Having only watched a single game in each of the last two seasons I really was not expecting to do too many more matches this year, especially with the strict Covid_19 measures still in place for much of the season. However, I ended up going to 11 live games at 10 different stadiums. A few of them have had their own blog posts during 2022 but the majority of them weren’t really considered to be worthy of a solitary post so I have collated them into this rankings list. It’s certainly not one to be taken too seriously as it’s based on a mixture of occasion, weather, people I met, the stadium and maybe even the football itself!
10. Tokyo Verdy 2-1 Machida Zelvia @ Ajinomoto Stadium, Chofu (Tokyo), 20th March – A match billed as the ‘Tokyo Classic’ which fans of the capital city’s biggest team FC Tokyo will have raised an eye brow or two at! The green side of Tokyo share the 50,000 all-seater stadium with FC Tokyo but usually only fill about 10% of that. It’s way too big for them and the atmosphere suffers because of it. Tickets for this one were free, and it was an alright game with a couple of nice moves to create the home side’s goals.
9. Azul Claro Numazu 1-0 Nagano Parceiro @ Ashitaka Park Stadium, Numazu (Shizuoka), 4th May – A free lettuce on my exit from this ground was one of the more bizarre highlights of a sunny afternoon on Star Wars Day with action at both ends. More details here
8. Tokyo Musashino United 0-1 Suzuka Point Getters @ Musashino Athletic Stadium, Musashino (Tokyo), 3rd April – Not an interesting game in any way at all but the process of getting there and back in such dreary and awful weather made it quite memorable. My friend Chris and I were, along with many others, only there hoping to see the world’s oldest professional footballer (a.k.a. King Kazu) make an appearance from the bench but it never happened! More details here
7. Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Kashiwa Reysol @ Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki (Kanagawa), 9th April – Meeting up with the man known as Frontale Rabbit pre-match was great but it went downhill from there once we’d parted ways and taken seats in opposite ends.
6. Sfida Setagaya 6-0 Speranza Osaka-Takatsuki @ Ajinomoto Field Nishigaoka, Itabashi-ku (Tokyo), 12th June – The first of two Sfida matches at this stadium (the other one failed to make the top ten!) and the one with the biggest margin of victory. I made a new friend there called Marcus who is a regular at all their matches. He filled me in on their fortunes as we watched a drubbing amist a mix of rain and scotching hot sunshine.
5. Criacao Shinjuku 2-2 Honda FC @ AGF Field, Chofu (Tokyo), 13th November – This JFL match is placed quite high just for the fact that it was my first time to ever see a goalkeeper score when Honda’s Yuki Kusumoto stepped up on 33 minutes to convert a penalty to make it 2-0. Ironically it was a penalty against him deep into stoppage time which gave Criacao Shinjuku a 2-2 draw.
4. Criacao Shinjuku 0-1 Suzuka Point-Getters @ Japan National Stadium, Shinjuku-ku (Tokyo), 9th October – My first time to see a match at the National Stadium as 16,000+ people set a record for the most attended JFL (fourth tier) match in Japan’s history. The majority of the crowd were there to see Kazuyoshi Miura (a.k.a. King Kazu) who is something of an icon in Japan and has had a very, very long club and international career starting off in Brazil way back in 1986. More details here
3. Albirex Niigata 2-0 Mito Hollyhock @ Denka Big Swan Stadium (Niigata), 18th September – My whole trip to Niigata Prefecture was built around this match at the end of it all. It was a stadium visit two decades in the making and worth it as the home side grew closer to winning the title. It was thankfully a match where the likes of singing and flag-waving were permitted as a kind of test before normal service hopefully returns. More details here
2. Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 Yokohama F. Marinos @ Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium, Kashiwa (Chiba), 27th February – I watched three games with Chris (of Lost in Football Japan fame!) this year but this was the first one and by far the best. This was one of the best days I’ve had watching Reysol at home as Marinos (and the referee??) gifted a couple of goals. Who would’ve thought that they would go on to win the J1 championship!
1. Ventforet Kofu 1-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima @ Nissan Stadium, Yokohama (Kanagawa Prefecture), 16th October – With singing, chanting and flag-waving allowed, this show-piece final was a great occasion made all the better due to the underdog story of the day as lowly J2 side Kofu triumphed thanks to a penalty shoot out. More details here
Bonus: Football dominated my live sports viewing in 2022 as is usually the case but there were a couple of other sports too.
- Toray Pan Pacific Open @ Ariake Coliseum, Koto-ku (Tokyo), 19th-20th September – Two days of tennis basically waiting to catch a glimpse of Naomi Osaka. I did manage to see her play but it didn’t quite go to plan! More details here
- Japan Sakura XV 29-10 Ireland @ Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Minato-ku (Tokyo), 27th August – My first ever women’s rugby match and it was a great occasion on a sweltering hot night. Even my wife got very excited by some of the action! More details here
Click here to read ‘A Themed Tour Of Tokyo’s Football Manga Mecca’
Click here to read ‘Sitting Amongst The S-Pulse Faithful In Shimizu But Quietly Supporting The Opposition!’
Click here to read ‘TF Flashback – My J-League Beginnings (2004)’
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10…… J1 League Stadiums You Should Visit This Season’