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Sports in Japan - statistics & facts

Sports play a significant role in the social and cultural life in Japan. While 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. Sports participation in Japan begins from an early age. Physical education starts in earnest in elementary school, with several practical and theory sessions per week. Many pupils join art, music, or 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 (sports ground, equipment, etc.) for curricular or extracurricular sports sessions and sometimes personnel for instruction. From a financial perspective, the sports industry in Japan is a multi-trillion Japanese yen enterprise, with golf comprising a large share of the market. In the sports participation market, facility utilization fees tend to comprise the lion’s share of the revenue.

Promotion and administration

Sports administration involves various ministries and offices, including the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Japan Sport Council (JSC), and the National Recreation Association of Japan (NRAJ). 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 30 thousand projects, with an accumulated amount of approximately 220 billion 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) and the Japan Professional Football League (J. League) which are administered by the Cabinet Office.

Participation and spectating during COVID-19

In recent years, participation in sports increased, showcased by the growing share of people doing sports at least once a week. This might suggest a heightened health consciousness which was already triggered before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic, the overall frequency of participating in sports remained stable. At the same time, the market segment size of sport facility utilization and sports-related membership fees declined significantly, hinting at a shift in consumer behavior, away from paid sports participation at specialized facilities to doing sports at home or in public areas. A possible reason might be that people continued to do sports in settings befitting the “new normal” while paying attention to COVID-19 related aspects when exercising.
Spectating during the pandemic was considerably dampened for long periods, showing the negative effects the pandemic had on the spectating scene. After the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports events were canceled or postponed, and even after hosting events was possible again, live attendance of sports fans was either prohibited or limited to a fraction of the original capacity of the respective venue in order to inhibit the spread of the pandemic and ensure public safety.

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