With the Summer Olympics (most likely) happening in Tokyo 2020, there is a lot to learn about the region, and Japanese hockey before the qualifying teams make their debut this June. There are a lot of unique components to Japanese hockey leagues that many people in the sports community don’t know about. We spoke with our Uru A-Team Ambassador, and Japan National Team player, Aki Yamada, to get the inside scoop on what it’s like.
There are three main levels of hockey in Japan: Company Teams, University Teams, and Club Teams. The highest level of play is within the Company Teams, followed by University Teams, and Club Teams vary based on the program – there are some club leagues that compete at higher levels.
To understand the overall breakout, see the image below.
While most of the league information provided is mainly applicable to the Women’s programs. Men’s hockey in Japan is very prevalent and competitive. There are a lot more teams, and about 7-8 compete in the top division each year. Company, University, and Club teams are all highly competitive, and compete amongst each other, whereas the Women’s division divides the leagues by team-type.
Japan’s Top League runs from April through December. With the June-August Summer Olympic Games affecting the schedule this year, the Japanese season is usually one of the longest seasons in field hockey. There are other unique tournaments, like the National Sports Festival in October, the All Japan League in December, and even the Gryphon Tokyo Cup which our own Uru/Gryphon World Team competed at in February.
With having such a long season in the Top League, some players travel, play, and train with the national team throughout, and there are other unique travel opportunities. After the All Japan League at the end of December, the teams have a few weeks for off-season, before they begin preseason again at the end of January through March.
According to Yamada, company teams begin recruiting in February and March to find the best talent for the following season. Teams may be looking now for their next players to begin in January 2021. If you’re interested in learning more about Japanese clubs and programs, or if you want to apply to a new position, login here to the Uru App.
Want to learn more about hockey in Japan? Log into the Uru App today to see more information on leagues, teams, players, and programs.
Club logos and details provided by Japan Hockey League