 appearances in the World Series that year, with these post-season stats: 13 app/1-0/1.38 ERA/7.1 IP. Tazawa has been a middle reliever for the Marlins since 2017.

Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs Starting Pitcher (RHP) (age 31). Played in NPB for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2005–2011); posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and signed with the Texas Rangers in Jan. 2012. Yu Darvish is the son of an Iranian-born father and a Japanese mother. In NPB, Darvish was a two-time Pacific League MVP (2009, 2011), a 5-time NPB All-Star (2007–2011), and led the Pacific League in Strikeouts 3 times and in ERA twice. Darvish was a member of the 2006 NPB champions the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. In MLB, playing for the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and now the Chicago Cubs, Darvish has an overall 18.3 WAR, going 56-44 (3.50 ERA) [as of 24 April 2018]. Darvish’s best season in MLB was in 2013, when he went 13-9 (2.84 ERA) and led the majors in Strikeouts (277, with 80 Walks). Darvish has been a 4-time All-Star (2012–2014, 2017). But Darvish had a bad World Series with the LA Dodgers in 2017, getting bombed in both appearances, going 0-2 with a 21.60 ERA (when the Dodgers lost to the Houston Astros in 7 games). Darvish’s problems continued on into 2018, where he is [as of 24 April 2018] 0-2 (6.86 ERA) for the Cubs.

Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees Starting Pitcher (RHP) (age 29). Played in NPB for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2007–2013); posted by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and signed with the New York Yankees in Jan. 2014. Was 6-time NPB All-Star (2007–2009, 2011–2013), and led NPB in ERA twice (2011, 2013); plus Tanaka was a member of the 2013 NPB champions (the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles). Tanaka has been a vital part of the Yankees’ rotation since 2014, with an overall 12.6 WAR, going 55-30 (3.63 ERA) [as of 24 April 2018]. In 2014, Tanaka went 13-5 (2.77 ERA) for the Yankees and was a 2014 All-Star, but injuries kept him from playing most of the second-half of 2014. In 2016, Tanaka went 14-4 (3.04 ERA), with the best WAR for the Yankees that year, at 5.2.

Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers. Starting Pitcher (RHP) (age 30). Played in NPB for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp (2008–2015); posted by Hiroshima Toyo Carp and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in Jan. 2016. Was a 5-time NPB All-Star (2010, 2012–2015). For the Dodgers, Maeda has been a solid starter, going 16-11 (3.48 ERA) in 2016, and 13-6 (4.22 ERA) in 2017.

Yoshahisa Hirano, Arizona Diamondbacks. Relief Pitcher (RHP) (age 34). Played in NPB for 11 seasons with the Orix Buffaloes (2006-07; 2009-17). Hirano had more than the requisite 9 years tenure in NPB, so he didn’t have to be posted. Hirano signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in Dec. 2017. Was the NPB Middle Reliever of the Year in 2011, and Saves leader in the 2014 Pacific League. So far, Hirano has fit in very well in MLB with Arizona, and [as of 24 April 2018] he has made 11 appearances in middle relief, with a 1-0 record and a 1.74 ERA for the division-leading D-backs.

Kazihisa Makita, San Diego Padres. Relief Pitcher (RHP) (age 33). Played in NPB for the Seibu Lions (2011-17); posted by Seibu Lions and signed by the San Diego Padres in Dec. 2017. Makita has a sidewinder (or submarine) delivery. Was Pacific League Rookie of the Year in 2011, and an NPB All-Star in 2011 and 2013. For the Padres, [as of 24 April 2018] he has 11 appearances in middle relief, with a 4.50 ERA.

