Japanese Soccer Fans: Following the Local and
the National Team
In John Horne and Wolfram Manzenreiter(eds.)(2002)Japan, Korea and
the 2002 World Cup, pp.133 - 144, London, Routledge.
It is clear that after the birth of the professional soccer league
in Japan (the J.League) in 1993, soccer has raised various issues
not only on the pitch, but also related to other aspects
including the management of professional soccer clubs and the establishment
of relationships with franchises. Holding the 2002 World Cup and
making preparations for it mean being subject to FIFA regulations
and an invasion of soccer fans from around the world.
Japan and Korea will soon be engulfed by the huge wave of a sporting
mega-event equal to, if not larger than, that of the Olympic Games.
One of the considerations after the event will be the extent to
which the diverse soccer cultures participating in the World Cup
will help create new forms of play and support or change those forms
that have developed in Japan and Korea in the past decade. One of
the most important aspects of wider soccer culture worth studying
is the characteristics of soccer supporter cultures. In this paper,
I discuss some of the most significant features of soccer supporter
cultures and subcultures in Japan. It is based on interviews, small
sample surveys, observations and participant observation. It focuses
on the behaviour of the supporters of just one J.League team, the
Urawa Red Diamonds (hereafter Urawa Reds), who enthusiastically
cheer on the club in organized groups that approximately consists
of 15,000 participants, the largest in the J.League.
The paper will firstly provide some background to the team. Next
I will make some brief comments on how I went about analysing soccer
supporter cultures in Japan, in contrast with Western European traditions,
especially in England. As one of my main concerns was to let the
fans speak for themselves about the significance of soccer in their
lives, I utilise interviews and observations of Urawa Reds fans
at home and abroad following the national team to help us tell the
story. The paper concludes with some further reflections on the
contrasts with other studies of soccer supporter cultures.
Japans Man. United
Urawa is a northern suburb in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, in Saitama
prefecture, approximately forty minutes by train from Tokyo central
railway station, with a population of 480,000 people. On 1 May 2001
Saitama City itself was established through the amalgamation of
Urawa, Ômiya and Yono the combined population of this
new city over 1 million. Urawa Red Diamonds began as Mitsubishi
Heavy Industries Football Club in the company-team Japan Soccer
League (JSL) established in 1965. Mitsubishi were not unsuccessful
during this period winning the championship four times in
1969, 1973, 1978, and 1982 but as with other JSL teams they
could not develop as a truly independent soccer club without changes
in the wider infrastructure. Even when the J.League kicked-off in
1993, and despite one of the J.League conditions of acceptance being
that company names did not predominate, the chief company sponsor,
Mitsubishi, did not completely relinquish its name from the team.
For most of the 1990s Urawa were known as Mitsubishi Urawa Reds,
and it is only since 2001 that the team have adopted the name Urawa
Red Diamonds on their shirt badge. The name Red Diamonds
still refers to the companys logo of the three stacked diamonds
that combines the three oak leaves of the Tosa crest and an allusion
to the three ships, borrowed from the Tosa in 1870, that laid the
foundation of the Mitsubishi Shipping Industry.(Mitsubishi sôgyô
hyaku-nen kinen jigyô iinkai, 1970, p.3)
At the start of the J.League Urawa promised to be the Manchester
United of Japan. Wearing the same shirt colours, consequently
utilising the nickname The Reds, attracting considerable
passionate support, and importing European, especially German, coaches
and players such as Guido Buchwald and Uwe Rahn, Urawa were meant
to go places. While other J.League teams have often struggled to
even half fill their stadia, Urawa has had little trouble in filling
Komaba Stadium. When attending a home game at Komaba, one always
realizes that a soccer stadium is a place where various cultures
interact. Shouts and chants from the Urawa Boys, which is the core
groups name of the Urawa Reds supporters, echo throughout
the stadium. The cheer Warrior, based on a song for the professional
wrestling tag team champions (1992) of Terry Gody and Steve Williams
(had popularized in Japanese TV show, but originated from rock group
Kiss) is very popular. Like England supporters during the World
Cup in France in 1998, Reds fans also sing the up-tempo theme
song from the film The Great Escape, composed by Elmer Bernstein:
Here we go! We are the Reds! La, la, la. La, la, la, la. La, la!
