Evolution of Popular Sports in Japan

sumo wrestler in black beginning ritual of sumo battle Source: Hisgo.com Sports play an integral role in Japanese culture. From the ancient art of sumo wrestling to the modern and unusual Trampoline World Championships held this year in Tokyo, the evolution of sports in Japan has a rich and varied history. Royal Vegas Casino covers the athletic timeline of this country, featuring popular sports, noteworthy competitions, and upcoming sport events in the region. If you can’t make it to Suzuka, Tokyo, or Yokohama to take in these incredible experiences, play our sports-themed slots while you read about Japan and its relationship with athletics.

A History of Sports

Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport, while football or rugby is another highly popular sport, more recently introduced. The timeline of Japanese sport evolution has changed as dramatically as the country has developed through the centuries. Sumo – Sumo has its origins in a Japanese Shinto ritual. A religion of Japan, ancient Shinto belief was based on the idea of a human wrestling a god, giving way to thinking of the first sumo matches as spiritual events. Sumo tournaments began to increase in popularity in the late 17th century at the Tomioka Hachmian-gu Shrine in Tokyo. Today, six major tournaments are held across the country every year, each one spanning 15 days. The highest-ranked sumo wrestler is called “Yokozuna.” Martial Arts – Martial arts such as karate, kendo, judo, and jujutsu were developed in the medieval ages as fighting practice for young samurais. Martial means “fighting,” clearly indicating the original purpose of these classic sports from Japan. Many variations of martial arts were also adapted from China and then modified by the Japanese into archery and sword-fighting as the two main pursuits (kyujutsu and kendo). Baseball – Known by many as the unofficial national sport, baseball is very important to Japan. Also known as yakyu or puro yakyu, thousands of fans around the country flock to league and high school games during the summer. The sport was introduced to Japan in 1872 but had to wait until 1936 for a professional league to form. Currently, popular baseball teams in Japan are the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers. One defining difference of American baseball versus Japanese baseball is that the Japan version uses a smaller ball, playing field, and strike zone. Football – While Japanese football was introduced during the 1870s, the Japan Football Association (JFA) was not formed until 1921. After challenges posed by World War II that delayed the JFA joining FIFA (the global soccer federation), Japan did reach the round of eight at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and won the bronze four years later in Mexico City. The organisation is still thriving today, with more wins accumulated in the 80s and 90s. Tennis – Tennis was likely introduced to Japan in the late 19th century after five tennis courts were build in Yamate Park for the entertainment of tourists. Concurrently, westernized physical education was brought to Japan and tennis boomed with popularity. Today, tennis is a well-loved sport, ever since Japan won the first Olympic medal in the sport. Japanese baseball player swinging at a ball during a game Oyakata.com

Notable Sporting Events in Japan

With the country’s love affair with sports, they have hosted some exciting and famous sporting events in the last few decades. These events and competitions include: Winter Olympics in 1972 and 1998 – In 1972, the hosting city was Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture. 1998’s Olympics were in Nagano, Nagano Prefecture. The first time the country held the Olympics was during the summer in 1964 in Tokyo. FIFA World Cup 2002 – The FIFA World Cup (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is the quadrennial world championship for men’s national association football. In 2002, the final match was hosted in Japan at International Stadium in Yokohama. World Baseball Classic 2006 and 2009 – An international baseball competition, the World Baseball Classic was sanctioned from 2006 to 2013. In 2006 and 2009, Japan was a hosting country and took both championships.

Upcoming Major Sport Events

With the constant evolution of sports in Japan, fans can continue to look forward to many more upcoming events in the country. Four events are scheduled for the next year: Formula 1 Grand Prix – On October 12, 2019, Suzuka will host the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix. Occurring over 53 exciting, breakneck laps of the 5.807-kilometre Suzuka International Racing Course, racing fans from around the world can’t get enough of this dynamic track and high-speed racing fun. Rugby World Cup Final – Currently happening, the 2019 Rugby World Cup runs from September 20 to November 2. Never before has the cup been held in Asia as teams from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia, and Samoa battle it out. Trampoline World Championships – This exciting sport will see its world championships unfold in Tokyo from November 28 to December 1 this year at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo. This is the same venue that will host the gymnastics competitions next year at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. 39 nations have registered to see who will move onto next year’s Olympic games. 2020 Summer Olympics – Coming full-circle to what they started in 1964, Tokyo will once again host the Summer Olympics next year for the 2020 from July 24 to August 9.  

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