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels. Starting Pitcher (RHP) and DH/OF (Bats Left) (age 23). Played in NPB for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2013–17). Was posted by Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and was signed by the Los Angeles Angels in Dec. 2017. Ohtani is a dual-threat player who can pitch with speed and finesse AND who can hit for power and for average. Ohtani proved it in Japan, and right now, so far, he is proving he can do it in Major League Baseball. Ohtani was part of the 2016 NPB champions (the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters). As a starting pitcher in NPB, Ohtani had the Pacific League’s best ERA in 2015, and he was voted to the NPB Best Nine as a Pitcher in 2015 and 2016, as well as being voted to the NPB Best Nine as DH in 2016. Which is absolutely unprecedented. Ohtani recalls the pitching-and-slugging skills once displayed by no less than Babe Ruth himself, back in the 1910s and 1920s (Babe Ruth, for the Boston Red Sox in 1919, hit 20 HRs and pitched for a 9-5 record with an ERA of 2.97 in 133 IP). Ohtani’s current MLB numbers: [as of 24 April 2018] 3 HR, 1 Triple, 1 Double and 11 RBIs in 42 AB (a .333 BAvg and a .619 SPct) plus a 2-1 pitching record (4.46 ERA) in 4 GS and 20.1 IP. Ohtani appears to be the real deal, and along with Mike Trout, could very well lead the division-leading Angels to post-season glory soon. {From Deadspin, from the 25th of April, Shohei Ohtani Threw The Ball Hard As F*ck (by Tom Ley at}
Photo credits above – Ohtani as pitcher and as batter for Hokkaido, 2 photos by Kyodo News/Getty Images via Ohtani batting for LA Angels, and Ohtani pitching for LA Angels, 2 photos by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images North America via

    2017 Japan Series: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks beat Yokohoma DeNa BayStars, 4 games to 2. (Fourth NPB title in 7 seasons for Fukuoka.)

Photo and Image credits above – Dennis Sarfate, photo by Kyodo News via Keizo Kawashima, photo by Kyodo News via Nao Higashihama, photo by Kyodo News via Yuki Yanagita, photo by Kyodo News via
Alfredo Despaigne, photo by Gaffkey at File:Hawks54-Despaigne.jpg (
Fukuoka at twilight, photo by Alamy via…. Fukuoka Dome, photo unattributed at The Fukuoka Hawks’ balloon-release (a 7th inning tradition at Fukuoka Dome), photo by Brad Merrett at Mascots: photos from

Thanks to all at the following links…
-Blank map of Japan, by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) at File:Japan location map.svg (
-Globe-map of Japan, by Connormah at File:Japan (orthographic projection).svg (
-Map of Japan’s regions, by Ken Nashi at
-Map of Tokyo (Kantō MMA) metro-area, by Kzaral at File:Tokyo-Kanto definitions, Kanto MMA.png.
-Seibu Lions mascot/photo from
-Chiba Lotte Marines new mascot (Mystery Fish), image from
-Hiroshima Toyo Carp mascot (Slyly), illustration from

-Thanks to MeGaNiNjA (スピードさん) @MegaNiNj4, for requesting this map (via twitter), and for helping me find mascot illustrations.
-Thanks to the guy who runs the twitter feed for the Reddit/NPB page, for finding mistakes, on my map here (

April 26, 2014

2014 FIFA World Cup teams: Japan (AFC), prominent players in 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying (theoretical best XI for Japan, with 3 other player-options listed).

Filed under: Japan,Japan nat'l team (soccer) — admin @ 6:40 pm

Japan national team. AFC (Asia). Nickname: サッカー日本代 (Soccer Nippon Daihyo). Home jersey: dark blue with red trim.

-Japan is in Group C (with Colombia, Greece, and Ivory Coast), ‘2014 FIFA World Cup Group C‘ (

2014 FIFA World Cup qualification: 2014 is Japan’s 5th qualification [5th consecutive] out of a 15 possible qualification attempts (1930 & 1934: did not enter; 1938: withdrew; 1950: banned [as a result of sanctions following World War II]; 1954: did not qualify; 1958: did not enter; 1962: did not qualify; 1966: did not enter; 1970 to 1994: did not qualify; 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014: qualified).

Previous WC: 2010, Round of 16 / 2-1-1. Highest WC finish: 2002 & 2010, Round of 16 / 2-1-1.

Population of Japan: 126.6 million {2012 estimate}.
Capital and largest city: Tokyo, pop. 35.6 million (metro area) [city population, aka Tokyo Metropolis, pop. 13.1 million] {2011 figures}.

