When you think of Japanese sports, there is a good chance that a martial art comes to mind. However, Japan as a nation is sports crazy, and though sumo is probably recognized as the national sport, a wide range of others are followed by local fanatics.
Here in Aichi Prefecture, there are so many sports teams that you can get out and follow. So, which one will be your team?
Okay, let’s start with the big one. If you ask a local what their favorite sport is, you might be in for a surprise. The largest professional sports competition, in terms of television ratings and spectators, baseball is considered by many to be the Japan’s number one sport and national pastime.
Here in Nagoya we have one of the biggest teams in the Nippon Professional Baseball, the Chunichi Dragons. The Dragons have won nine Central League Pennants, though the most recent was 2011, and since then they have been perennial playoff contenders, cheered on by their mascot Doala. They do, however, have international renown, as it was to the Dragons that Tom Selleck came for his movie Mr Baseball.
Nagoya’s soccer team is perhaps one of the best known worldwide, as England World Cup Gary Lineker hero joined them in the early ’90s, Arsene Wenger managed them before joining Arsenal, and Dragan Stojkovic won titles with them both as a player and manager. Unfortunately success has not been so forthcoming in the days since, and Grampus have spent the last few years bouncing around the top half of the J-League, though they won the Emperor’s cup in 2021.
Home games are split between two stadiums: the Mihuzo Athletic Stadium in Nagoya holds up to 27,000 fans, and the football specific 45,000 seater Toyota Stadium in (yes, you guessed it) Toyota. Seats cost between 2,500 JPY and 7,100 JPY, with kids getting in for as low as 500 JPY, which makes it a great and affordable family day out.
The Diamond Dolphins were formed in 1950 out of the Mitsubishi Electrical Factory, but have since then grown to become one of the top teams in the Japanese B. League. Playing at Dolphins Arena (previously Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium) near Nagoya Castle, the team is proud of not only their fighting spirit on the court but also their connections to the community.
They regularly hold local meet and greet events, and in 2020, became the first top-tier professional sport club in Japan to sign to the United Nations “Sport for Climate Action Framework”.
Playing in the top division of the Japan Rugby League One, Toyota Verblitz are Aichi’s main rugby team. The name is a portmanteau of verde (Spanish and Portuguese for ‘green’) and blitz (German for ‘lightning’), and are (rather unsurprisingly) owned by the Toyota Motor Corporation.
Like their Stadium mates Nagoya Grampus, Verblitz aren’t exactly swimming in trophies – they won the All Japan Championship in 1968, 1969, and 1987, though they have yet to capture the Japan Rugby League One trophy since its inception in 2003. The most recent season saw them finishing a respectable 6th.
Finally, a team with a bit more success to their name. Wolfdogs Nagoya are based in Inazawa, and in 2013 appointed their first foreign coach, Christian Sanderson Andersson, after which they began to play a more organizational style. This led to them placing third in the 2014/15 V.Premier League before winning their first championship in the following season.
On the back of these victories, the Wolfdogs have become something of a powerhouse team, finishing in second place in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, whilst reaching the finals for three consecutive years. This impressive run was cemented last season, when they were led to both the V.League Division 1 and the Kurowashiki All Japan Volleyball Championship titles by their Polish captain Bartosz Kurek. If you are a glory hunter, this is the team for you!
Image: By Jeff Boyd via flickr.com [CC BY 2.0] – Modified
Image: By Jeff Boyd via flickr.com [CC BY-NC 2.0] – Modified
Image: By Shuhei S via flickr.com [CC BY 2.0] – Modified
Image: https://twitter.com/toyotaverblitz/status/1683725324796960768/photo/1– Modified
Image: https://twitter.com/motokn68/status/1684012102594461697/photo/3 – Modified