Japanese sports

From Academic Kids

Playing and watching a Sport is popular activity in Japan whether it is a traditional sport like Judo, a team sport like baseball, or a new sport like BMX.



The earliest sports in Japan were most likely archery and hunting. Kemari is known to have been played in Asuka period and Sumo may be even older, perhaps used to settle disputes between villages. Falconry also began in the Asuka period, heavily influenced by Mongolian practices.

Sumo shows an important side of traditional Japanese sport, a religious occasion as well as a sporting event. Many sumo rituals are closely associated with Shinto belief. It is believed that some of ancient sumo matches were a purely religious event with a predetermined outcome as an offering to kami. Some matches were done as a divination. For example, if a fisherman and farmer held a match and fisherman won, a good catch was predicted for that year.

The Kamakura period was a starting point for many martial arts. Kyudo became popular as kyujutsu, literally bow skill, as a pastime for samurai. Yabusame also started as a sport in this period, but is now considered a sacred ceremony. Hunting also became a popular sport and dogs were used to aid a hunt. Hunting was also called Inuoimono, literally dog chasing.

In the Edo period, sports became a popular way to spend time. The only problem was that they were often accompanied by gambling. A notice to punish playing and betting on sumo without an authorization was repeatedly posted to little effect. Kyudo was encouraged by shogun and daimyo as a pastime and contests as well as record making attempts were held. In April 26, 1686, a samurai named Wasa Daihachiro made an unsurpassed record of shooting 13,053 arrows and hitting the mark 8,133 times over a 24 hour period. This is even more remarkable when one considers the shooting range for this attempt, a 120 meter long corridor with a ceiling of only 2.2 meters. In the Olympic games, archers shoot over a distance of only 70 meters. Martial arts like jujutsu were popular but schools avoided inter-school matches and only internal matches were held.

After the Meiji Restoration, playing sports was adopted as a school activity and matches between universities became popular. Professional sports, the most famous being baseball which continues even today, started in late 1920s but a persistent rumors of bribes and a general attitude that sports should be for amateur players or as a hobby persisted. Until after World War II when airing of sporting event on radio and television became common, matches between schools attracted a larger crowd.

Baseball and professional wrestling were staples of early television, and boxing and sumo were aired periodically. Initially, running live sport games were viewed with skepticism as it was believed that fans would rather stay at home if they could watch for free. But, as it actually increased interest and sold more merchandise, airing of sports on TV became popular.

School and Sport

There are opportunities to play sports for every age groups and a school plays an important role in community. Kindergarten and lower elementary school students can play in a private sport club that can be joined for a moderate fee. Most martial arts can be started as little as 4 or 5 years old. When a student starts 5th grade, school offers free after-school activities for its students to participate. Middle and high schools also let its student join school sponsored sports clubs and teams. Unlike many nations, it is rare for a professional athlete to became a pro after graduating from a high school. Most advance to a university often with a scholarship and become a pro after graduation.

Prefectural level contests and tournaments are held every winter and summer if not more often and for those sports that does not have a professional league, this seasonal contest is the necessary step for eventually competing in a olympic game.

Popular Sport by Categories

Most traditional sports are for the development of skills and only few sports even have an opponent. An element of team sporting, a match between two group, is limited to a collection of individual games. Many sports were imported and became popular. It is hard to find a sport that is not played in Japan. Some new sports were invented by changing elements of imported sports.




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