Sports in Japan - Statistics & Facts

Sports play a significant role in social and cultural life in Japan. While traditional sports that are deeply rooted in Japanese culture are still very popular, modern sports have become increasingly attractive, whether for watching or playing. People in Japan usually become engaged in some form of sports from an early age. Physical education begins in elementary schools, with several sessions per week, both practical and theory. Swimming in summer, as well as football, baseball and volleyball are among the most common forms of physical education in school. Sports days and tournaments are regularly held throughout the year in which teams and individuals compete with each other in various sports. Many children also join sports teams outside of school, making club sports an integral part of their lives with practices before and/or after school.

Sports administration involves a large number of ministries and offices, including the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Japan Sport Council (JSC) or the National Recreation Association of Japan (NRAJ). The Japanese government promotes sports based on the Basic Act on Sport and the Sport Basic Plan. Next to government grants, investments and private sector donations, the Sports Promotion Lottery contributes to the budget for sports-related projects, particularly for the development and enhancement of the sports environment at the community level. Since 2002, profits earned by the lottery have been allocated to more than 22 thousand projects, with an accumulated amount of 124 billion Japanese yen in contributions. While MEXT is generally responsible for school sports, sports clubs and regional sports as well as international sports competitions, professional sports are organized by various organizations, such as the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB), the Japan Professional Football League (J. League), etc. that are administered by the Cabinet Office.

Facing a declining birthrate and an aging society, Japanese people are increasingly aware of the importance of sports and healthy lifestyles. Even though the rate of people practicing sports has constantly decreased overall in the last two decades, it seems to have passed its lowest point and is now on an upward trend. Among the most common types of physical activities are walking or light physical exercise, training with gym equipment, bowling or jogging and marathon.

In contrast, watching sports has consistently been popular among the Japanese, with one fourth to one third of the population claiming to engage in it. Professional baseball and figure skating are the favorite sports to watch on TV, whereas baseball and football are the most popular sports to watch live at the venue. On the other hand, when it comes to sports betting, which is highly enjoyed in Japan, horse and motorboat races are most common. Upcoming international sports events, such as The Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Summer Olympics 2020, both to be hosted by Japan, are likely to increase the popularity of sports, supporting the government's promotion efforts.

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Sports in Japan

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