Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Time to Get Silly
If you want to see what a Japanese football player who doesn't normally drink alcohol looks and sounds like when they are...Look no further! Here is Shinji Kagawa guzzling down beer a few weeks ago after beating Bayern for the Cup, being interviewed by his closest friend at Dortmund, Kevin Großkreutz. The celebrations were apt for Kagawa, who contributed with one goal and one assist under the interested eye of Sir Alex Ferguson. >>View Video
A couple weeks ago Kagawa also appeared on the pitcher's mound at Tokyo Dome to throw the first ball of the game -- he has long been a Yomiuri Giants baseball fan, and said it was a dream come true. Let's just say we're lucky he's a better footballer than he is a pitcher! >>See video

Ryo Miyaichi Playing with his Pants Since cementing his place in Zaccheroni's starting squad at Asia Cup 2011, vvv Venlo centerback Maya Yoshida has also become quite famous for his natural ability to entertain the masses. His very amusing and charming personal blog has been so popular that a book has been published on its contents. His proximity to friends and fellow-National team squad mates in Europe, like Uchida, Kawashima, Kagawa, etc., have also allowed him to be the social reporter to their off-the-pitch adventures, illustrating his activities with lots of comical photos. He has set the tone for his teammates, and they often poke fun at each other through their blogs and photos.
>>Maya Yoshida blog

Young Ryo Miyaichi somehow gets manipulated into posing for this shot -- if you can't see clearly, click for the big picture. Some of the players on the squad like to take walks around their hotel neighborhood during their National call-ups, and have taken some fun pics and vids of their walks around cities in Asia and the Middle East.

Another summer is here, and another awkward-looking tourism advertisement for Inter players -- this year, Yuto Nagatomo looks like a 13-year old riding his bike to school. An unfortunate choice of a backpack... (click to enlarge)
Inter summer training camp


Adidas continued
A follow up to the Nakamura+10 vs DelPiero+10 commercial that I introduced before >>here.

Now the two teams play an actual game. No translation necessary.

>>Click here to see the commercial Click Enter, and then the middle link on the right, that say Movie (under the link that has "Recruitment")

There will be a rematch, and Japan is looking for members!
I'm just wondering...
.......Who on earth is going to buy this?

National Team Official Suits by Dunhill

Dunhill has come out with the final version of the official National Team suit/outfit...(click on the photo above to go to site, where you can browse around). The final version is grey (not dark blue, as we saw it last spring).

Nothing new, really, since I introduced this before, but I just wanted to point your attention to the Price: a whopping 850 thousand Yen (about $8,000) for the entire ensemble (suit, shirt, tie, cufflinks, and I hear there is also a watch).

If you have cash to burn, you may want to hurry...apparently Dunhill is only making 150 of these suits available for "regular folk".
Photo Fun
A few photos that caught my eye during the pre-season, which I am posting now before I forget.
peekaboo_mascot.jpg Taken during a preseason game between Kawasaki Frontale and Omiya Ardija. I could not stop laughing... The white blob is actually a sponsor mascot called "Peekaboo" (as in the >>company) -- he/she (?) is attempting to take a seat during halftime, being assisted by Kawasaki club mascot Fronta-kun. With that rear end, it must be hard! Fronta-kun is such a gentleman...
grampus_mascot.jpg The cutest mascot in my book is Nagoya's Grampus-kun and Grampako-chan (the "kun" denotes a boy and the "chan" is for the girl version) -- though a close second would be Ardija's big-bushy-tailed squirrel. Isn't it funny how we automatically present girl/boy differences by size difference and the fact that one has eye-lashes...? ;)
ehime_orange.jpgThis spunky-looking dude is the Ehime Orange, for Ehime FC -- just promoted to the J2 this year. In Japan, we have an obsession with tying regions with foods -- and in Ehime, the local Orange is their star product by far. This guy has got the 'tude, doesn't he?
okada_sign.jpg Of course, these signs showing support for specific players, and in this case for the club boss (here, it's Yokoahama F Marinos manager Takeshi Okada), are also part of the supporter scene. And the homemade efforts are I think the sweetest.
xerox_reds_daruma.jpg The Daruma tumbler doll shown here is a very common sight in Japanese culture. (>>read about Daruma) One eye is painted in black, and the other eye is left unfilled. If they win (like this daruma created by Urawa Reds for the Xerox Super Cup last week), the second eye is painted in during celebrations to symbolize the completion/success. Sort of like putting a bottle of champagne on ice in hopeful anticipation of celebration. We also see these used alot in elections.
Tooting the Horn
This past month has been such a hectic one dominated more by negative news, that it was a refreshing surprise to be notified of something cheering --

japanzine.jpgJapanzine, an English language magazine published in Japan (a fun and comprehensive resource for foreigners living in Japan), has included this blog in its "Annual Best of the Web" article in this month's issue.