Here we go! We want a goal! La, la, la. La, la, la, la. Reds!
(Repeated again and again)
Other cheers are performed in French:
Allez, allez, allez au Urawa! Allez, allez, allez au Urawa!
Allez, allez, allez, hi! Allez, allez, allez, hi!
Allez, allez, allez au Urawa!
The area behind the goal (end) is a space of wild enthusiasm
and excitement. Fans become fascinated, pursue pleasure and throw
themselves into cheering. Using all parts of the body, supporters
jump up and down, clap hands and never cease to shout to the voices
of their leaders. In the midst of this fervent carnival, nobody
is aware of the creolization process of diverse cultures which are
represented by the songs and chants made from different languages,
the rituals of supporting habits and soccer cultures own origins.
Then, with loud music blaring, the players enter the pitch. Precisely
at that moment, a large vertical red, white and black banner with
a red heart-mark in the center, in which the figure 12
is emblazoned (representing the supporters), is hung from the second
balcony of the stands, and supporters turn their eyes to the players
while watching the curtain. Be the twelfth player in the stadium
requested the J.League when it kicked off in 1993. Urawa fans appear
to need no more encouragement:
Urawa Reds! Cha, cha, cha-cha-cha! (Clapping hands)
Urawa Reds! Cha, cha, cha-cha-cha! (Clapping hands)
Then, several men standing close to the leader of Urawa Boys begin
to set off smoke candles. Guards try to stop them, but another group
of supporters prevent them from approaching the men. Cameramen near
the pitch, always searching for dramatic photos, rush over in an
attempt to take pictures of the scene. While watching the scene,
supporters in the bleachers continue cheering and turn their attention
to the kickoff.
Yet Urawa has not performed as well on the pitch as their ambitions
or their support would suggest. In fact they were the first of the
J.League founder teams to be relegated at the end of 1999 when promotion
and relegation was formally introduced between J1 and J2 Leagues.
They only stayed in J2 for one season however and attendances in
J2 reached their highest average ever thanks to the devotees of
the Urawa Reds.
Violence and representation by Urawa Reds supporters
Relegation at the end of 1999 drove Urawa Reds supporters towards
ever more reckless acts, as their discontent had become a source
of their energy. In fact Urawa Reds supporters have been represented
as hooligans, or unruly fans, since the start of the
J.League in 1993. In 1994 the Reds last game of the season
took place at Toyama Stadium, Yokohama Marinos defeated the Reds
6-3. The next day, one newspaper article was published with the
heading Urawa let in six goals. Supporters go wild!
and the subheading The manager should quit. Riot in grounds
(Nikkan Sports, 20 November 1994). Having lost four consecutive
games, the players bowed to their fans in apology. Soon after, the
supporters started to express their anger towards the manager, 51
years old Yokoyama Kenzô. Resign, Kenzô!
they shouted repeatedly. Then they lit smoke candles and threw empty
cans and trash. The stadium was thrown into an uproar. Nearly 30
supporters broke out onto the pitch and, despite the efforts of
the team officials and security guards, they made their way to outside
the locker rooms, shouting, Hand in your resignation, Kenzô!
and Come out and apologize! Fortunately the riot quietened
down in about 10 minutes after Urawa defenders Taguchi Yoshinori,
29, and Ikeda Futoshi, 24, went out to speak to the fans to try
and calm them down (Nikkan Sports, 20 November 1994).