Japan national team coach, Alberto Zaccheroni. Alberto Zaccheroni.
Japan squad captain, Nürnburg DMF Makoto Hasebe. Makoto Hasebe.

[Note: players below reflect final 2014 WC squad selections.]
Below: Theoretical Best XI for Japan (with 3 other player-options further below) -
Photo and Image credits above -
Japan on globe map, by Connormah at ‘File:Japan (orthographic projection).svg‘ (
Japan map, from Demis Web Map Server/Gallery at
Japan 2014 WC jersey, photo from
Alberto Zaccheroni, photo unattributed at
Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liège), photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe via
Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04), photo by AP via
Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), photo from
Maya Yoshida (Southampton), photo photo unattributed at
Yuto Nagatomo (Internazionale), photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe via
Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac via
Makoto Hasebe (Nürnberg), photo unattributed at
Yasuhito Endō (Gamba Osaka), photo from
Attacking MFs/Forwards,
Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), photo by Fredrik von Erichsen via
Keisuke Honda (Milan) photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images via
Shinji Kagawa (Manchester Utd), photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe via
Other player-options,
Hiroki Sakai DF/RB/RMF (Hannover 96), photo by Bongarts/Getty Images via
Hiroshi Kiyotake AMF/W (Nürnberg), photo unattributed at
Yoshito Ōkubo (Kawasaki Frontale), photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images via
Thanks to the contributors at ‘2014 FIFA World Cup qualification‘ (
Thanks to the contributors at ‘Japan national football team‘ (
Thanks to, for player-position details.
Thanks to,

June 14, 2013

Japan: 2013 J. League location-map, with 2012 attendance data & all-time J. League titles list. / Plus a short article on the history of the promotion/relegation format in Japanese association football. / Plus, Japan national football team: 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation) – their coach and their top players in their successful 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Filed under: Japan — admin @ 9:14 pm

Japan: 2013 J-League location-map,with 2012 attendance data & J.League titles list

    The J.League

J.1 (J. League Division 1) – fixtures, results, tables

J.League official site –

2013 J. League Division 1‘ (

The J.League season runs from March to December. There are 18 teams in the league, making for a 34-game season. 3 clubs are relegated to J.2 each season and 3 clubs from J.2 are promoted to the first division at the end of each season. 2013 is the 18th season of the competition. Reigning champions are Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a venerable old club who finally won their first pro title in 2012. The most successful team is the Ibaraki prefecture-based Kashima Antlers, who have won 7 titles, last in 2009, and who are from the far eastern edge of Greater Metropolitan Tokyo, on the Pacific coast.

    Elements of the map page (J.League 2013 location-map w/ 2012 attendance data & all-time J.League titles list [1993 to 2012])

At the far left is the 2013 J.League location-map, which includes 9 teams from the Greater Tokyo area. The 9 teams from the Greater Tokyo area (with home Prefactures listed) are shown in an inset map at the center of the map page.

At the upper-center of the map page is the all-time titles list for J.League (17 seasons/1993-2012). All-time Japanese title list (amateur and pro titles) can be seen at the following link – ‘List of Japanese football champions [amateur champions of Japan, 1965-1992/pro champions of Japan since 1993]‘ (

At the right-hand side of the map page is the 2012 attendance data for teams in the 2013 J.League, in chart form. 5 attendance data details are featured (going from left to right on the chart)…
-2011 average attendance;
-2012 average attendance;
-Percentage change from 2011 to 2012;
-Venue [stadium(s)] Capacity [Note: many J.League teams also play some home matches at a nearby larger municipal stadium - for teams that use 2 venues, both venue capacities are listed];
-Percent-Capacity or percent-capacities for 2012 home matches [Percent-Capacity equals Average attendance divided by Venue Capacity].

At the very bottom of the attendance data chart is the key for league movements, with:
-green arrow for promoted clubs (to J.1) for 2013 (Ventforet Kofu, Oita Trinita, and Shonan Bellmare);
-red arrow for relegated clubs (to J.2) for 2013 (Consadole Sapporo, Vissel Kobe, and Gamba Osaka);
-green asterisk for current J.1 teams which were promoted up 2 seasons ago (FC Tokyo and Sagan Tosu);
-red asterisk & green arrow for yo-yo clubs on the rebound back to J.1 for 2013 (Ventforet Kofu);
-green asterisk & red arrow for yo-yo clubs going back down to J.2 again for 2013 (Consadole Sapporo).

