Popular Japanese Sports

Sports-fan students in Tokyo enjoy following traditional Japanese sports like martial arts and sumo. In addition, Japan loves baseball, introduced by the Americans in the early 1900s. Many amateurs sports geeks practice, play, and watch Japanese martial arts—karate, kendo, and judo. While working your way through the  KCP International Japanese School, take time out for the fun and excitement of sporting events in Japan.


Sumo, the Japanese wrestling style, is Japan’s national sport. In ancient times, sumo entertained the Shinto gods. The basic sumo rules are simple—whoever first leaves the ring or touches the ground (except for the soles of the feet), loses. Sumo fights take place in dohyo, elevated clay rings covered with sand.

KCP Flickr.

Most elite sumo wrestlers are trained athletes 25–35 years old. Professional athletes live in heya (residential training centers or “stables”), where coaches regulate their eating, sleeping, training, and recreation.


Modern judo (literally, “the gentle way”) was adapted by Jigoro Kano from the ancient martial art form jujutsu. This Japanese sport aims not just to win fights but train one’s body and soul. Softness is superior in judo; technique is more valued than stamina.


Kendo, “the way of the sword,” is the Japanese equivalent for fencing. The Japanese warriors used swords as their primary weapon for centuries. Swords are symbolize the samurai. Modern kendo uses bamboo swords. And as in all Japanese martial art, training the mind is crucial.

Kendo. | Harald Hofer


“The way of the harmonious spirit,” aikido is a Japanese martial art focusing on overpowering the opponent without undue strength or injury to either party. Created by Uesiba Morihea in the early 1900s, aikido is a popular sport to play.

Aikido. | Javier Montano


Karate, the “way of the empty hand,”  is a form of martial arts that doesn’t use weapons. Karate is related to the Korean taekwondo and Chinese kung fu. A professional karate player uses feet, elbows, and fists to strike the opponent.


Kyudo, “the way of the bow,” is Japanese archery. Bows have always been part of Japanese culture as hunting tools and weapons. You can find many kyudo training facilities in schools and cultural centers.


Also called yakyu in Japanese, baseball is the most popular sport played in Japan. Currently, there are two professional leagues in Japan—the Pacific League and the Central League. As in the U.S., games are usually broadcast live during baseball season. High school baseball tournaments are also broadcast nationwide.


Golf is very popular in Japan. The country has huge golf courses and driving ranges in the suburbs, very convenient for the many golf enthusiasts. To accommodate the enormous number of golfers, courses are laid out on two or more floors.