If you're curious to see the listing, you can find a >>web version of the article here, and the blurb about this blog can be found under the SPORTS header on >>this page. It was nice of them to include this blog.

Well, back to work!....
Shunsuke vs Del Piero
A hilarious and rather adorable commercial from Adidas's +10 campaign.

Shunsuke+10 versus DelPiero+10

The story is that both players have to put together a national team by finding fellow countrymen off the streets. Shunsuke is in Glasgow, making his task very difficult. He goes to a local Kendo class (Japanese fencing) and is asking "Are any Japanese here?" and the students take off their masks to reveal they are far from Asian. Then he goes to an English language school, and there appears one Japanese person, who mumbles, "I can't play football, but I can play the bagpipe!" So he plays a little... And it turns out the bagpipe player has 10 Japanese friends in the city, who he calls.

DelPiero has a bit of an easier time, asking around the city for places where people are playing. An old man says he is too old to play, but he finds a group playing in a local court. He tries the players out, and picks his team.

The Japanese players are a bit awestruck to find out that not only will they play with Shunsuke, they will be playing against the even more famous DelPiero. One Japanese player grumbles "though the other are gawking at DelPiero, I will be playing for the jugular". The two teams accidentally meet in a resturant, and the Italian team is overheard scoffing at the Japanese team -- "Japanese people can't play football, all they do is play video games." Ouch...
Tsubasa and Misaki
I have introduced a couple "Captain Tsubasa" entries this year, and some of you may wonder "what the hell?" In all honesty, I have never read a Captain Tsubasa comic. But I remember my younger brother did when he was in grade school. He bought all the comics, he even filled pages of notebooks with his own attempts at drawing Tsubasa characters. And most of all, it influenced him to choose football as his afterschool sports of choice. It was a tremendous cultural phenomenon back in those days among Japanese children.

You must remember, this was all back when Japan didn't even have a very clear idea of football, before the J-league, before we as a country could even dream of assuming to participate in the World Cup.

Many people say that had it not been for Captain Tsubasa, we may have not been able to culminate enough interest to launch the J-league to begin with, and thus would not have had the opportunity to host the World Cup as quickly. It may be hyperbole, but even so it shows that the comic had a tremendous influence over football-consciousness in Japan... not as a reality perhaps, but as an ideal. The fantastic technique, the miracle plays, the overarching themes of loyalty and friendship, teamwork, sportsmanship, and hope even as underdogs and even when everything else was working against them. >>Here's one fan site

shinji_tsubasa.jpgI mentioned in earlier entries, a few instances of where the fantasy world of Tsubasa intersected with the real world of football. The first time, it was a brief aside, mentioning that the creator of the comic, when asked a few years ago, who he imagines is the closest to fitting into the Tsubasa character. He said it was Shinji Ono (pictured sleeping next to his dog Chocolat in a Tsubasa tee) if he played at Barcelona. This was a while ago, so I'm not sure if he still would answer in the same way.

The second time was to show how Captain Tsubasa has successfully gotten exported worldwide. The France league's Grenoble football team mascot is based on the Captain Tsubasa comic characters, and I also mentioned that various famous European players (like Zidane and I think Totti) have shared they were influenced by Tsubasa as children.

In a recent interview, Daisuke Matsui said that his ideal is still defined by the limitless sense of inspiration and creativity displayed in the Tsubasa comics. And when I saw a very old photo of Japan goalkeeper Narazaki as a young boy, he was dressed in the black long-legged long-sleeved outfit with the cap, just like Tsubasa goalkeeper Wakabayashi -- despite the mid-summer heat (as did my brother, who was the GK at his school when he was a boy, and I used to tease him about copying a comic character). Wakabayashi was by far the "coolest" (kakko-ii) member of the team... The "golden midfield" that we know in today's Japan NT, players like Nakata et al are considered the generation of Japanese footballers who read the comics in its heyday and grew up to lead our national team.

We are continuing to see the aftereffects. Those same kids who grew up reading the comics til the pages were worn have now grown up into young mothers and fathers. But it was still a little suprising to see the first names "Tsubasa" and "Misaki" among the list of the real life current U-14 National team. The U-14 is in Korea right now training and playing a few local friendlies.

