【Japan Sports】Top Popular Sports To Watch
【Japan Sports】Top Popular Sports To Watch

【Japan Sports】Top Popular Sports To Watch

【Japan Sports】Top Popular Sports To Watch


Nobody could imagine this result.
This ranking is representing unique features of sports in Japan.

Before looking at the popular sports to watch ranking,
let me address “how to watch” rate to help you understand audience in Japan.

How Do You Watch Sports?

(Reference: The Hokkaido Shimbun Press
Research participants: randomly selected 3000 people from Japan
Age: 18-year old and up
Multiple answer)

go to the game – 13%
public broad casting site – 2%
TV (terrestrial) – 83%
TV (Satellite) – 36%
video streaming – 15%
flash news website – 14%
radio – 7%

Most people watch sports on terrestrial TV.
With this in mind, let’s go to the ranking.

Popular Sports To Watch In Japan

1. professional baseball – 37%
2. figure skating – 36%
3. high school baseball – 35%
4. Ekiden (long‐distance relay race) – 33%
5. volleyball – 25%
6. Sumo – 22%
7. professional football – 21%
8. marathon – 20%
9. tennis/gymnastics – 16%
10. MLB/golf – 15%
11. boxing – 13%
12. swimming – 12%
13. basketball – 11%
14. rugby/track and field/badmington/Judo/ski&snow board – 10%

Interesting feature is that there is only one professional sports in the top3.
In the U.S. NFL, NBA, and MLB are the three major sports.
All professional and profitable…very profitable.
In Japan, amature sports are entertaining more than most of professional sports.
Following is the brief background of top3 sports + Ekiden.

1. professional baseball

Professional baseball is traditionally popular in Japan.
According to a survey of dream occupation in elementary schools in 2021,
“baseball player” was ranked in the top2.
(The top1 was football player.)
In the ranking of favorite sports players,
three out of top5 were baseball players.
Since it is broadcasted in the golden time all through the season,
it has much media exposure than other sports.
No wonder it is ranked in the number one popular sports to watch.

2. figure skating

Japan has been producing top skaters in the world,
both men and women, in this three decades.
There are professional category and amature category.
Professional figure skating is an entertainment show that core fans go to watch.
It is rarely broadcasted on TV.
Also, professional figure skaters cannot participate in tournament.
That means “top2” was achieved by amature skaters who showed
distinguish performance in Olympics and other international tournaments.
These tournaments are bringing the TV viewer rate 20% to 30% on average.

3. high school baseball

High school baseball is loved so much in Japan.
It is the drama of youth.

Japanese high schools have various sports clubs and cultural clubs
that students can enjoy after school.
Among many school sports clubs, high school baseball
is operateded by a different organization from other sports.
The purpose was to develop high school baseball as
the place of education and human development.
Many teams value greeting and force shaved head.

There are two major tournaments in a year, March and August.
Despite that these tournaments are broadcasted in weekday day time,
they record view rate 10% to 20% on average, almost the same rate as pro.

4. Ekiden

In addition to these top3, the 4th is also amature sports.
The most heated race is Hakone Ekiden held every year in new years holidays.
This is a university mens’ race in Kanto area.
It produces various drama as well as high school baseball.


It seems that the sports that produce more drama in addition to
powerfulness and super plays are loved by Japanese audience.
Therefore, in both professional and amature sports,
media exposure is the key point to be loved by audience.
At this point, Japanese professional sports seem to need
more improvement on how to show their dramas.

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