Japan Sport Stories

The Surprising World of Japanese Football with Lost in Football Japan

January 13, 2021 Mike Salter and Noel Thatcher Episode 12
Japan Sport Stories
The Surprising World of Japanese Football with Lost in Football Japan
Show Notes Transcript

We thought Japanese football (soccer) would be just like football in the UK. But we were so wrong. Chris Hough, who created the wonderful Lost in Football gave us a whirlwind tour of the world of Japanese football. There, we found a real push to develop the women's game, a sense of local ownership of teams that other sports in Japan are missing and the glory that is Japanese team names. 

Check out Chris' Lost in Football website for more from Chris https://lostinfootballjapan.com/ 

Episode 12 The Surprising World of Japanese Football

Tue, 3/2 1:04PM • 54:49


japan, football, league, japanese, players, stadium, game, chant, people, fans, team, sport, clapping, club, local, community, sendai, countryside, women, tokyo


Before we start, we'd like to dedicate this episode to Lloyd Cowen and David Heaton to friends who had massive impacts on not just our lives but on British sport in general. Lloyd was a fantastic coach with an unwavering dedication to help others succeed. He gave mountains and encouragement to a teenage girl in the early days who's running life. David was a bronze medal winning five time Paralympic paraphernalia, and a linchpin in Britain's wheelchair fencing success in recent years. Our thoughts with both their friends and family at this time.


Okay, full disclosure here. neither know nor I have a good relationship with football. When I lived in Japan, I always dreaded being asked which team I support it, or whenever someone were trying to talk to me about their favourite money 90 player and the vast amounts of money in the sport to the stories of hooliganism and racist chants. I just didn't have the best impression of this ball. When it comes to Japanese football, I assumed it would be the same thing but a bit more Japanese. I'm delighted to say that I was unbelievably wrong. In this episode, we caught up with Lofton footballs. Chris, how we found out about a totally different world, one of heavily organised chanting with a real person about the women's game, and with football has brought back a sense of community sport that had been missing independence corporate sports leagues. I really hope you enjoy listening to this one, as much as we enjoyed recording it.


Chris, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you very much for inviting me. It's a pleasure. So can you tell us a little bit about where you come from how you come to be in Japan promoting Japanese football and and a little bit about the sort of the development of lost in football, Japan? Yeah, so I'm from Cornwall, in England, which is a very countryside parts of the UK. So I'm very far from home. But I came to Japan in 2017. So not that long ago, really the first year that I spent in Japan, basically out here just to study Japanese. But in my first year here, I actually didn't go to a single football game. I wanted to, but I couldn't actually work out how to get to a game. The problem was, I think there was a lack of English language information. I mean, I could check the scores, find out about teams. But when I wanted to like buy a ticket, I hit a brick wall. Basically, I needed like a Japanese bank account to buy a ticket online, which I didn't have. I couldn't really work out where the stadiums were or how to get to the stadiums. That was basically the sort of foundation of lost in football, Japan, because I was literally lost in football in my first year in Japan. It just didn't work out at all. So in my second year here in 2018, just on a whim, basically, I went to watch the golfers and I you know midweek the vam Cup match in March. So people who are maybe not familiar with Japan, Sendai is in Tokyo, which is kind of Northern Japan is quite cold in March, which I didn't realise until I got to send it off the highway bus and it was absolutely freezing. Basically, I was only wearing like a hoodie. And it was absolutely freezing. But I found the stadium got my ticket went to the game. And despite it being absolutely freezing, and the stadium being quite empty, because it was a midweek Cup match, which was not so popular. I was like really hooked. I just thought it was like incredible to be out of football stadium in Japan, finally after like trying to get to one for so long. So from that moment on, basically in 2018 I went to maybe about 30 games that season. I was just so hooked. So who do you support back in your UK, UK team that you follow? My name is pinup Argyle it's my local team. I'm so glad you didn't say man, United


Cornish man keeping it local and keep it keeping that you know that sort of community loyalty going so is that something that you sort of identified with when you went to send I


definitely I think Sendai are very interesting club, especially with the community because of course, I think for many people Tohoku is famous now sadly for what happened in 2011 with the huge tsunami. So I think the goddess and I in particular are very important community club. When the disaster happened. tantalum in particular was a focal point for local people, and they could go to games in Sendai. And kind of, I mean, not forget what happened, but find a way to return to normality. So I think in Japan, I think many clubs do have a really, really strong sense of community. And yeah, coming from a very small community in the UK. that appeals to me a lot. It's a send to your local team as well. Are you based in Tokyo? Oh, yeah, good point. Actually, Sendai is quite far from where I live. I have to get a highway bus. So it's like about seven hours by bus. I'm located in Saitama. Okay. So yours


Your local team would be the reds, I guess. Yes, that one of my local teams. Name is Amir ardesia is my local team. But I live in Saitama city. And there were two teams in the city omya aaditya. And with our reds, any reason why you picked one over the other?


