Most Popular Sports in Japan

Japan is a place where traditions meet the new, and it is evident in the world of sports. People have always loved playing and watching games here.

Whether in the busy streets of Tokyo or the quiet areas of Hokkaido, sports are a big part of daily life. They’re not just pastimes; they mirror the nation’s past, cultural values, and essence.

Whether it’s children training in sumo at local rings or fans filling up stadiums for a baseball match, the energy and passion for sports are palpable.

As we venture into 2024, let’s dive deeper and explore the most popular sports in Japan that have shaped its athletic landscape.

List of Most Popular Sports in Japan

Sr. No.Sports Name
    2.Sumo Wrestling
    3.Soccer (Association Football)
    8.Figure Skating
    9.Pro Wrestling (Puroresu)
  10.Table Tennis

It’s important to note that the rankings provided are based on specific sources and evaluation criteria. As such, the order of popularity might vary depending on different assessments and perspectives.

1. Baseball

Baseball, the most popular sport in Japan, isn’t just a sport; it’s an institution. Known locally as “Yakyū,” its roots run deep, dating back to the 19th century.

Wander around Tokyo, and you’ll likely spot kids impersonating the iconic stance of legends like Ichiro Suzuki.

The Nippon Professional Baseball League showcases the nation’s zeal. Matches between titans like the Tokyo Giants and Hanshin Tigers are electric events, drawing massive crowds and nationwide attention.

But it’s not just about local leagues. When icons like Ichiro or the versatile Shohei Ohtani make a mark on the global stage, the entire country beams with pride.

Their success on global platforms underscores Japan’s deep love and commitment to the game. It is also one of the most popular sports in Japan.

Baseball is as loved in Japan as it is in America. Schools across the country have baseball teams, with tournaments often broadcast nationally.

The Koshien, a high school baseball tournament, is a testament to the sport’s deep roots in Japanese youth culture. Young players dream of showcasing their skills there, hoping to get scouted by professional teams or even the American Major Leagues.

2. Sumo Wrestling

The sacred ring, or “dohyō”, tells tales of tradition, discipline, and honour. Sumo, which originated in Japan, is a living legacy. Every stomp, every ritual, every bout is a dance with history. Moreover, Sumo Wrestling is also one of the most popular sports in Japan.

As the wrestlers, or “rikishi”, prepare for a match, there’s a hush—a respect for the ancient customs. 

Grand tournaments, held with grandeur, are not just events; they’re celebrations of a rich heritage.

And when legends like Hakuho, with his record-breaking championship wins, step onto the dohyō, you can feel the weight of centuries of tradition behind every move.

Beyond the professional realm, sumo wrestling is a way of life in Japan. Wrestlers live in communal “stables” where all the aspects, from their diets to their attire, revolve around the sport.

Sumo has special ceremonies linked to the Shinto religion. The dedication is evident in the life of a sumo wrestler, starting their training early in the morning, emphasizing both physical strength and mental discipline.

3. Soccer

Soccer, one of the most popular sports in Japan, has captured the hearts of both the youth and adults alike.

You can see children dribbling soccer balls with dreams of playing for the J-League. Since the 1990s, soccer has been a rising star in the Japanese sports arena. 

The electrifying matches of the J-League, featuring teams like Kawasaki Frontale and Kashima Antlers, ignite local passions.

And when players like Keisuke Honda or Shinji Kagawa wear their jerseys for international clubs, it’s not just a game—it’s the heartbeat of a nation that loves and lives soccer.

Japan’s national soccer team, known as the Samurai Blue, has made significant strides on the global stage, participating in multiple World Cups.

Their women’s team, Nadeshiko Japan, won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011, further cementing soccer’s place in the nation’s heart. Local clubs also have fervent followings, with fans creating an electric atmosphere during matches.

4. Tennis

Tennis resonates deeply with the Japanese, offering both a sport and a dream. Recognized as one of the most popular sports in Japan, many inspired by the likes of Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka aspire to master the court.

It’s not just about the Grand Slams; it’s about the dreams and aspirations of countless youngsters.

Nishikori’s determination to reach a Grand Slam final and Osaka’s fearless approach, winning multiple titles, serve as beacons of hope for many budding players in Japan.

Tennis is a favourite activity for many in Japan. On weekends, families gather at local courts to play. It’s a game for everyone, from kids to old folks.

Frequent local tournaments foster a competitive spirit among the youth. With international players often participating in Japan’s tennis tournaments, the sport continues to gain traction and inspire the next generation.

5. Golf

Golf, standing tall among the most popular sports in Japan, holds a special place in Japanese culture, symbolizing both leisure and discipline. Enthusiasts, buoyed by the achievements of their heroes, often tread the country’s lush greens. 

Every swing and every putt is a nod to legends like Isao Aoki. And when Hideki Matsuyama clinched the Masters in 2021, it wasn’t just his victory; it was a triumph for every Japanese who ever held a golf club.

Japan boasts some of the world’s most exquisite golf courses, with meticulous attention to detail. This sport is often seen as a way for business professionals to network, making golf courses essential meeting spots.

With over 2,000 golf courses and numerous driving ranges, the sport caters to both serious players and those looking for leisurely recreation.

6. Boxing

Boxing, while not having ancient Japanese roots, has been emerging as one of the most popular sports in Japan.

It is a testament to strength, skill, and spirit. In gyms across the country, aspiring boxers train diligently, their punches echoing the legacy of Japanese boxing greats.

Fighters like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka are not just champions; they are inspirations, embodying the Japanese spirit of resilience and determination.

Boxing gyms in Japan are filled with trainers emphasizing technique and discipline.

