Sports, including martial arts, is an essential part of Japanese culture. Sumo wrestling is the national sport. Karate, kendo, and judo are also popular in the country. A number of western sports such as football and baseball are also gaining popularity in Japan. The following are the top sports in the country.
Popular Sports in Japan
Sumo is the national sport of Japan. It originated from the Japanese Shinto ritual that depicted a human wrestling a god. Sumo tournaments gained popularity in the late 17th century in Tomioka Hachiman-gu Shrine in Tokyo. Six major sumo tournaments are held across the country each year with each tournament spanning 15 days. The highest-ranking sumo wrestler is known as “Yokozuna,” and surprisingly no Japanese wrestler held the title at the global level between 2000 and 2016 with Mongolia producing several Yokozuna athletes.
Baseball is a revered sport in Japan; in fact, a majority consider it the unofficial national sport. It is popularly known as yakyu, or puro yakyu although most people will understand what you mean by the word "baseball." Thousands of supporters attend the baseball league games during the weekends and high school baseball during the summer. Although the sport was introduced in 1872, it was not until 1936 that a professional league was established. Popular baseball teams in Japan include the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers. The Japanese baseball differs from the American in that the former has a smaller ball, playing field, and strike zone.
Puroresu is a short word for Japanese pro wrestling. The sport was introduced in 1951 after several failed attempts in the early 20th century. The success of the sport in Japan is attributed to Rikidozan; revered Puroresu wrestler. Other famous wrestlers include Antonio Inoki, Tiger Mask, and Giant Baba.
Tennis is believed to have been introduced to Japan in the late 19th century when five tennis courts were constructed in Yamate Park for use by tourists. In the same year, western style physical education was introduced to the country and tennis was widely taught as a physical activity rather than a competitive sport. Tennis holds a prominent place in the country's history since Japan won the first Olympic medal in the sport.
Sports Management in Japan
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology is responsible for managing sports in the country. The country commemorates the Health and Sports Day on the second Monday of October every year. Japan has also hosted several sports competitions including the Winter Olympics in 1972 and 1998, 2002 FIFA World Cup, and the World Baseball Classic in 2006-2009. Tokyo is also set to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.