Just the colours? Yeah, I think it's a little bit infamous in Japanese football. And they've had many problems over the years with a, suddenly they had a bit of a racism issue. And there was some violence in the stands. I mean, of course, the vast majority of our best friends are fine. But a little bit of me didn't really want to be associated with that club. So for me, it just seemed like a much more local community based club for me. And also I can walk to the stadium, which is another really good point for me, super nice. And a seven hour bus ride to the same. Yeah, much better.


I went to high school for an exchange the first time I was in Japan. So that's, that's nice to know, they had racism problems. And


we're gonna come back to fans a little later in the podcast. And then both Mike and my son share share one experience of having been traumatised by male cheerleaders and in various ways. So so we'll come back to the fans a little later, but just sort of setting some historical context for us. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the sort of the professional game


in Japan? Because it's not again, I mean, jfl was established with the early 90s. The G league was a 1992. So that's literally the beginning of professional football in Japan. In Japan, footballs history goes back to the late 1800s. I think it's quite a similar story to many of our sports that were introduced. It was basically the Royal Navy, who taught the game to Japanese Navy cadets, it's had quite a long history in that sense. So the oldest football competition in Japan is the employers cup, which began in 1921. So this year was the 100th edition of the tournament. There's got quite a long history. And also there's quite an interesting link between Japan, the Japanese Football Association, and the English Football Association. Because the first trophy for the Emperor's cup actually came from England, the English FA presented a trophy to the Japanese fa, which they gave to the winners of the infamous cup. So that happened from 1917 to 1945. But sadly, in 1945, they melted down the trophy, because they wanted to put it towards the war effort. But in 2011, the English fa, presented a replica to the J fa. So in 2011, the winners of the infamous cup got this replica trophy that was reminiscent of the first trophy that was awarded to the Japanese Football Association in 1921. So that's kind of the history before the J league. The j league began in 1993. Before the J league in Japan, it was a basically a corporate league. So it was called the Japan Soccer League, and it was dominated by corporations. So you had like Mitsubishi, and Nissan Honda. So basically, it was an amateur competition linked to companies. It wasn't until the J league began in 1993. For the first season. That was when the game became professional. And also at that point, when the J league began, the teams were no longer corporate teams, they became linked to hometowns. And that was a big wake, I think, a really important time for Japanese football. It made it very distinct in Japan. Baseball is I think, still probably the biggest sport in the country. But baseball and football and are very different. Baseball is still very much a corporate corporate team game. So you have teams like Yomiuri giants or SoftBank Hawks. Yeah. These teams are basically owned by the huge corporations. But everything in the J league is linked to a hometown. So you have a lot more like a local applied, I think, and Japanese football, which you maybe don't get so much in baseball. So I think the history is a long history for football, and it's changed quite a lot. But I think now it's on the right track. So so if I can just go back to kind of a little bit before the JD started was the fandom that was there was it a lot a lot more subdued? Were there just less fans around? Or was it still quite a quite a fervent amount of support for it for the J league. The support was maybe not so passionate, I think and I wasn't here at the time, but the fans at that time were probably more it if you worked for the company. So if you work for Honda or


Especially, you would go to your local companies team to watch them play, you wouldn't particularly I don't think support a local team, because there was no direct link between the team and the community. So I think the introduction of the J League, and there's really important connection between each team having a hometown, I think that's probably the key to why jaylee teams are so passionately supported. So football has cornered the market of you know, you guys, you guys are Yamaguchi. We're the only team you can support just because you live here. Certainly looking at mostly football, you know, your content, that there's a real sense of community and I definitely want to come back and, and explore that that a little, little later on and why you know, how that football sort of engendered that sense of, of local loyalty and maybe we can talk about it now.


And, you know, it's very family orientated isn't it? You know, other than, you know, the Reds incident, the infamous 14 Japanese incident and yeah, by British Standards, and by Italian standards, your scuffle, you know, footballs farm in a marketed and as farmer for a family, in a community, you know, wholesome organic entity? Why do you think that works? so well. And, yeah, the difference between, like watching football in England and Japan is like light years away, there's really no sense of threatening atmosphere, jailing matches, I've never felt threatened or in a situation where it could get dangerous. Whereas in the UK, there are times when it's not always so friendly. That's what the reasons why I think maybe it's kind of a reflection of Japanese society. People are think always keen to work together. There's that sense of like, yeah, harmony, way of like, working culture. And also, when you live, look, community is very important, keeping the community clean and orderly. So I think that reflects itself in the stadium atmosphere. Yeah, it wouldn't be accepted. If anyone crossed the line, you would get


your stand out, which is not good, I think in Japan as well. Everyone sort of wants to follow the same sort of same rules and same, yeah, same culture. So I think if anybody needs to cut a line in a stadium, it would not go down. Well, fantastic. Long may it last? Yes, indeed. So here in the UK, were almost going to a football crowd, you join a different culture, you join a football crowd culture, we all sort of expect it to be loud, and Chon, and have you know, one or two drinks too many. But in Japan, it's different. Your that football crowd is still part of the main Japanese culture, incense.