Disruptive acts by Urawa Reds supporters have continued to gain
public attention. Headlines such as Coins thrown at Fukuda
(an Urawa Reds forward), and Radical supporters lose it!
featured in newspapers in 1997. When the team lost four consecutive
games it was reported that nearly 500 supporters threw raw
eggs and coins at Fukuda Masahiro as he was getting on a bus to
leave the stadium (Nikkan Sports, 8 May 1997). Also, when
Reds supporters responded to apparent provocation by Nagoya supporters
and raided the supporters seats behind the Nagoya goal it
led to the headline, 30 people riot in Nagoya (Nikkan
Sports, 11 May 1997). On 29 July 2000, while Urawa Reds were playing
in Hokkaidô against Consadole Sapporo, Reds supporters lit
smoke candles and threw plastic bottles at spectators in the Consadole
section. After the game, they chased a cameraman who was filming
them onto the pitch.
Clearly media coverage, especially newspaper reports, has helped
to shape an image of Reds supporters. Furthermore, many books about
the Urawa Reds (Crazy Calls and Todoroki, 1994; Ôsumi, 1998;
Yamaoka, 1998; Yoshizawa, 1998; Toyota, 2000; Yamanaka, 2000; Seio,
2001) have reconfirmed these events and sustained the image of Reds
supporters as unruly. Some of the books emphasized the distinctive
masculinity and image of delinquency concerned in soccer
supporters culture. These books may have become one of the
main factors in attracting supporters to the Urawa Reds in recent
years (Shimizu, 2000).
Making sense of soccer supporting, and the Match Day Program
Despite apparent similarities, the actions of the Urawa Reds supporters
need to be understood in a different way than the hooliganism often
observed in Britain from the 1960s onwards (Dunning, Murphy and
Williams, 1988; Williams, Dunning and Murphy, 1984; Murphy, Williams
and Dunning, 1990). In my view it is necessary for us to approach
the behaviour of Japanese soccer supporters from a perspective other
than that which concentrates purely on the violence alone. As concrete
case studies, based on ethnographic research into the lived experiences
of soccer supporters clearly demonstrate (Marsh, 1978; Marsh, Rosser
and Harré, 1978; Ogasawara, 1998; Giulianotti, 1999, Robson,
2000), soccer supporter culture behaviour should be considered from
the light of research on youth cultures and subcultures and the
relationship with norms of masculinity (Cohen, 1973; Clarke et al.,
1976; Taylor, 1982). This is particularly true in the Japanese case.
Historically, Japanese subcultures often were created in line with
perceived images taken from Europe and America. A similar process
shaped the emergence of soccer supporters culture in the 1990s
when ardent fans started to fuse rock music and fashion with soccer
and professional wrestling. Urawa Reds fans sometimes communicate
their ways of cheering and opinions to the club through Match Day
Program (MDP) that is such a semi-fanzine. MDP is edited by Saitama
Newspapers MDP Editorial Office and is sold for 300 yen every
time when the Urawa Reds have a game at Komaba Stadium. According
to a small investigation carried out in April 1998, 80.6% of fans
attending games purchase MDP. (This figure was obtained by polling
people lining up at the gates for a match. As the total number of
people polled was only 216 it cannot be considered as truly representativesee
Shimizu and Iida (1999) for further discussion).
In MDP, Urawa Reds players, tactics, and the teams point of
view are introduced. In addition, staff members from the MDP editorial
office suggest how cheering should best be done. Featured articles
refer to the memories and impressions that newspapers and books
have created. MDP also includes opinions on the supporters
actions, while supporters themselves can exchange views amongst
each other about the team. Hence the program is likely to be the
most convenient and reliable source of information for Reds
supporters who frequent Komaba Stadium. MDP also helps supporters
think about and act on the opinions of others (Saitama Shimbun,
1998). In fact, after the season dramatically ended in 1994, the
Reds team had an MDP Special Edition published to explain
the club management and policy of the then manager, Yokoyama Kenzô.
Also this edition included supporters contributions. Indeed,
MDP may have been established precisely as an attempt to stop any
violence from happening. In practice, however, this is hardly possible.
For some supporters, it is very hard to keep calm when their favourite
team keeps losing or when the team is playing a game that may decide
their place in the league rankings. With rising frustration levels,
they often act on it, ignoring all rules and regulations.
