Japan are the highest ranked Asian side in both the men’s and women’s FIFA rankings.
Since the inception of the Japan Professional Football League in 1992, Japan has made rapid progress in international football.
Japan’s J League is Asia's first professional football league and also one of the world's most successful leagues.
The nation has also been one of the giants of the continental game, with several of its clubs clinching Asian championships to their name. Know the best Japanese football club.
Best Japanese football clubs
Kashima Antlers are the most decorated football club in Japan in terms of trophies won. Based in Kashima, Ibaraki, Kashima Antlers currently compete in the J1 League, the top tier of Japanese professional football leagues. They have won an unprecedented 19 major domestic titles including a record eight J.League titles, a record six J.League Cups and five Emperor's Cups. In 2018, Kashima won their maiden AFC Champions League title after beating Iran’s Persepolis FC in the final. Several top Brazilian footballers including the likes of Zico, Jorginho, Leonardo and Bismarck have donned the famous jersey of Kashima. Atsuto Uchida, Mitsuo Ogasawara and Naoki Soma are few Japanese internationals who have played for the club.
Yokohama F. Marinos
Yokohama F. Marinos are one of the most successful Japanese football clubs. Founded as the company team of Nissan Motor, Yokohama F. Marinos have clinched the J1 League on five occasions in 1995, 2003, 2004, 2019 and 2022. The Yokohama-based club has also finished runners-up in the J1 League on five occasions. Nicknamed the Marinos, Yokohama F. Marinos are the longest serving team in the top flight of Japanese football, having played at the highest level since 1982. Along with Kashima Antlers, they are one of only two teams to have competed in Japan's premier tier of football every year since its inception.
Kawasaki Frontale have been one of the most dominant Japanese football clubs in recent years. Based in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, the club has won four J1 League titles including having won the league title on four occasions in the span of five years between 2017 and 2021. Kawasaki Frontale have also finished runners-up in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2022. Nicknamed Gremio from Japan due to the club’s crest and jersey colours, Kawasaki have also won the Emperor's Cup twice in 2020 and 2023. They also clinched the J.League Cup in 2019.
Urawa Red Diamonds
Urawa Red Diamonds are the most decorated Japanese football club in the AFC Champions League. Founded in 1950, Urawa Red Diamonds made the country proud by winning Japan’s first AFC Champions League title in 2007. The Saitama-based club later became Continental champions in 2017 and 2022. The Reds now have the second-most AFC Champions League titles along with South Korea’s Pohang Steelers, only behind Saudi Pro League giants Al-Hilal SFC. Apart from the continental success, Urawa Red Diamonds have won one J1 League, four J.League Cups and eight Emperor's Cups. Earlier known as Mitsubishi Urawa Football Club, they were the first Japanese club to complete a domestic treble in 1978.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima are another one of the most successful clubs in the professional era of Japanese football. Based in Asaminami-ku, Hiroshima, Sanfrecce Hiroshima have won three J1 League titles - the fourth joint-most in the leagues’ history. Nicknamed Sanfrecce, they have the joint most top-flight titles with eight which includes the defunct Japan Soccer League. The club also holds the record for the most participations in Emperor's Cup finals with 15. Interestingly, the club was a former company team of Toyo Kogyo Soccer Club in 1938 and featured in the semi-professional Japan Soccer League. They dominated the JSL's early years, winning the title on four occasions in a row. It later became ‘Sanfrecce Hiroshima’ in 1992 and competed in the J1 League.
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