In a sense, Yes, I think so. I mean, the fans still do shout and cheer, but it's very organised. So basically, every time a chant begins in the stadium, it doesn't begin organically, it begins because the leader at the front of the stand, has a megaphone animals are shouting, to begin the jump. So it's very different to the sort of, you know, like organic chant in the UK where someone yells and thing and everyone joins in here is much more, this guy is going to lead the chant. So we're going to follow him


in the same way that the chat that scared my son to death, he was a Nissan, senior manager who had been called leader, is that the term call leader? Yeah, for the Nissan, you know, baseball supporters. And this is something that you took incredibly seriously. And we prep. You know, they train here. Yeah, amazing heat of summer for six hours a day for this. Is that the same sort of situation in football? Yeah, absolutely. I've seen the fans before the match, preparing for the match, like going through their chance, going through the movements, getting ready to cheer in the stadium. So it's really serious. Cheering, they want to get it right. And it's very organised. Also, if you want to, like start your own chance, you can't do that. You.


So yeah, you got to follow the leader in


the UK, where we have the chance to, you know, based on what's happening at the minute or any kind of, you know, particularly new players that turn up in Japan, you'd almost have to write to the core leader and say, I have this lovely new idea for you. Can you try it? Basically, that's it? Yeah, exactly. I went to Amir's game and started the season in a friendly and I saw them going through like a new chance. So the first time we did it, to call it a bit of self interest, went for the chant by himself. And everyone watched him for the second time they tried to join in. So yeah, it's very much like, let's try this one. But isn't my idea. We'll try this one. See if it works. And then each chant gets submitted needs to be approved, rehearsed. That's it, test a fan, see if it sticks


their particular movements with the chant as well or is it all just vocal, so sometimes they'll have like a piece of cardboard. So once


We'll hold up one cardboard and put it down. The other person put the cardboard up to me kind of like a mosaic. That's it, we'll definitely put up some videos of coordinated mosaic chants on our social media. We're in Europe here. So a lot of our leagues are incredibly International. Lots and lots of players from lots of parks around the world. Is that similar in the J league? Or are we talking a very Japanese league? We do have a fair few international players. But most of the international players are Brazilian players. There's a very close link between Japan and Brazil, from I think a lot of people emigrated from Japan to Brazil after the war. So there's definitely a connection. And the Brazilian players are rated very highly here. And so we do get a lot of Brazilian players. Also Korean players coming over is quite common. European players not so much. If they do come over there normally high profile and nearing the end of their career. So now we have Andres Iniesta, who is a former Barcelona player. He's at vissel. Kobe, but he's getting near the end of his career. It's kind of like a final payday for him. He is a he's still good. But you know, it's not like peak Iniesta. And that's kind of the way it is with international players, you don't get the peak players at the top of the game, you get sort of players, either young players who've come here from like South America and trying to make a name or older European players who've come here to basically finish their career. It's it's a, it's a stepping stone off the banks of unknowingness. Or kind of into retirement. No one goes there because they really want to play for you know, a particular team in Japan, not so much No, daily because not high profile enough to make a name for yourself. Many people see it as not high quality enough. And if you can only get to the European leagues, of course, it can't compare to Premier League or La Liga. So the player pool is you have a different is mostly Japanese players with a few like Brazilian players or ageing European players. On the flip side, we got in baseball and Japanese basketball when Japanese players go international and start playing in the major leagues, or in english premiership, they become incredibly famous in Japan, and they're reported in the news just for them playing abroad. Is that the same with football? Yes, that happens. I think at the moment, we have a minamino. us playing for Liverpool. He's a huge star now in Japan, and also take a few. So Google is playing for Real Madrid, but I think currently on loan and vrl in Spain. So these players, when they go from Japan to Europe, they become really, really popular. And especially the ones who join the big teams like Liverpool or Real Madrid, they really do get a lot of attention. It's becoming more common now for players in Japan to go to Europe. I


think in the past, it was not such a common thing. We had, like, I guess hidetoshi Cutler was one of the most famous players to go in the past, and schinsky Nakamura, but nowadays, it's becoming more common at all levels, not just the top teams, even smaller European teams are now signing Japanese players, we're seeing more players make the step, which is a really good sign for the J league as well. It's certainly in the in from the nightmarish for the guy next to me, you're lucky enough to do this similar situation in the women's game.


Yes, some players do make the step. I think Women's League is a little bit more difficult, because I think it will change. But at the moment, it's not fully professional, I think they find it more difficult to commit to that kind of move. But that will be changing. I think in the future with the introduction next season about professional Women's League in Japan. Just because it segues neatly from what I've just been discussing about the women's game in terms of player development in Japan, I noticed that there are quite a few particularly female players who graduated from like, I'll say that scuba daigaku from the universities there and then and then make that transition that's that association with the universities and sort of as a stepping stone in football development is is again fairly unusual, isn't it? Because it seems to be to work a little differently the way things work in the UK where you know, you might be scouted at local level and then fed into a club development programme. Is that is that something different?