In the comics, the full name was Tsubasa Ohzora (Tsubasa means "wings" and Ohzora means "big/great sky"). It is a rare name to see in real life, and I would say that anyone who names their kids Tsubasa is aware of its immediate correlation with the comic character. The character Misaki's full name is Taro Misaki, but in the comics he went as "Misaki", his last name. And here again, it is quite pointed to name your boy Misaki as a first name. You almost can't help but immediately connect it to the comics. He was known as the character with a pure and straight nature, so perhaps the hope was that their baby boy would grow up to have the same kind of purity and openness of heart.


With such names, the two actual boys in question, Tsubasa Yamasaki and Misaki Uemura (both born in 1991), must get a lot of curious comic-related questions or teasing. And the fact that there are two players now on the U-14 team with the Captain Tsubasa-related names is probably what is most interesting. It does make one expect to see amazing plays and shots, the kind you only see in the...well, world of comics. They obviously show promise, otherwise they would not have been chosen as part of the JFA Elite Development Program. But they are two of twenty, so I guess the important thing is for all these kids to get as much opportunity to play and learn.

As a sidenote, there is also a player on the same U14 team called "Atomu" (or "Atom")... as in the manga Tetsuwan Atom (you might know it as Mighty Atom or Astro Boy), another extremely popular manga that dominated the tv ratings from the 50s. >>Click to see website

Come to think of it, people name their kids after all types of things/people. I heard that recently a Scottish couple, a Celtic fan, named their newborn son "Shunsuke" (boy, that little boy is headed for some awkward moments introducing himself). So I guess anything goes. (Though a few years ago I remember some parents in Japan wanted to name their boy "Akuma", meaning devil, and the government wouldn't allow it...)
Just browsing...
Club World Championships (Toyota Cup)
Saudi Arabia Al Ittihad 1-0 Egypt Al Ahly

Back to Monday again after a short weekend for me. It was a very cold one at that, and in Yokohama stadium last night where the FIFA Club World Championship first game between Asia Champs Al Ittihad and Africa champs Al Ahly was held, we even saw a flurry of snow...!

The 5-6 degrees celcius temperatures kept the first ten or fifteen minutes a little awkward for both teams, but as they warmed and loosened up the game started to flow better. One thing that stood out was the dribbling capabilities among the players, but some close saves kept things even until the 78th minute. Al Ittihad's Al Dosari sent the ball up thru to Tcheco who backed it to Al Dosari for a cross. Keeper El Hadary's punching missed the mark and all Noor had to do was push it into an empty goal. Al Ahly tried to regain control of the game with some players substitutions but they could not find their rhythm.

Al Ittihad means "union", (Al Ahly means "national") and in fact it may have been the strength in teamwork/unity that gave Al Ittihad the edge for the win. Al Ahly's undefeated streak (does anyone know exactly how many games it was? I know it's more than 50) ended... Al Ittihad play South American champs Sao Paulo FC on the 14th.

J Youth Sahara Cup 2005

For the sake of the blog, which is bloated as it is with too much subject matter to cover (I would love to pay a little more attention to the Japan Women's national and Men's Youth teams some day), I normally wouldn't include club youth and other university/high school tournies here, but to take us back into the harsh reality of work I thought it would be nice to address the youth footballers...And with a number of youth level players getting promoted to the first team for next season I thought it would be appropriate to at least point out that the Sahara Cup is into their knockout rounds now.

The tournament starts out with 29 clubs -- the 18 youth clubs from the J1 and 11 of the J2 clubs (12 minus Thespa Kusatsu). They were put into 7 groups for home/away matches.

The 14 teams that made it to the knockout (the top two from each group) are then joined by 4 of the Japan Club Youth Football Federation teams (the first placed teams from four regions) for a total of 18.

Because of the awkward number of teams, the first round was two games only to even out the numbers for this weekend's lot so 16 teams met this weekend. The biggest surprise yesterday was Mitsubishi Yowa SC's win over Kashiwa Reysol U-18 (2-1). And though some scores clearly showed who was stronger (Shimizu S-Pulse Youth 9-0 Vegalta Sendai Youth), others had a bit more of a struggle (Vissel Kobe Youth 1-1 [PK9-8] Kashima Antlers Youth; Kashima are last year's champions).

The game that was touted as the most exciting however was the one between Verdy Youth and Yokohama F Marinos Youth. Both teams smothering each others' strengths for a tense 90 minutes. Marinos won 1-0 taking advantage of the one small window of opportunity Verdy handed them.

