The best sporting events in Japan

photo by Edward Dalmulder

Sports are a very important part of Japanese culture for almost everyone, even for schoolkids who appreciation for sports is nurtured through yearly sports festivals primary school through high school. People enjoy baseball, track, basketball, football, and various other individual or team sports. But ‘modern’ sports are only one part of sports life in Japan – traditional sports like kendō (Japanese sword fighting), kyūdō (archery) or judo are only a few of the most beloved Japanese sports that people like to do in their free time, but professionally as well. If you’re in Japan with the intention of soaking in as much of the culture as you can, attending a sports tournament of some sort is a must. Here are some of the best sporting events in Japan.

All-Japan Figure Skating Championships

Figure skating is very popular in Japan, and figure skating competitions for seniors and juniors alike always attract large crowds. Japan has won medals in world championships and Olympic Winter games,  so if you attend the All-Japan Figure Skating Championships where the national champions are chosen, you can be sure to have a fun time. The venue for the event is different each year, but Nagano, Kadoma, Nagoya and Yokohama have been popular locations over the years.


photo by Tsutomu Takasu

Sumo is one of the best known traditional Japanese sports, very well respected in Japan and a sport with many fans all over the world. Each year, there are six official sumo tournaments in Japan, called honbasho. Each hobasho lasts for 15 days, with the best fighters wrestling twice a days and lower-ranked fighters up to seven times a day. The events take place in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, as well as three times in Tokyo.

Japan Series

Baseball has been one of the most popular sports in Japan since it was fist introduced in the country in 1872. Baseball is played very seriously at high school level, but the most important baseball event of the year is the Japan Series, in which the top professional baseball league in Japan plays seven games. The most popular team is the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants. If you can’t make it for the Japan Series, you can opt for the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament in spring in summer, which is also very popular with the Japanese public.

National Sports Festival of Japan

photo by Evan Blaser

For a comprehensive and exciting  introduction into the Japanese sports scene, look no further than the National Sports Festival of Japan, the largest sports meet in the country. Each year the festival is hosted by another prefecture, and the competitors represent prefectures. You get to see all sorts of different sports events, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the Emperor and Empress, who sometimes attend the festival.

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