According to a survey conducted in September 2021, baseball player Shohei Ohtani ranked first in a survey on the most popular athletes in Japan, with around 28 percent of respondents voting for him. Shohei Ohtani also placed first in the previous year.
Baseball as the most popular sport in Japan
Baseball has been one of the most recognized sports in Japan since the start of the 1990s. With the introduction of the two-league system in 1950, the Japanese professional league, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) was established into what it is today and gained popularity throughout the nation. The Japanese national baseball team also frequently participates in international baseball competitions.
Japanese baseball players in Major League Baseball
The Japanese national team has typically performed well on an international level. In fact, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) placed them first in the current ranking, above the U.S. team. Despite this, playing in the Major League Baseball (MLB) is considered a glorious career path for Japanese baseball players. Ichiro Suzuki, who began his career in the MLB at the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and announced his retirement in 2019, has been an idol of the nation for decades. Shohei Ohtani is another example of this phenomenon. Since his signing with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, people in Japan have acclaimed him as one of the best baseball players of all time.
Popular Japanese athletes
The global success of an athlete boosts their renown in Japan. Clear examples are figure skater and two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, and Naomi Osaka, who is currently the most successful Japanese female tennis player. Athletes who are thriving in international tournaments, such as tennis player Kei Nishikori, or figure skater Rina Kihara are highly popular among people in Japan.
Most popular athletes among people in Japan as of September 2021
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Macromill. (October 25, 2021). Most popular athletes among people in Japan as of September 2021 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved December 07, 2021, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/793518/japan-most-popular-athletes/
Macromill. "Most popular athletes among people in Japan as of September 2021." Chart. October 25, 2021. Statista. Accessed December 07, 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/793518/japan-most-popular-athletes/
Macromill. (2021). Most popular athletes among people in Japan as of September 2021. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: December 07, 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/793518/japan-most-popular-athletes/
Macromill. "Most Popular Athletes among People in Japan as of September 2021." Statista, Statista Inc., 25 Oct 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/793518/japan-most-popular-athletes/
Macromill, Most popular athletes among people in Japan as of September 2021 Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/793518/japan-most-popular-athletes/ (last visited December 07, 2021)