Tickets to this tournament are free! :) Next weekend, if it isn't raining, maybe I'll go over to Fukuda Denshi Arena (the new Jef Chiba stadium) for the games between Mitsubishi/Marinos followed by the FCTokyo/S-Pulse game... Gotta dress warm though!

gamba_hp.jpgGamba's Official Celebration

Yesterday the Gamba players went around to various locations to thank citizens of Osaka and supporters. In finale the team and supporters gathered at their home Banpaku stadium for an offical celebration of their league win. Photos from the events are posted on the >>Gamba homepage, including a pretty flash presentation that kicks in when you load the page. The photos can be found mid-way down the page, just click on the thumbnails.

Kaji To Gamba

The papers are saying it is almost officially in the bag: Akira Kaji, FC Tokyo and National team rightback will be moving to Osaka next season to join Gamba Osaka. I'm sad to see him leave Tokyo, especially since FCT is in need of creating a backbone of sturdy players...but I wish him the best of luck! Also hear he is expecting a baby (well, his wife will be doing all the work in that department, but...).

Gamba of course have lost Araujo and now will probably lose Oguro, so there is still a question of what they will do about rebuilding their attack.

Speaking of forwards...

The Japan national team will be playing almost all of their games in the first few months of the year without their European players. Now that Oguro is going to France (I am assuming this is going to happen but I could be wrong), Tamada is still healing from his fracture, Tatsuya Tanaka is still out from his broken leg, there is a LOT of room for opportunity among forwards.

Zico left Germany following the World Cup draw for Brazil, but he did in his usual manner threw a chunk of meat for the domestic media to fight and chew over until he returns. Namely, that Yokohama F Marinos striker Kubo will most certainly be called back to the national training camp at the beginning of the year.

Kubo has had every kind of injury in the past couple years, but has netted a few in recent months. Zico says that if he is in the condition to play, he will be on the 23-man list. There will not be any surprises, he said.... but usually this means that no matter who Zico chooses it should not be a surprise because they are good players.

But still, "no surprises"...meaning we should expect the forwards to be...Kubo...Suzuki? Maki? and who am I missing? The irony is of course that all three of these forwards are tall power-type players (except Kubo also has the technique and striker's quality on top of his height, etc). I have nothing against Suzuki but he has not even been able to make it on the starting team at Kashima...

Mondays need a little bit o' silliness, so...

winelev9.jpgJ League Winning Eleven 9 Club Supporters Championships

J's Goal along with Konami put together this competition for a bit of fun between J league supporters. The tournament took place yesterday at Konami HQ. Note: there is a much more "official" Winning Eleven worldwide competition, but this is separate from that and only involves the J1 and J2 teams.

I kid you not, we have highlight video!

>>Click to see semi-final Shonan Bellmare v Gamba Osaka
>>Click to see semi-final Yokohama F Marinos v Urawa Reds
>>Click to see third-place decider
>>Click to see final -- full match (highlight to reveal teams: Yokohama F Marinos v Shonan Bellmare)
>>Click to see interview of the Supporter/Player who won
Adidas Japan National Team Site
Hmmm... from the comments I've seen and heard regarding the new jersey, alot of people are having a little trouble accepting the font they've used for the numbers... I have to admit, it's been bothering me too for looking a little retro and cartoonish, but I like the technology they put into the material and design. Afterall, that's Japan's forte, right? ;)

Speaking of, if any of you are interested in seeing more about the history of the Japan uniform, and also details about the design concept of this new one, take a look at Adidas' snazzy site.


>>click to go to Adidas Japan National Team site You will need to unblock any pop-up blockers, and click the ENTER button in the middle of the page that appears.

Under the PRODUCT category, you will see options to see the new home jersey and the home jersey history. You can click around and see all the photos of the jerseys there.

Under DOWNLOAD, they have wallpapers of Nakamura, K.Nakata, and Miyamoto, if you feel like getting into the Japan NT mood.
Football House anyone?
This is a house.

I kid you not.

I thought it would be fun to introduce this living option on the blog, since the house is in the shape of a football (just not as round, I guess). The hexagon shape of each panel apparently makes it nearly indestructible -- and the producers are selling it as a very safe shelter particularly against natural disasters like earthquakes, floods (the thing floats!), and so forth. You can live in it, use it as a second home, camp in it, store stuff, etc.

I hear they are selling pretty well. I guess it isn't as crazy an option in Japan, since a lot of people live in tiny rooms anyway. What do you think?

Want to see what it looks like inside?

>>Click here to see the interior photos You can click the 1F and 2F and see how the house is split. Scroll down for actual photos.
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