Yeah, that's a really good point. I think for the university players, they often will complete the university course and then join the J league team. So they maybe will have a connection with a League club, but they won't officially join the club until they're finished university. A good example of that is actually at Kawasaki it's an entirely they've got a player called koubou matomo, who has been absolutely brilliant this season. But he basically finished university last year, and he's now like a leading player in the G league. It very much you finish your education. Then you join the J League club if you take that path. Of course some players do go through youth academies, but


It's also not a problem. If you want to complete your studies, you can go through university and then if you're good enough, you can jump to a League club when you graduate


which ultimately makes it much more attractive to sort of a Japanese society that values education. And ultimately, you know, you've got players who then get like, I mean, all you get, she's just like she did the FIFA masters course. So you've got the highly qualified and able to feed back into the development and pro and promotion and management of this sport nationally as well. So I think that's a that's fantastic. It probably beats you know, running a pub in in Dagenham when


the English impression of footballers is that they're not the sharpest tool in the sheds for one of a better phrase that I'm guessing Japan because most of them are University educated. That's not the same. They're seen in a much more role models in all senses of the word rather than just good at kicking football. The point about players being role models is really important. Recently, there was a case of albirex Niigata. Some players were arrested for drunk driving, and they were immediately sacked by the club's is basically zero tolerance on any sort of inappropriate behaviour. The players who do go through the school system and university system definitely have that kind of culture where they know they have to behave in a way that is going to paint their club in a positive light. Yeah, it's a very different culture, I think which also feeds into the situation. And in terms of how much JD plays get paid, comparatively to the UK word on hundreds of 1000s of pounds a week, the top end, where would we sit with Japanese players? Yeah, not so much. It would be a lot lower. I think the only really exceptions I guess, are players who have come in from overseas. So like undressing yesterday, his salary is huge. I'm sure that Japanese players it would not be so high, I guess. But


which is also I think one of the reasons why many will jump a chance to go to Europe, even if it's like a smaller club in like a smaller league. A lot players go to like Belgium, for example, I think even in that sort of smaller European League, they'll make more money than they would in the G league want to explore the women's game a little bit. We've just been talking about professionalism and salaries in the men's game. Now, my understanding is that the novice nadeshiko women's national team who won the 2011 World Cup, many of them we're still we're still amateurs, and many female players, particularly in you know, the J two j three, effectively in women's game, they're they're still working alongside their their football careers. Now, in a weird sort of sense. Do you think that that semi semi professional position maintains the kind of community sort of base wholesome side of the sport? So, you know, we know that football and money kind of synonymous? You literally can't open a newspaper in the UK without someone talking about football and cash in Japan? Do you think that kind of the left less overtly commercial side of the game, then, you know, supports that kind of more family? community based ethos? Yes, I think so. I think it's quite noticeable in the stadium, full time, the players will always do a lap of the stadium win or lose. And you can feel there's definitely a connection between the players and the fans, which maybe is missing in some of the rich leagues, because I do believe that the the money difference is not so huge. And the lifestyle difference is maybe not so big. So you definitely get that feeling where the players are much closer to the fans. Also, if you go to like a jfl game, so the jfl is the fourth tier of Japanese men's football, just below the J league before the the corona situation out for time, the players will actually go outside the stadium to the exit and say goodbye to all the fans as they leave the stadium. That's fantastic. I mean, we've seen so many examples of Japanese teams and fans, you know, working working closely together and even I think even sort of filtered it down into the Rugby World Cup. And we saw, you know,


Canadian team helping clean up after, you know, typhoon nets, you know, some some real positive models of sport, you know, supporting community and I think that's something we should, we should celebrate. And getting back to the women's game. I understand that the for the J league was from there was actually a professional Women's League a few years earlier, like late 80s. So how how's that it has been the development of the women's game being compared with the development of the men's game, in a way I think Women's League women's football when Japan was probably I mean more successful, definitely international level with the World Cup when, unfortunately, they maybe haven't had the backing to kick on. So after the World Cup when in 2011. Sadly, the National League didn't really evolve very quickly after that only next year.


Are we going to get the professional league for women again, in the country? I think the future's bright for women's football basically with this. Yeah, the wee league starting that it will lose, I think the more amateur feel. So now the dashboard league is the top level. So it feels like a very local community league. It's mostly amateur players. But next year, of course, there'll be professional players and also an interesting thing, which I think will also boost the women's football. Many j league clubs are getting involved with the league. So I think with our reds, ob rd gem santragachi, Hiroshima, for example. They will have teams in the league. So something interesting that happened actually, a few years ago, I think it was albirex, Niigata. They had a Lego League match in a stadium in the morning, then right after they had the J league match to follow. One thing that I think would possibly help boost women's football more is kind of a closer connection with the J league. Now we have Jamie clubs in the league. So if they can maybe host both games on the same day in the same Stadium, that would be a really good boost. Because I think the support is there for women's football. Recently, I went to watch with our reds ladies, and there were over 1000 people at that match, which is pretty good in their current situation. And I think if you introduce it to more Gaelic fans, I'm sure more will attend the games as well. Brilliant and at school level. And that sort of football is getting toward a lot in in schools as a youth programmes what's what's that sort of setup? Like? Yep, you've set up is pretty good. I think in schools, especially the kind of schools that feed into the universities, because if you follow like, if you join a school that has the track to the university, you're definitely going to observe facilities and the opportunities to play football at a pretty good level. Somebody to high school teams are actually not so bad. They've reached the Emperor's cup rounds, and they've actually taken on j league teams and given them a flight. So it's Yeah, some of the high school kids are pretty good. And also, I think, a good thing about the J League, if you want to join the J League, you have to have a fully functioning youth setup. So they were in the J League, there's 18 teams in j 122. In j 218. And jQuery, all those clubs have fully functioning new setups, and they're all over the country. So it's definitely got a really good structure for young kids who want to get involved in football. It's and it's attractive isn't it? Because I'm branding and marketing Yeah, he go to I just watched your video and and you know, the banners and the merchandising everything's really vibrant, very bright, you know, the muskets? I think you've got a little collection, haven't you? I know of, of mascots, and memorabilia, and yeah, it took a while Tucker, would you call yourself psycho duck?