    The history of the promotion/relegation format in Japanese association football

Japan Soccer League (1965-92) [amateur].
Prior to the J.League, there was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), established in 1965 as the second national sports league in Japan (following baseball, in 1936). The JSL was full of company teams, many of whom have morphed into J.League football clubs, such as Urawa Red Diamonds [formerly Mitsubishi Motors' company team], Kashiwa Reysol [formerly Hitachi electronics company team] and Sanfrecce Hiroshima [formerly Toyo Industries (Mazda) company team]. The JSL remained amateur for its entire 28-year existence (1965 to 1992).

Prior to the JSL, the major-league sports model in Japan was based exactly on the American franchise sports model – with no relegation or promotion, and with franchise shifts allowed, and with the periodic inception of new expansion franchises. Specifically, Nippon Professional Baseball (Japanese major league baseball), and their complete emulation of Major League Baseball (which has 29 American teams and 1 Canadian team, all of whom have affiliations with minor league teams which are in fixed leagues that do not have promotion/relegation… just like the 16 teams in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball).

But when it came to another sport (association football), with a decidedly different but very well-established and proven professional system, Japan sensibly ended up (twice) doing what around 98 percent of the rest of the world has ended up doing (the most prominent exceptions being Major League Soccer based in USA/Canada; and in the A-League based in Australia/New Zealand). Japan has followed the British association football promotion/relegation model, which has been in place in English football since the late Nineteenth century {since 1888-89, see this ‘Promotion and relegation‘ (}.

In 1972, the [amateur] Japan Soccer League instituted promotion/relegation. And that format remained for the final 21 seasons of the amateur top-flight set-up in Japan (from 1971 to 1992). At the same time (1972) a national second division of Japanese association football was instituted – the Japan Soccer League Second Division. Among the founding 10 teams, 5 later on made in into the J.League: Toyota Motors (inaugural champion/ present-day J.League team Nagoya Grampus Eight), Yomiuri FC (present-day J.2 team Tokyo Verdy), Fujitsu (present-day J.League team Kawasaki Frontale), Kyoto Shiko Club (present-day J.2 team Kyoto Sanga), and Kofu Club (present-day j.League team Ventforet Kofu).

J.League, the first pro league of association football in Japan. Establishd 1993.
The J.League was established in 1993, as the first nation-wide professional league for association football in Japan. The people running the J.League in its early days (circa 1992 to ’97) tried to make it a closed shop (with no relegation, and with expansion clubs coming up only sporadically as de-facto promoted clubs [via the now-defunt Japan Football League (1992–98)]. But there was no corresponding relegation, so mediocre-to-outright-poor-teams were safe, and complacency set in.

By the mid-1990s, after the initial excitement about the new pro league faded, attendances eventually ended up plummeting – a 44% decline, from 17,975 per game in the first J.League season in 1993, to only 10,130 per game four years later in 1997. So the folks who ran the league then saw the light, and they instituted promotion/relegation. In 1999, the first professional Japanese second division was established – J.League Division 2 (aka J.2). Just prior to that, a promotion/relegation system was instituted, and some of the 1998 J.League teams ended up being relegated into the newly-formed pro Japanese second division in 1999.

Japan’s professional association football league format has included promotion/relegation for over 15 years now. (1998 season to 2013). Attendance was up 11.1% last season (2012), at an average of 17,565 per game {see this, ‘J.League 2012 – Attendance -’ (}. 4 football clubs in Japan averaged over 20,000 per game in 2012: Urawa Red Diamonds (of the northern suburbs of Greater Tokyo in Saitama prefecture), Albirex Niigata (from the west coast/Sea of Japan city of Niigata), the recently-promoted club FC Tokyo (of Tokyo Metropolis prefecture), and Yokohoma F. Marinos (of Yokohoma/Greater Tokyo).

