News On Japan

Ranking the Top Sport Stars: The Most Popular and Famous Japanese Athletes

May 08 (News On Japan) - "Every time I have a dream, somehow I accomplish it." These are the words of Naomi Osaka, a remarkable tennis player from Japan.

Consistently being in the top 10 medal-winning nations, Japan remains one of the most dominant nations at the Olympic Games. The country's significant emphasis on physical education and sports, together with government funding of top athletes and sports initiatives, are all factors that have contributed to the success of many famous Japanese athletes in the international sports scene.

Japanese professional athletes

Some of these athletes are among the world's best players, having won international contests and championships on a consistent basis in the most popular sports in Japan, while others have been selected to represent Japan's national team across several sports and played in the Olympics among elite sportsmen from other nations.

"Most Famous and Successful" here refers to stars who have been recognized both nationally and internationally for their noteworthy accomplishments in their respective sports. Japanese sportsmen are regarded as renowned if they hold medals from major international tournaments like the Olympics, World Cup, or other major events. Who are the most famous athletes right now and in what sports do they compete? Let’s find out!

1. Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki, sometimes known as "Ichiro," is well-known across the world for his remarkable abilities and accomplishments in Japan’s most popular sport, baseball. He was the first player of Japanese descent to achieve major league success, and is recognized as one of the greatest hitters in the history.

Ichiro is one of the popular athletes who have intrigued baseball fans worldwide. In fact, his performances have inspired many Asians to bet on baseball on platforms such as Betvisa and other bookmakers. However, sports betting is not the only thing you can find on the Betvisa website, you can also find tips and resources that can help punters discover better odds, bonuses, and more. You can also discover betting tips and recommendations from tipsters like Evelyn Balyton, that will help you make informed wagers.

Fact: Moving on, Ichiro is an AL MVP (American League Most Valuable Player), a ten-time Gold Glove winner, and has featured in ten-time All Star teams.

Even though he retired from baseball in 2019 with the Seattle Mariners, he is still adored by people worldwide, and regarded as a legend in baseball, as well as one of the greatest Japanese athletes of all-time.

2. Ohtani Shohei

World-famous baseball star Ohtani Shohei, also known as "Shotime," was born in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan and began playing baseball, in the third year of elementary school.

With his "two-faced" style of pitching and hitting, Shohei continues to deliver, and he became the first player since the great Bart Rose to record two digits wins and home runs in a single season. It wasn’t heard for many years that a pitcher could be seen in the batter's box for every game in professional baseball, especially in Japan and the US until Shohei came along.

He has been playing in the American League for the Los Angeles Angels since 2018. In addition, he received official selections as the MVP in 2021 and the rookie of the year in 2018. Having been acknowledged by Major League Baseball stars, he will be one of the cornerstones of athletics in the near future.

3. Naomi Osaka

Osaka is one of the most famous and successful athletes globally right now. Her mother is half Japanese, while her father is Haitian-American. She held dual citizenship with the United States and Japan until 2019, when she decided to become a Japanese citizen at the age of 22.

She became the first Asian tennis player, as well as the youngest tennis player, in history to be rated as the world's number one female tennis player in 2019 (since Serena Williams in 2002) at the age of only 21.

She has won several international tennis events and trophies during her professional career, including winning four Grand Slam titles in a row from 2018 to 2021. These titles comprises the 2019 and 2021 Australian Open, the 2018 and 2020 US Open, making her the first Japanese player to win the US Open championship title. In the tennis world, this achievement solidified her reputation as a reputable opponent. Osaka has also evolved into a cultural ambassador.

4. Hideki Matsuyama

In 2010, Matsuyama became the first-ever Japanese golfer to win the Asian Amateur Championship. In 2013, he became pro and won several domestic competitions and championships in Japan. 2014 saw Matsuyama's official entry into the world of international golf competitions following his graduation from university. In 2014, he won his first PGA Tour event in the Memorial Tournament, which took place in the US.

His professional golf career has been successful since then, and he has shown extraordinary talent by competing in some of the largest international events in the globe. His abilities on the green have earned him fame across the world. He is the first Japanese golfer to win a major title after winning multiple prestigious events, such as the Masters Tournament in 2021.

5. Yuzuru Hanyu

In the men's figure skating competition at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Yuzuru Hanyu, a well-known athlete, became the first Asian skater to win a gold medal. Among female followers, he has a princely popularity due to his charming appearance and remarkable skills.

It is uncommon for a figure skater to attain the kind of success that Yuzuru Hanyu has. His elegant moves and remarkable ice talents have enthralled spectators all over the world, making him a well-known figure skater from Japan. In both the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, he took home a gold medal in the men's single figure skating competition.

He dominated the global rankings for a long time. Next, he declared in a press conference on July 19, 2022, that "he would be working as a professional skater and would no longer be competing"; breaking the hearts of his admirers and well-wishers.

Factors Used for Ranking the Most Famous Athletes in Japan

The question of who the most famous Japanese athlete is will always be debated and discussed for decades to come. However, for the purpose of this article, the above athletes were ranked based on the parameters below:

  • International recognition
  • Media coverage
  • Cultural significance
  • Global impact
  • Achievements
  • Endorsements
  • Representation
  • Impact on sports culture
  • Societal impact
  • Inspirations for generations
  • Legacy

Final Thoughts

Despite differences in language or ethnicity, sports have a uniqueness for bringing people together. This is what popular sports in Japan and other parts of the world have done.

To quote Ichiro Suzuk: "I wanted the challenge of competing against the best players in the world."

Baseball gave him this chance, just as other sports have given the other professional players in this list a chance to compete globally.

Ultimately, success in sports depends largely on talents, perseverance, and hard work, and the athletes above have a combination of these factors.

Apart from the popular athletes above, there are others such as gymnast Kohei Uchimura, wrestler Hiroshi Hase, and Yuki Tsunoda, a racing driver currently competing in Formula One for the RB Formula One Team. These stars continue to flag their nation’s flag high across several sports and expand on the scope of what is achievable in sports.

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