In the most respect.


But from you know, my son would would absolutely love all that stuff. And I think it's, you know, it's just being packaged in such a way to sort of engage people, isn't it? Yeah, definitely. I think j league is very cool. The club names, the uniforms. The style is, yeah, it's it's really cool. It's very striking. kids who go to the games, they see that and I think, yeah, I want to do this. I want to play football. As I mentioned earlier, that hometown link, even if you're from like, Akita or Shikoku, you can still go and watch your local team and see these these guys on the pitch who probably asked one Akita, and she got through that definitely role models, and you can see a clear route. If you play football, and you're good, you can very easily get the J league. While we're talking about or tacos, we have to talk about Captain Tsubasa. Which people that don't know is, you know, probably the most famous football manga in Japan and you anime as well. It's a hugely popular series. Is football quite common in those kind of popular culture bits? And if so, is there do you think that has an impact as well on football becoming cool almost in Japan? Yeah, I think coming into the bustle is hugely important in the current sort of j league situation and the atmosphere and the climates. And the way the J league is now I'm sure many of the players, if you ask them will have read Captain Tsubasa, when they were kids, and that inspired them to get into football. There's also actually a really interesting football club in Tokyo called Nakatsu. Se who are inspired by the team in Captain Tsubasa. They actually have a j league licence, but they're currently in the Tokyo liquid leagues, but they have an ambition to get to the J league. So maybe in a few years time, there actually will be a Captain Tsubasa team in j league shows how important it is here. That's gonna be my team.


This year, obviously, you know, Japan as we've everywhere in the world spin maybe not to the same extent as other countries but hugely impacted on all sorts of levels by the COVID pandemic, fortunately, you know, footballs bank. How's that been been for you? You know, it seems it's sort of the pre pandemic and Postbank and pandemics experienced within the stadium. Can you talk a little bit about that? The first game I went to after the lockdown were in Japan, it wasn't really a lockdown, but more of a sort of voluntary stay at home.


Order, which of course was surveyed very well. But the first thing I went to after when fans were allowed back wasn't amiah RPG game. And it was weird. It felt very strange. Some of the measures in place for fans and stadiums are quite strict. We can't shout, we can't think we can't, we have to add a mask in at all times in the stadium. When I went to that first game, even clapping was restricted, you could only clap spontaneously, if a gold happened or something exciting happened. You couldn't clap in rhythm or time to a chant. So it felt really eerie. It was like football was happening, but no one knew how to react. And they were playing crowd noise over the loudspeaker. So you'd have like, nothing happening. Silence, then like interference. And the chant would start on the loudspeaker. I didn't really want to go back for a while, because I thought, this is not football, you need fans, you need the cheering in j League, especially it's it feels so empty without that atmosphere. But in the last few weeks, it's gotten much better. I think, in my my most recent videos, that our reds game, that was the first game where they allowed warming again, and also clapping and ribbon, it might sound like it's more big, you can clap in time to a chant. But if you can drum and you can clap, it goes a long way towards replicating the sort of atmosphere. So yeah, it's very different. But the measures that have been introduced to get fans back into the stadium are really good, because it's kind of a step by step process. When we first came back in it was just spontaneous clapping. Now it's clapping, and running. If the situation gets worse in Japan, we can roll back to the just spontaneous clapping again. And we can reduce attendance more. So it's different. It's nowhere near as good as it used to be the atmosphere. But we can watch football, and we can get that sort of little bit of normality in our lives. Hopefully, next year situation will be much better. And we can get the choreograph shouting and dancing in the stands again, but


yeah, we're getting that I think there's a lot of cool leaders sitting at home just itching waiting for their chance to get back on the stage.


Just to cover in a travel because you've travelled to how many how many rounds Have you travelled in? Are you literally gone all over Japan, haven't you? Yeah. At the moment, I'm up to 44 different stadiums, but I've visited some stadiums more than once. But yeah, I've been to the q2 shikaku. Hokkaido so um, yeah, I've been to different stadiums all over the country.


And there's every every stadium every every town have its own sort of unique atmosphere because can imagine because it's huge in Japan isn't you know, local pride, you know, locals speciality, food, you know, whatever his kids will tell him or not what you know, whatever we're talking about. That must be an incredible journey for you.