In the 15 seasons since promotion/relegation has been established in Japanese pro football, exactly zero Japanese football clubs who have suffered relegation have gone out of business. That is 34 relegations, with 20 different clubs having been relegated from the Japanese first division since 1998 {see this, ‘J.League Division 1/Relegation history‘ (}. As a matter of fact, the reigning champions of Japan, the first-time J.League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima (from the western region of the main island of Honshu), were recently relegated – in 2007. Sanfrecce Hiroshima then were promoted back to the top flight the following season. Then Sanfrecce Hiroshima won the J.League title 6 years after being relegated.

For 3 straight seasons, now, a club that had never won the J.League title has been champion. For 2 straight seasons, now, a club that had recently been relegated has been champion. And one of those clubs was not a founding member of J.League. 2010 J.League winners were the central Japan-based Nagoya Grampus Eight [Arsene Wenger's old club]. 2011 winners were the Chiba/east-side-of-Greater-Tokyo-based club Kashiwa Reysol. [Kashiwa Reysol are from Kashiwa, Chiba prefecture, around 33 km. or 20 miles east of central Tokyo, in the same prefecture as the NPB ball club the Chiba Lotte Marines.]

Kashiwa Reysol, established in 1940 as Hitachi, Ltd. Soccer Club in Kodaira, Tokyo, were a successful club throughout the amateur era but ended up waiting a bit longer than many other Japanese footballl clubs to turn pro (circa the early 1990s), and were thus left out of the initial line-up of clubs that made up the inaugural season of J.League in 1993. So they had to play their way into the league, which they first did in 1994, back when the J.League was expanding, but had not yet arrived at the decision to become a 2-tier pro set-up with promotion/relegation.

Kashiwa Reysol has also recently suffered the set-back of being relegated – twice – in 2005, then again in 2009. Kashiwa Reysol then became the first Japanese team to ever win back-to-back titles in J.2 (in 2010) then in J.League (in 2011, winning the crown by 1 point over reigning champions Nagoya Garampus Eight, and 2 points ahead of Gamba Osaka).

So in 2011, Kashiwa Reysol became the first team to earn promotion from J.2 to J.1, and then win the J.League title in the following season – joining that unique group of clubs which have won the national title the season after getting promoted to the first division (clubs such as Ipswich Town in 1962, Nottingham Forest in 1978, and FC Kaiserslautern in 1998). Granted, with the current state of finances of top flight football in England and Germany (and elsewhere), it is unlikely (without a wage cap) that we will see another incidence of a just-promoted club winning the title the following year in the Premier League, or in the Bundesliga. But, nevertheless, the possibility is still there. And regardless, the format of promotion/relegation is constantly injecting new life into the top flight – witness the captivating rise and success of Swansea City. You will never see a story like Swansea City occur in Major League Soccer, because there is no way on Earth that MLS would grant a franchise to a city as small as Swansea (which has a population of only 239,000 {2011 figure}). Major League Soccer is a league that refuses to implement a promotion/relegation system, because they are afraid that their franchises couldn’t survive a year in a theoretical second division. So all the fans of association football that are from mid-sized American cities know they will never have the chance to see their hometown soccer team ever make it to the top flight, unlike in England, and in France, and in Germany, and in Spain, and in Italy, and in Mexico, and in Brazil, and in Argentina, and in Japan. Because MLS is full of soccer franchises, instead of football clubs.

Japan’s J.League proves that a nation that once used only the franchise model for a national sports league can successfully implement the promotion/relegation model. And create more fan excitement, and increase attendance.

Here is an excerpt from this article from, from Nov. 20, 2012, by Ben Berger, ‘What American Soccer Can Learn from Japan‘, …{excerpt}…’ the J. League decided to create a lower “J2” league in 1999 to go along with the top league, now called “J1”. With this, they also instituted promotion and relegation. One result? Better marketing opportunities for the sport, with fans’ passion being upped a notch, and relegation battles being contested and publicized as much as championships. Take the example of Kashiwa Reysol…which was relegated from J1 in the 2009 season yet was promoted back the next year. Incredibly, Kashiwa won the J1 championship in 2011. That’s what dreams are made of – the key reason people follow sports. Nothing like it exists in North American sport.’ …{end of excerpt’}.

