In a survey conducted in September 2021, around 32 percent of respondents in Japan chose baseball - yakyu in Japanese - when asked about what sports they liked to watch, compared to 23 percent who claimed to like watching soccer. Other surveys showed that this was true not only in terms of TV watching, but also in terms of live attendance at sports events in gymnasiums or stadiums. With an estimated 5 million fans, Yomiuri Giants was the most supported professional baseball team in Japan in 2021.
Baseball - the national sport in Japan
Imported from the United States at the end of the 19th century, baseball quickly gained popularity, both in playing and watching. Today, even primary schools have their own baseball teams and competition for places in high school teams are fierce. Baseball has therefore become the undisputed favorite in team sports. The popularity for the game is further driven by Japanese players performing well in the U.S. Major League, such as Shohei Ohtani, whose successes abroad were closely followed by Japanese people and who was recently also crowned as Japan's most popular athlete.
Successful Japanese athletes
Apart from baseball, football is one of the most watched sports in Japan, showing that modern sports have surpassed traditional Japanese sports, such as Sumo, Kendo or Karate. Moreover, exceptional athletes push public interest and adoration in their respective sport: figure skating partly owes its popularity to Yuzuru Hanyu, considered one of the greatest figure skaters in history. The successful participation of Japanese tennis players in international tournaments, such as Kei Nishikori or recently Naomi Osaka, have brought millions of Japanese to the television screens.
Favorite sports to watch in Japan as of September 2021
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Macromill. (October 25, 2021). Favorite sports to watch in Japan as of September 2021 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/793450/japan-most-watched-sports/
Macromill. "Favorite sports to watch in Japan as of September 2021." Chart. October 25, 2021. Statista. Accessed January 19, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/793450/japan-most-watched-sports/
Macromill. (2021). Favorite sports to watch in Japan as of September 2021. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: January 19, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/793450/japan-most-watched-sports/
Macromill. "Favorite Sports to Watch in Japan as of September 2021." Statista, Statista Inc., 25 Oct 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/793450/japan-most-watched-sports/
Macromill, Favorite sports to watch in Japan as of September 2021 Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/793450/japan-most-watched-sports/ (last visited January 19, 2022)