Yeah, it's fantastic. The food is always different outside the stadium you can buy like local local delicacies. For example, when I went to Sendai I had a cute one, which is a beef tongue in the stadium, which is Yeah, great to dry, actually quite nice, better than I expected. So yeah, everywhere you go is very vibrant. The culture is very distinct. Yeah, every Club's got its own unique selling point, which is linked to the culture of the of the local town. Because even though Japan is not such a big country, every area I think it's very distinct landscapes, different cultures different. Even the language is a little bit different everywhere you go. Yeah, it's definitely noticeable. When you travel around. I would recommend anybody who even if you're not a football fan, if you're travelling in Japan, it's definitely worthwhile going to a stadium just to kind of clearance that sort of atmosphere local plied, which you don't really often see I think in Japan people are quiet and reserved normally but if you go to a football game you'll definitely see that slide like on show and I love things like the if you go to I think it was a in score car we were in Tenzin and in in Gaza Simonton kills a restaurant and that every time that SoftBank hawks when, you know the girls are half price, there's little things like that that is made the whole I love that and the way again, it's part of the marketing packaging, you know, celebration of the community. Yes. Little things like that do make being involved in, in sport in Japan, you know, unique. That's why Yeah, in some cities and towns, it's really, really vibrant and really closely linked. Yeah, for Coco, I think is a really vibrant sports city with the Hawks and pepper Coco in the J league. A lot of cities it's you know, the football team or baseball team. When you get there, you'll see the flags and you'll see all that sort of banners and everything. So yeah, it's really, really important. So what's the most interesting food you've been presented with at a ground around Japan? Good time was up there. Yeah, that was quite an interesting one.


Another one that's quite interesting was I had a I had a kashima antlers. So Montego Bay is kind of like a cow like awful intestines and because of the power and like issue, to be honest, I didn't actually know what it was when


Wasn't it but it was really cold. And it looked like a really nice sort of like warm bubbling stew. So I got a big bowl of that. And then I realised like yes, this is quite chewy meat.


But it's quite good. So yeah, not too displeased sometimes.


Yeah, I don't know most the time just


just a minor topic. And so the Olympics are coming up. And football plays a barely minor role in the Olympics, I think in most people's minds. But how is that viewed in Japan? So yeah, Olympic football. I think it's not on the radar so much. This will probably be the first time that people really pay attention to Japan at the Olympics. And also, I think a good thing about if it still happens, the way it's planned. The Olympic football is spread around the country. So Hokkaido have a game maybe in the US and if they have a game games are around Tokyo, like Tokyo sidearm that kind of go on. So I think it will be interesting if it happens, and we get the football schedule planned. But generally, with the Olympic football, it's usually younger players. So under 23 players, they're fans of the J league will probably be very interested to see if they like local players have made the team but I think generally is not usually important for the fans. But maybe that will change with hosting the Olympics and people seeing Olympic football fingers firmly crossed that everything happens the way we would like it to Yeah, I actually have tickets for for football games at the Olympics. So I'm really hoping that it happens and I can still go


say for Mike and my family, we're not gonna go into this, but I just had like that horrendous exposure to football at a boarding school where he didn't support the team that Yeah, the bigger lads did, he got, you know, kicked around in place. And it was just, it kind of put me off early on and my dad didn't follow football. So when we come to that we really wanted to talk about Jay Z because it is so you know, it's such an amazing entity. So it is such a great model for football. But neither Mike Mike and I were exactly God football.


So thank you for for making things so easy for us.


Just getting back to that nadeshiko victory in 2011 after the Paul Hawken earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima that that was obviously a huge It was a huge moment for the for the players involved in that victory. And it's a huge, huge moment for Japan for does have a real role in in regenerating communities after disasters and and to all intents and purposes that the pandemic is another disaster. But on a much more global scale going forward and looking at the future of football in Japan, are you really positive about the role of football can play in that rebuilding of connecting people community? Because it already seems to be happening here? Yeah. 18,000 at the LA reds game? Yeah, I think it's definitely a positive thing for Japan. I keep going back to this point. But the local teams thing is I think so important. Because in Japan, I think many people in the local areas, there's a big problem, a big problem with like the population, many people leaving the countryside to move to Tokyo or Osaka, having a successful g league team, we're not that successful, just a functioning g league team that can bring a bit of happiness or distraction to people is really important. Life in Japan, for some people is quite tough. The working culture is very severe. But there's people having that option to go to a jailer game on a Saturday or Sunday, forget their work or life for a few hours and just fully get behind their local team. I don't mean you can really put a price on how important that is in this country. The perfect answer.


The only thing I want I like to ask as a sort of genuine question is about the names and the nadeshiko. With the women's team.


If you Google nadeshiko, it comes up as kind of the definition is the perfect sort of obedient almost woman.


