Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sports and Recreation

Traditionally, sumo is considered Japan's national sport and is one of its most popular. Martial arts such as judo, karate and kendō are also widely practiced in the country. After the Meiji Restoration, many Western sports were introduced in Japan and began to spread through the education system.

Baseball is the most popular spectator sport in Japan and the professional baseball league in Japan was established in 1936. One of the most famous Japanese baseball players is Ichiro Suzuki, who, having won Japan's Most Valuable Player award in 1994, 1995 and 1996, now plays in North American major league baseball. Since the establishment of a professional soccer league in Japan in 1992, football has also gained a wide following. Japan was a venue of the Intercontinental Cup from 1981 to 2004 and co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with South Korea.

Golf is popular in Japan, as is auto racing, the Super GT sports car series and Formula Nippon formula racing.

Every year, Japan observes the second Monday in October as Health and Sports Day. The date, originally October 10, commemorates the opening day of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Other major sporting events that Japan has hosted include the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

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