2011 J.League champions – Kashiwa Reysol.
Photo and Image credits above -
Screenshot of a video uploaded by jleague, ‘Kashiwa Reysol Vs Vegalta Sendai: J- League 2012 (Round 6)‘.

Kashiwa Reysol averaged a modest 13,768 last season, but boasted the second-best percent-capacity rate in J.League in 2012, at 77%-capacity at their smart and compact and running-track-free/4-separate-stands/15,900-capacity Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium. That percent-capacity figure was second only to north-Honshu Island-based Vegalta Sendai at 84 %-capacity in 2012 {see attendance chart on map above for full figures, which I got here (}.

In 2012, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a club that has been relegated twice in the last 11 seasons (in 2002 and in 2007), won the J.League title. That the last two teams to win the title in Japan had both been recently been relegated shows the beauty of promotion and relegation. And in the 15 years since J.League adopted the promotion/relegation model, attendance has rebounded dramatically, rising over 7,000 per game, from that aforementioned low of 10,130 per game in 1997, to the 17,565 per game the J.League drew last year.

2012 J.League champions – Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Sanfrecce Hiroshima averaged 6th-best in J.League in 2012, at 17,720 per game (up 34.2% from 2011).
Photo and Image credits above -

{Note: for some attendance data above, see this Japanese football site

    Japan national football team: 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation) – coach & top players in the current roster

Japan are the first team to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Japan has now qualified for 5 consecutive FIFA World Cups.

From, from 4 June 2013, ‘Australia concede late equaliser to Japan in World Cup qualifier
• Japan 1-1 Australia
• Samurai Blue qualify for the World Cup
‘ (

Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (
Yoshida at

    Below – Top scoring threats on the Japan National Football team,
    Shinji Kagawa (MF), Keisuke Honda (FW), Shinji Okazaki (FW) -

Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (
Koji Sasahara/AFP at
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe via
AP via
Unattributed at

    Below – defensive core of the Japan National Football team, FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation)…
    Eiji Kawashima (GK), Maya Yoshida (DF), Makoto Hasebe (MF & captain) -

Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe via
Sky Sports via via yoshida.
Tsutomu Kishimoto/Picsport at
Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images) via Picasaweb at

Thanks to Maximilian Dörrbecker at for the blank map of Japan,
Thanks to for J.League attendances,
Thanks to for J.league Divisions 1 and 2 attendance data, ; 2011 j.League attendance data,
Thanks to for J.League stadium capacities and percent-capacities,
Thanks to this section at the official J.League site, for stadia info, [J.League stadium guide].

April 22, 2009

J. League, 2009: the 18 teams in J.1, with 2008 final table chart.

Filed under: Japan — admin @ 12:37 pm


J. League, J.1 Table {click here (ESPN Soccernet)}.   The Rising Sun News site (‘A Celebration of Football in Japan’)  {click here}.

Official J. League site (translated) {click here}.

Thanks to {this thread, here}.   Thanks to the contibutors to the pages at Wikipedia {click here (J. League page)}.   Thanks to {click here}.

June 29, 2008

Japan: The J-League, 2008- Zoom Map.

Filed under: Japan,Zoom Maps — admin @ 5:34 pm


The J-League is back from it’s summer break, so it’s a good time to feature a zoom map of the J-1 level of the league.  [J-2, which has 15 teams, is the other level of the J-League structure.]

The J-League was formed in 1992, and began play in 1993.  There are 18 clubs in today’s J-1, with 2 or 3 clubs relegated each season, and 2 or 3 clubs promoted from J-2.  The two league strucure, with a promotion/relegation system, was established in 1999.  It features a playoff between the 16th place J-1 team v. the 3rd place J-2 team.  The season runs from early March to early December, with a 6 week break in the early summer.

