The new J-League season is just round the corner with games kicking off over the weekend starting March 21st. In anticipation, Tokyo Fox has compiled a list of ten grounds which any fan of the beautiful game should visit when in Japan. It should be stressed that this is a personal choice and that every stadium experience is basically what you make of it.
10. Yokohama F. Marinos @ Nissan Stadium (72.327), Kanagawa Prefecture – If it wasn’t for the fact that it hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup final, I would not have included this stadium as it’s got a running track around the pitch which means that you’re always quite far from the action. Still, it’s not too bad a place to be when full but all too often the attendance is less than a third of it’s capacity. More details here
9. Nagoya Grampus @ Toyota Stadium (45.000), Aichi Prefecture – The location of this stadium is not at all good but it’s one that is worth the long journey from Nagoya city. The architecture inside and outside the stadium is fantastic and there doesn’t seem to be a bad view in the place. More details here
8. Vissel Kobe @ Noevir Stadium Kobe (30.132), Hyōgo Prefecture – In recent years this stadium has been graced with some big names from the world of football. Big foreign stars or not, this place is well deserving of a visit. More details here
7. Urawa Reds @ Saitama Stadium 2002 (63.700), Saitama Prefecture – As the name implies, this stadium was built for the 2002 World Cup. This state of the art stadium, with soaring triangular sails, offers views of Mount Fuji in the distance of the stadium corner on a clear day. It hosted four World cup games including one of the semis and England’s 1-1 draw with Sweden. The nearest station is on a very expensive train line, two ends have no cover and it’s also home to Urawa Reds but don’t let any of that put you off! Reds are the most popular team in Japan (and the least popular too!) and so is most likely to be the fullest of the big stadiums thus creating a good atmosphere. More details here
6. Kashima Antlers @ Kashima Soccer Stadium (40.728), Ibaraki Prefecture – A bit of a hassle to get to but a rewarding one neverthless. It has its own train station (Kashima Soccer Stadium), sleek architecture and a statue of Brazilian and former Antlers legend Zico outside. More details here
5. Gamba Osaka @ Panasonic Stadium Suita (39.694), Osaka-Shi – The newest top flight stadium was purposely built for football at a cost of ¥14.086 billion and has been open since 2016. From distance it looks like a giant spaceship has landed in the city, and the atmosphere inside is like something out of this world too! More details here
4. Vegalta Sendai @ Yurtec Stadium Sendai (19.694), Miyagi Prefecture – At just seven minutes on foot this surely has to be one of the nearest stadiums to a train station in Japan. I really like this one as it’s modern stadia without too many empty seas on match days. More details here
3. Shimizu S-Pulse @ IAI Nihondaira Shimizu (20.299), Shizuoka Prefecture – There’s a classic retro feeling to this four-stand stadium which makes for a great atmosphere. Some beautiful views including Mount Fuji can be thrown in for good measure too. More details here
2. Consadole Sapporo @ Sapporo Dome (41.983), Hokkaido – Before coming to Japan, this was the only stadium I really knew about and for many years was THE one I truly wanted to experience. It’s where David Beckham’s penalty beat Argentina in the 2002 World Cup group stages and famed for it’s UFO-like appearance and the fact that the pitch is basically wheeled into the stadium More details here
1. Kashiwa Reysol @ Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium (15,349), Chiba Prefecture – All those modern stadiums listed above are great but you can’t beat the intimate atmosphere of this tight, old-school rectangular-style ground. Of course there’s a hint of bias in my top choice but it is often the hipsters choice too as this ground is a reminder of a more innocent time in football. More details here
As I said at the top of this post, you can enjoy the spectacle at many a J-League ground. I discounted the likes of Cerezo Osaka, FC Tokyo, Kawasaki Frontale, Shonan Bellmare and Sanfrecce Hiroshima from the top 10 as they all have running tracks around them. Yokohama FC’s ground is a simple old-style one and just missed out whilst I have unfortunately been unable to get down to the stadiums in Kyushu belonging to Oita Trinita and Sagan Tosu. Will this season be the one when that changes?
If you’re interested in Japanese football then please check out the following: