What About Ice Hockey in Japan?

ice hockey

From our previous interviews, we could identify several patterns about the Japanese university sports scene. This article will discuss the current state and potential of the world of Japanese ice hockey. 


Even though ice hockey has been around in Japan since the 1920's, and the annual All Japan Ice Hockey Championship has been going on since 1930 – hence one of oldest competitions in the country – the sport still isn’t particularly popular nowadays. While in the colder areas of Japan, such as Hokkaido, ice hockey is justifiably more popular, in Tokyo it remains a rather minor sport.


In 2018/19, Japan was ranked 10th in the world by number of registered ice hockey players, reaching a total of 18,837. This situation was rather constant in the past decade, however the total number of players is currently lower than in 2010/11.

This is among the reasons why many players are considering leaving Japan in pursue for their dreams in countries where ice hockey is a major sport. Comparing to the number of registered players in Canada (621,026), United States (567,908), or Czech Republic (121,613), along with the extended fanbases in such countries, it is obvious why the younger generations are willing to move abroad so as to seek more opportunities.

Despite all these, the future of Japanese ice hockey shows potential for improvement in several aspects.


First of all, from our previous interviews, we identified that the intent to pass on the legacy of the sport to the younger, upcoming generations is indeed still present among our interviewees. This is very important as such attitudes may provide the foundation and guidelines for future generations of ice hockey players in Japan, enabling them to learn from their seniors and have more familiar role models to look up to.

Secondly, although traditional sports – like sumo and judo – or more popular, modern sports – such as baseball and soccer – stand at the centre of the Japanese sports scene for many years, even the current interest in ice hockey has led to new arenas being built up, providing ice hockey with more exposure and players with more spaces to practice. This may benefit general performance levels, which can ultimately spark the interest of greater audiences.

And of course, a potential way to bring more interest in any sport is achieving a number of outstanding performances / wins at an international level. Examples of such cases are figure skating, ski jumping, and curling, which all witnessed increased popularity in Japan, fact evident even within our interview with Yuka Yamase, who mentioned that Mao Asada, from the Vancouver Olympics 2010, has been her inspiration in practising figure skating.

Last but not least, taking into account the fanbases of five major sports in the United States – football, baseball, soccer, hockey, and basketball – it is revealed that ice hockey is the second sport, after soccer, that attracts younger audiences, between the ages of 18 - 34. The loyalty and dedication of hockey fans towards their favoured teams prove that hockey could benefit from a stable audience anywhere in the world. Promoting ice hockey more among younger generations could help Japan significantly grow the popularity of the sport in time.

toyo ice hockey


Overall, from his article it could be concluded that despite the fact that ice hockey is a minor sport in Japan at the moment, it nevertheless shows prospects for a more promising future if initiatives are taken in order to support upcoming generations, who would particularly be more likely to resonate with the sport.


Henry, M. (2013) Ice Hockey in Japan [online] available from https://www.tokyoessentials.com/ice-hockey-in-japan/

Statista (2019) Countries by number of registered ice hockey players in 2018/19 [online] available from https://www.statista.com/statistics/282349/number-of-registered-ice-hockey-by-country/

Statista (2019) Total number of registered ice hockey players in Japan from 2010/11 to 2018/19 [online] available from https://www.statista.com/statistics/348138/number-of-registered-ice-hockey-players-in-japan/

The Shelf Blog (2019) MARKETING TO SPORTS FANS: VIEWERSHIP & DEMOGRAPHICS [online] available from https://www.theshelf.com/the-blog/sports-viewership


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