The current champion is the Kashima Antlers, a club from the Ibaraki prefecture, which is part of the greater Tokyo area (east of the city).  They were able to wrest the Title away from the Urawa Reds on the last day of the season. Urawa Red Diamonds, who were founded by Mitsubishi Motors (and are still bank-rolled by the corporation), are the biggest club in Japan.  They are also from greater Tokyo, north of the city, in the Saitama prefecture  They drew around 46,000 per game in 2007, the highest average gate in all of Asia.  Their true goal in 2007 was to win the Asian Football Confederation Champions League Title, which had eluded all Japanese teams since Jubilo Iwata won the Asian Cup (the ACF C.L. predecessor) in 1999.  Urawa Reds achieved this goal, beating Sepahan FC, of Iran, in mid-November.  But this probably contibuted to them losing their focus on the J-League Title.  The Reds only earned 2 points off their last 4 league games, and Kashima Antlers leapfogged them on the last day of the ’07 season (3rd December).  {See this article, from}

To see the current J-League table, {click here}.   Urawa Reds, who definitely aim to take care of unfinshed business, sit at the top, but only on goal difference, as they are tied for points with Nagoya Grampus Eight.  Both these teams lost Saturday, though.  The Reds went down 1-2 to Kashiwa Reysol, and now Reysol are just three points off the pace.  Grampus lost big, 0-4, to reigning champs Kashima Antlers, so now the Antlers are just 1 point off the pace, with the best goal difference in the league. 

On Sunday, Gamba Osaka beat newly promoted strugglers Consadole Sapporo 4-2 , so now Osaka is also one point below the lead.  FC Tokyo, a relatively new team, with no major trophies but a large fan base, drew versus relegation-threatened JEF United, and now are 2 points behind the lead. 

Throw Omiya Ardija into the mix (at 4 points off the pace),  and you have the recipe for an interesting close of the J-League season, with very likely a half dozen teams (or more) with a shot at the crown.   {J-League site, click here.}

There is a really good independent site for the J-League.  It’s called The Rising Sun News {click here}.  It’s full of lots of info, and graphics.

On the map, I have included a segment of my 2006 J-League Attendance Map, so the viewer can get a better picture of the Greater Tokyo teams’ locations, and their fan-base sizes.  **{Click here, for my 2006 J-League Attendance Map.}

On the map, for each team, I have listed J-League Titles, and Titles for the Emperor’s Cup (the oldest Cup competition in Japan).   {Click here, for Wikipedia’s page on the Emperor’s Cup.}   I have tried to list the original names of all the teams, most of which started as company-teams.  The corporate connections have played a big part in Japanese football, and as far as I can tell, only 3 teams currently in J-1 were not formed by any sort of corporation:  Kyoto SangaAlbirex Niigata,  and Shimizu S-Pulse. 

I began rooting for the Shimizu S-Pulse because I thought their stadium looked the most fan-friendly, the team played an up-tempo style, and I have always had a soft spot for orange kits.  But now that I know they were formed at the grassroots level (from a big footballing region: {see this}), and initially with no big corporate money behind them, I like them even more.  

Thanks to Demis, of the Netherlands {click here},  for the blank map of Japan.   Thanks to,  for the kits.   Thanks to the Albion Road site {click here}, for background on the teams. 

Thanks to Mike, from the Go! Go! Omiya Ardija site {Click here}, for responding to my e-mail, and pointing out misspellings.   Check out this site:  Ardija is shaping up to be the surprise team of ’08…which is nice to see, as the club labors under the shadow of fellow Saitama-dwelling J-League giants Urawa Reds, and last year were only 3 points away from the relegation playoff.

November 4, 2007

Japan: The 2006 J-League, with attendance figures.

Filed under: Japan — admin @ 2:10 pm


I like the J-League because it has sprung up out of nowhere, and has such maniacal fans.  The fans make the games a colorful spectacle  Also, the caliber of play is better than one might expect, and you are likely to see some pretty nice goals here.  The Urawa Reds are poised to become Japan’s first “big” club.  They draw the biggest crowds (45,500 average), and finally won the league title last season.  Albirex Niigata draw extremely well (38,700), in spite of being a mediocre club.  FC Tokyo, Yokohama F. Marinos, and Oita Trinita average in the 20,000 to 24,000 range.  There are 10 clubs with respectable gates of between 13,000 and 18,000.  The J-League averaged 18,292 per game in 2006.

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