Who Inspired You?

pop culture

After interviewing players, [1] [2] [3] coaches, [4] [5] and team managers [6] of two successful university and high school teams – Toyo University Ice Hockey Club and Kokugakuin Kugayama High School Basketball Team – we were able to identify some interesting patterns regarding the types of inspiration sources that athletes have here in Japan.


sports family
Family has been the main influential factor why our players have decided to practice their sports. This fact does not entirely come as a surprise, since Japan is still partially a collectivist country - so considered by Western standards – as loyalty and harmony of the community is valued more than individual opinions – but individualistic by Asian standards – due to the narrower family system and more self-oriented decisions, usually in regards to career commitment, as observed not only in the case of business professionals, but also in the context of university athletes.

Despite the narrower family system, family still plays an important role in the Japanese society. This aspect is evident in the answers of most interviewed athletes. It shall be noted that the interviewees were inspired by members of their family, and were not in any way obliged to take part in any sports.

Since Japan is becoming more individualistic (vs collectivist), [7] a division between those who wish to stay and those who are willing to relocate for their dreams is currently evident in the Japanese youth sports scene. As observed through discussions with the younger generations, this pattern is forecasted to grow even more, especially in the cases of sports which are not really popular at the moment, so watch out for this trend in the future years.


famous athletes

Very well-known athletes (e.g., Michael Jordan, Mao Asada) were the second leading influential factor. Thus, it is again confirmed that top, leading athletes may increase the popularity of a sport by inspiring and encouraging new, potential players / performers.


ice hockey

Being introduced to a certain sport by a friend is also pretty common. Although friends might not always be considered as actual role models in most cases, it is worth acknowledging the power of influence that they have upon us.

Even more, friends have also been listed as one of the main contributors to helping out overcome difficult situations when practising a sport.


slam dunk

Last but not least, the impact of pop culture (i.e., popular culture) on our daily lives cannot be denied. As we could see, this is also the case when it comes to sports.

Manga series such as Slam Dunk // スラムダンク or celebrity athletes like those mentioned above, magazines’ articles, movies, TV shows, etc., all seemed to have played a part in attracting new participants to various sports.

Interestingly, the popularity of the sport itself does not matter particularly, as long as its essence resonates and appeals to the audience, as could be observed in the case of ice hockey, which is not a major sport in Japan. Even so, ice hockey still attracts participants every year, managing to maintain a rather consistent level of registered players throughout the years. [8]

What is more, pop culture seems to be travelling around more than ever before, and is now blending rapidly. Young athletes appear to be influenced not only by the local pop culture (i.e., present in their area / country / city), but also by other countries’ or global pop culture.

pop culture


Amino (2016) Manga Review: "Slam Dunk", May 6th, 2016 [online] available from https://aminoapps.com/c/anime/page/blog/manga-review-slam-dunk-may-6th-2016/mJtk_uRj4kQgzV7ZgmblPnbK2YXXlk

Dehandschutter, N. (2011) What is culture? [online] available from https://www.slideshare.net/yatee151/what-is-culture-6556982

Hofstede Insights (2020) COUNTRY COMPARISON [online] available from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/japan/

iStock (2020) hockey player [online] available from https://www.istockphoto.com/illustrations/hockey-player?mediatype=illustration&phrase=hockey%20player&sort=mostpopular

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/


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