Is that how does that name reflect the team? Or is that kind of a mistranslation often in English? How does that? How does that play out? That's a good point. Actually, I'm not overly familiar with the origin of the word the desk girl. But I don't know if I'm wrong. But I I've thought maybe as well, it's a flower. But maybe you can


kind of link to that question is that we League, which is starting next year, to really extend for women's empowerment league. So that's quite a big move away from that kind of nadeshiko image. What they want to do and I think is the right thing to do is to make women's football more of a sort of, yeah, it's not like a desk or images. Women can play football and they can be extremely good footballers, as was proved in 2011. Basically, women's football is football, it shouldn't be treated as something different. And I think the league will really help in that respect.


It'll be, hopefully on a level with Jamie. And if they can promote it well and get the interest, I could definitely see it becoming really popular. Fantastic. One of the things I yeah, when we really like to talk to would be, it was this sort of three boys footballers. Um, you're lucky you think it's lucky colour by unknown territory, but I can't remember the third, I do set up another care. So the nadeshiko sort of care and just just to name now they care for me struck home because there was a, there was a sense amongst the nadase for the International, sorry, the National Women's team, that they were there as role models, and they were also there as very powerful support network for younger Japanese women who wanted to have a life in football and sport in general.


And I think that's, that's an initiative that, you know, any country should be proud of. To be fair, we'd really love to get someone like me or turkey on the show to talk a little bit more more about that. But this is a theme that's kind of come through on a number with a number of fun Japanese athletes that that Olympians, Paralympians that we've spoken to that, you know, your sport puts people in positions where they can positively influence the world around them. And there is that real sense of responsibility.


With those players, that seems very strong in Japan.


Yep, definitely, I think when you get to a position where you're representing your national team, especially, you've definitely become really such a strong role model, and the 2011 World Cup when I think you can't really stress enough how important that was for women's football, I think it was kind of a shame that they didn't click on so much after that with a local League, and that it's taken until now to get the professional league. But it's really important that we have this kind of structure for women's football, which is getting better and better. It'll be really interesting to see what happens going forward. Hopefully, it's success. And yeah, it can then hopefully feed back into the national team as well. And they can have more success. But yeah, I think it's a really, really good future and a very bright future for women's football.


Fantastic. Show. Shall we move on to some recommendations? Mike? Yes, that sounds like a good idea. Normally, we start off asking our guests for their, their favourite Japanese word, or phrase and, and by all means, share that with us, or you could possibly share your favourite Japanese football chants.


Actually, but this one, I prepared some what I think are some of the interesting Japanese team names.


Because I think one of the things that actually my very first introduction to Japanese football came when I was probably about eight years old when I had the solutio kids and kashima antlers were in that kit in that kit with the scoreboard. And then I found the name kashima antlers when I was like, eight years old. And I was thinking like, what, what's catching mountains? What's, what's this team? And I think the team names in Japan are really kind of like iconic, they create such a strong image. So I picked out some interesting ones. If you'd like to hear, I'll definitely share them with fleas. So one of the interesting ones it sounds quite strange to like English speakers. It's Jeff united, Chiba.


So but the Jeff is actually very interesting, because I think I mentioned earlier about while the J league rules was that you had to link yourself to a hometown. You couldn't be named after a company or corporation. But Jeff found a way to kind of get around this problem. So Jeff stands for Jr. East. Boudicca, Jr. East is the train company. Boudicca, I believe is an electrical electronics company, electrics plant. So what they did was they combined, Jr, East and Furukawa to make Jeff. Then they put Chiba after that, and then at the end each other, so it's just united Chiba each other, which is kind of a combination of the corporate name and the local name. So they kind of found a way to sort of sidestep the regulations. And it's a very interesting name for English speakers. I think.


It's definitely a 1980s film somewhere, Jeff united.


Yeah, I think that one's interesting. We'll say there's another one that I quite like, which isn't the spark Who's that screamer? It's, if you see it written in English, it looks like a mess. It's written like the spa kusatsu. And you think what does that mean? That can't mean anything. But if you separate it, it's the spa kusatsu which is the onsen town in guma kusatsu. So basically, that name is the spark who Satsuma it's been all smashed together into like,


Really, like, really like a random collection of letters. But it actually has a very clear meaning if you just put some spaces between the words.


You set it up nicely for another future podcast. I'm dying to do, you know, sort of an investigation to interesting use of interesting English in Japanese sports marketing and branding. But yeah, we'll come back to that.


If there isn't one place out of the 40 how many 42


or 44? Sorry, okay. 44 ground that you visited? Is there one in particular that you would recommend visitors go to? Yeah, for me, it has one very clear stadium that is my by far and away my favourite in Japan. It actually is such a good experience that I actually support the team now. The team is an AC Nakano puzzle. So Nagano is in the sort of central area of Japan, a mountainous area. And when I went to the watch them, I didn't really know what to expect. They're quite a small team. It's a j three team, but somehow they have probably the best stadium I've been to in Japan. It's an absolutely incredible facility for football. It's a purpose built football stadium. just unbelievable. It's so good. And the backdrop is the southern Japanese Alps, surrounded by mountains. It's the like, Saturday, our football stadium. I can't believe it. When I saw it. I was like, I just Yeah, I was shocked. And when the game began, the fans were incredible. They have a co leader, of course, but they're very colourful team. They play in orange, and they bounce up and down when there's a goal. So I was standing in the sand minding my own business, they scored a goal as clapping. Suddenly, there's an arm over my shoulder and never arm and we started jumping up and down and bouncing. really couldn't buy supplies, but it was a fantastic experience. It's kind of like an all around package. It's like an incredible stadium. Beautiful area, and really passionate fans, so definitely go to the National Youth stadium. Yeah isn't a forgettable place to watch. Fantastic both Mike and I have been to Nagano stayed in Nagano for various lengths of time. So