The sport saw a resurgence in popularity, thanks to local champions making a mark on the world stage. The dedication of these athletes, often training from a young age, showcases the Japanese spirit of perseverance.

7. Basketball

Teenagers shoot hoops, dreaming of the B.League and beyond, in the playgrounds of Sapporo. The rhythm of bouncing basketballs is a testament to basketball’s rising status among the most popular sports in Japan.

And when Rui Hachimura made his mark in the NBA, he became more than just a player; he became a symbol of aspiration for young Japanese basketball enthusiasts.

Street basketball is a common sight in urban areas of Japan, with youngsters mimicking the moves of both local B.League stars and NBA legends.

Schools and universities have competitive basketball teams, with inter-school tournaments drawing significant attention. The sport’s fast-paced nature and team dynamics resonate with the Japanese youth, making it a preferred choice in school sports.

8. Figure Skating

Figure Skating is also one of the most popular sports in Japan. Winter evenings in Nagano see children gliding on ice, their movements inspired by the ethereal performances of figure skating maestros.

The elegance of Yuzuru Hanyu and the determination of Shizuka Arakawa resonate with every Japanese child who dreams of pirouetting on the global stage, making figure skating one of the most popular sports in Japan.

The grace, discipline, and sheer athleticism required in figure skating make it a mesmerizing sport. Local ice rinks in Japan are often packed during weekends, with families enjoying the sport recreationally while young aspirants practice their routines.

9. Pro Wrestling (Puroresu)

In the bustling arenas of Tokyo, the drama of Puroresu unfolds, capturing the imagination of its avid followers.

Pro Wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Japan. It’s not just about the moves; it’s about the stories, the emotions, the legacy. Legends like Antonio Inoki are not just wrestlers; they are storytellers, weaving tales of bravery and spirit.

Puroresu events are theatrical spectacles, blending athleticism with drama. The wrestlers are celebrities in their own right, with many having dedicated fan bases.

The storylines, rivalries, and charisma of the wrestlers make it a unique blend of sport and entertainment. Merchandise sales, fan meets, and television broadcasts further amplify its popularity.

10. Table Tennis

At community centres throughout Hiroshima, the rhythmic bounce of table tennis balls speaks of dedication and finesse.

As one of the most popular sports in Japan, table tennis is more than just a pastime; it’s a dance of agility and precision.

Icons like Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani stand out as more than mere athletes; they symbolize commitment and passion, motivating numerous Japanese enthusiasts to embrace the sport.

Table tennis clubs in schools are a testament to the sport’s popularity. It’s a sport that requires minimal space, making it perfect for urban settings in Japan.

The rapid rallies and intense focus make it exciting to watch and play. National tournaments are broadcast, with players showcasing their swift reflexes and strategic gameplay.

Did You Know? 

Let’s dive into some fun facts about the most popular sports in Japan. Discover the unique and lesser-known stories behind the games.

1. Baseball 

Ever heard of “The Big Egg”? No, it’s not something you’d have for breakfast! It’s the nickname for the Tokyo Dome, where the Yomiuri Giants play. Its unique shape makes it stand out, and it’s seen its fair share of epic baseball moments.

2. Sumo Wrestling 

There’s a strict hierarchy in sumo wrestling. The highest rank a wrestler can achieve is “Yokozuna.” Once a wrestler becomes a Yokozuna, they cannot get demoted.

3. Soccer 

The Japanese women’s soccer team has a beautiful name, Nadeshiko Japan. It’s named after a pink carnation, symbolizing the perfect blend of strength and grace. 

4. Tennis 

In Japan, during the Setouchi Triennale art festival, there’s a floating tennis court event called “Tori-shima Tennis.” 

5. Golf 

Some golf clubs in Japan are so exclusive that memberships can cost more than a fancy house! Yep, we’re talking about a million US dollars just to join. 

6. Boxing 

A Japanese boxing legend named Yoko Gushiken defended his title 13 times in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He’s not just a boxer; he’s a national treasure.

7. Basketball 

The B.League, Japan’s top basketball league, is pretty new. It started in 2016 when two older leagues came together.

8. Figure Skating 

Mao Asada, one of Japan’s figure skating stars, is famous for a move that others don’t even try. It’s called the triple axel, and it’s as cool as it sounds!

9. Pro Wrestling (Puroresu) 

Imagine a wrestling legend and a boxing icon in the same ring. Well, it happened! Antonio Inoki, a big name in Japanese wrestling, took on none other than Muhammad Ali in 1976. 

10. Table Tennis 

Japanese table tennis players have this unique way of holding their paddles called the “penholder” grip. It’s different from the usual grip and gives them an edge in the game. It’s all about that spin!


Imagine sitting with friends, reminiscing about that unforgettable game or that incredible player. That’s the charm of the most popular sports in Japan.

It’s not just about the thrill of the game but the stories and memories that linger long after the final whistle.

Picture the joy on a child’s face hitting a baseball for the first time or the respect in the silent bow of a sumo wrestler. These moments, big or small, shape the heartbeat of Japanese sports. 

And those fun facts we delved into? They’re like whispers, revealing the hidden layers of this world. For many here, sports are a tapestry of emotions, dreams, and shared experiences.

Whether you’re at a buzzing stadium or discussing a match over dinner, there’s a shared warmth, a sense of belonging.

Through our journey, we’ve seen how the most popular sports in Japan blend age-old traditions with modern-day legends. It’s a dance of history, passion, and unforgettable moments that make you cheer or shed a tear. 

So, as we come to a close, let’s cherish the tales, the shared joys, and the spirit that makes Japanese sports a heartwarming saga.

Also, check out 10 Best Japanese Tennis Players of All Time

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