Sports participation and watching sports are the two main segments of the sports industry. In Japan, physical education starts in earnest in elementary school, with several practical and theory sessions per week. In addition to the compulsory physical education lessons, many pupils join sports-related school clubs, which provide an opportunity to practice one’s hobby and offer a place for social interaction with peers. Educational institutions provide the necessary infrastructure, such as equipment and sports grounds. Sports participation declines in adulthood, but a good portion of the population still engages in some kind of physical activity - independently or in sports clubs.
Although traditional sports such as sumo, kendo, and judo, which are deeply rooted in Japanese culture, are still important in contemporary society, they have been surpassed in popularity by imported sports such as baseball and soccer. This is especially the case when it comes to watching sports (on an electronic device), attendance at venues, as well as fan figures of professional sports.
Promotion and administration
Financing and promoting sports are costly, including spending on creating and maintaining sports infrastructure, hiring personnel, and spending on various sports programs and initiatives. Sports administration in Japan is undertaken by several ministries and offices, including the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Japan Sport Council (JSC), which are actively implicated in organizing and financing sports. Next to government grants, investments, and private sector donations, the Sports Promotion Lottery contributes to the budget for sports-related projects, particularly for developing and enhancing the sports environment at the community level.
Participation and spectating during COVID-19
In recent years, participation in sports among adults increased, as shown by the growing share of people playing sports weekly. This might suggest a heightened health consciousness that was already underway before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic, overall sports participation remained stable. At the same time, revenue from facility utilization fees declined significantly, suggesting a shift in consumer behavior away from paid sports participation at specialized venues towards playing sports at home or in public spaces. A possible explanation might be that people continued playing sports in settings befitting the “new normal” while paying attention to COVID-19-related aspects when exercising.
Sports spectating during the pandemic was considerably dampened for long periods, showing the pandemic's adverse effects on the spectating scene. After the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports events were canceled or postponed. Even after hosting events was possible again, live attendance was prohibited or limited to a fraction of the capacity of the respective venue for public safety reasons.
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