Nagano fans,


always happy to support now. Yeah, I got I got two extra fans as obviously. I'm gonna let Mike ask us one question. So if there's one thing outside watching football in Japan that you would recommend visitors Japan do as an activity, what would that be? This one might not be so popular. But


last year, I got a ticket a train ticket called a que hace station Do you have to Kip, which is a five day train paths that you can only use on local trains in Japan. So you can't use bullet trains. You can't use any sort of express trains. But it's valid for five days of unlimited travel, though I used it to go from where I live in Saitama all the way up to Akita just by local train. So it took I think it took me like 12 hours to get from Saitama to Akita because you have to get the slowest train that stops at every station. But the great thing about it is you're taking these little trains that go into little villages and towns in the countryside of Japan. So the scenery is unbelievable. And you just get to see like a glimpse of what I'll say like behind the scenes in Japan. It's like off the beaten track on a very slow moving rattling claim, which is like going very slowly through the countryside. If you've got time, and if you don't mind sitting on a comfortable train for five days. definitely get a session to actually go and explore wonderful, I know the Japanese national tourist organisation will be clapping their hands


because both me and you have lived in the countryside network Valley rural areas and a lot of people that come on the podcast I actually if you just leave the cities a little bit there's so much more to explore. That's not you know, the robot cafe or, or an overpriced Pachinko parlour is the countryside just a lovely place to exist. There might not be anything particularly well known, but it's just a nice place to be as a human being. In Japan, especially I think there's always that impression that you must go to Tokyo Kyoto, especially if you've got a short amount of time you obviously should visit those places. But if you get a bit more time or you get a chance to come back a second time, definitely worth taking like a little side trip into the countryside. Just seeing what what you can find because it will always be surprising. And yeah, it will always be nice and interesting. I'm sure. Exactly. So can I do the last question? No, no, of course. Yeah, it's always my favourite one. So Chris, finally, can you recommend one food that you think everybody should eat when they go to Japan? My personal favourites is a takoyaki which is like an octopus dumplings from Osaka. And it's kind of like a I guess Japanese junk food in a way it's a fast food. You buy it from the store in a


But it's nice tool. And yeah, it's just fantastic. Coming from England octopus was probably not in my diet before I moved to Japan. So I was kind of put off a little bit again like octopus dumpling. But you really got to try it. It's fantastic food to have is also usually sold in this in stadiums, football stadiums and baseball stadiums. Great little like a halftime snack. It's really good to get so yeah, My top tip, get some type of yucky. Fantastic and I'm going to pin you down. Not on all the team. What's there? No, no TV sports? No, no, AC, no pulse at all. Okay.


You're going to share one of their chance with us first before you go. Oh, what's the chance?


The channel is kind of basic. It's just basically the the name the name of the town. Like Nagano


i think is like, yeah, just basically the name of the team.


There's nothing good, particularly the standout booth. Sounds good. And it echoes around the stadium. So it's the Yeah.


Hello, me again. So we pushed and we pushed and we couldn't get Chris to sing. And to be fair one man chanting over zoom probably wouldn't have done it justice. So here's just a few seconds of what it would be like if you're in a national game. They really are quite a sonorous bunch.


See, I told you, right. Sorry about that. Um, we depart. Grace. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible passion for Japanese football. everybody listening, please check out last in football. Japan is the most incredible resource not only the content, really great, but you've got a history of pretty much every team in the


stats. I mean,


nothing either Mike or I would claim to be anywhere near experts are very knowledgeable about football. But thanks to you and learn a huge amount about Japanese football and check out last in football Japan on all platforms, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter Insta, and thanks so much, Chris. It's it's been a it's been a real pleasure and lots of fun. Yeah, thanks very much. It was a privilege to be on the podcast. So yeah, thank you for inviting me.


Thank you for listening to Japan sports stories. I was dreading the football episode. But I want to thank Chris for taking us into the side of the sport that I was entirely unaware of. And for being such a fabulous guest. You should really go and check out the lost in football website and social media is such a treasure trove of stories and information surrounding Japanese football that we could never have covered in one episode. We have lots of other great episodes about community in sport. I recommend starting with check your card is episode about parkrun and combating loneliness in Japan.


If you want to hear more of our episodes, make sure you subscribe when the podcast platform. And if you want to get in touch come and find us on Twitter at j s stories. Next week, we'll be joined by a pair of the realm know really, Lord Holmes of Richmond, better known as Chris Holmes, who was one of the key architects in the massive success that was the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He talks to us about what Tokyo needs to do to run a successful Paralympic Games. What London got right in 2012 and what Rio got so disastrously wrong in 2016