Japan might be known for its baseball popularity, but there is also a very strong football culture (Japan has qualified for the last five FIFA World Cups). Football games in Japan aren’t like with those in other countries in Europe or South America where there might be a dose of hooliganism. J1 League games (the top professional football league in Japan) are festive events where family and friends get together to cheer their teams, but not in a tribalistic manner. Indeed, the ratio of women attending Japanese football games are around 40%, which is higher than most countries such as in England, where female attendance is generally 20%. Japanese football fans are passionate, where throughout the game you’ll hear chants, people jumping up and down, and supportive flags waving feverishly. Moreover, there is a low-entry barrier for football games in Japan as ticket prices are much cheaper than those found in Europe (prices generally range from ¥2,500-¥5,000), as well as easy transport options to reach the various stadiums.
Apart from the atmosphere of the games themselves, Japan also has fantastic stadiums for watching Japanese football. Saitama Stadium particularly stands out as one of the best, with its lack of a running-track around the field, ensuring more excitement and closer proximity to the action. Saitama stadium was built in 2001 in preparation for the 2002 Japan-Korea World Cup, and is one of the largest football-specific stadiums in Asia, with a total capacity of 63,700 spectators. The stadium dominates the landscape of Saitama, a satellite city just one hour by train from Tokyo. The scale and design of the stadium is impressive, walking up to it, you would think that it’s the Emirates Stadium in London. The stadium makes for especially interesting match viewings as it is home to the Urawa Red Diamonds, the most supported league football team in the country with an average home crowd of 37,000. Watching a home game here with the Urawa Red Diamonds is lively experience, with passionate fans filling the huge world-class stadium.
In 2015, the J1 League changed its system where it became a multistage arrangement, with the year split into two principal seasons. The winners of the first and second season, as well as the highest ranking club on the league table (apart from the first and second winners) will qualify for a Championship Stage. This system is not seen in Europe, and makes the J1 League a much more exciting league to follow. With this system change, as well as with the unpredictability of the J1 League, viewing a match will most likely top your expectations, and could certainly be a highlight of your visit to Japan. The next stage starts July 2nd, so look at the schedule below and plan your football outing today!
Saitama Stadium Location Information
Estimated Price: ¥2,500-¥5,000 for J1 League matches.
“Why Go?”: If you want to watch Japanese professional football in a world-class stadium.
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