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.

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