On the Withered Lawn
Since April 1998, I have been closely following a supporters group
called Kareta shiba no ue de (On the Withered Lawn),
which consists of 50(include 15 female members) born between 1959
and 1978 and which are led by a man born in 1968. On the Withered
Lawn formed following the breakup of the Crazy Calls,
was fanatical group that cheered on the Urawa Reds before the Urawa
Leader of the Crazy Calls was a man called Yoshizawa Kôichi.
The key man of the Urawa Reds supporters developed his ideas by
drawing on knowledge of spectacular subcultures, like rock and punk
cultures in Britain. In 1994, in The Red Book. The fighting twelfth
players of The Reds,Yoshizawa explained:
I began to target young people, especially teenagers, as they
tend to be more sensitive, but I only focused on boys. (
Why did I focus on teenage boys? Whatever you start to like or become
enthusiastic about when you are a teenager, you tend to carry on
liking it even when you get older. (
) Something that a man
will like in the future is usually introduced when he is young.
) I researched what would really appeal to teenage boys,
and then I realized that there was a common theme, delinquency.
In the Fifties, there was Elvis Presley and James Dean, and in the
Sixties, the Beatles and The Rolling Stones represented the Counter
Culture. The Punk movement took over in the 70s with
The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The theme delinquency
always came up when I thought about what young people were enthusiastic
about over the century. Of course, from an adults point of
view, the very word delinquent does not sound very good,
but I think young people use the word to describe something cool.
Crazy Calls focused on those people who wanted to be cool, and they
stimulated people into realizing that soccer is an exciting and
great sport (Crazy Calls and Todoroki, 1994, pp. 120-122).
He also commented that,
We decided that we should attract attention to ourselves as
supporters, and therefore we should be introduced to the media as
Crazy Calls. (Crazy Calls and Todoroki, 1994, p. 129)
Yoshizawa and his fellow Crazy Calls concentrated on chants using
lyrics and rhythms that derived from rock, and strived hard to develop
exciting performance schemes of high visual appeal. Yoshizawa explained
that the actual chants were:
based on rock music, because rock has always been popular
in Urawa. We also referred to hit tunes, and changed the lyrics
so that they would rhyme. (Crazy Calls and Todoroki, 1994,
The resulting form was a kind of macho behaviour, partly borrowed
from rock subcultures, and occasionally demonstrating a violent
form of masculinity. The image of delinquent men became
a kind of marketing strategy to sustain media interest.
At the same time, Crazy Calls style grew popular among many
of the supporters.
A male university student (born in 1978) who also became a member
of On the Withered Lawn after his membership in Crazy Calls told
The reason why the supporters attract people is that they
try to purposefully project a macho image. It does not mean that
everyone should be macho, but there are some people who still want
to try to do that. ... I have been a supporter ever since the first
year of the J.League, so five years now. I think I am more macho
without realizing it. This must be the difference between someone
who aims to be a supporter and someone who has long wanted to be
one. I am not saying that women are not good enough, but the people
you can rely on in case of an emergency are either young people
or men in their 20s and 30s. In such cases, physical strength is
needed and this is connected to fighting power, although I do not
want to think that way too much. ... As society is becoming less
macho, there is more desire to be macho. But we know there would
be problems if we took things even further such as excluding women
from society. (Interview, 4 May 1998)
Wives and girlfriends of the On the Withered Lawn about
5 members usually sit behind the men who always take up their position
standing in two lines at the terrace behind the goal. Watching the
men while chatting amongst themselves, the women never mingle with
the men, neither at the stadium nor in Sakagura Riki
(Sake Cellar Riki), the main drinking establishment
of Urawa Reds supporters. Urawa Reds supporters regularly go to
Rikis following a match to chill down from the excitement
and (especially during 1999 when most of the field-work for this
paper was undertaken) soothe each others disappointment after
losing a game. Rikis is also used by supporters as a rest
place to refresh in preparation for their return to daily life the
next day, as the pre-match ritual for the most dedicated fans includes
waiting in line all night long, drinking alcohol, and standing and
cheering throughout the match. For those who cannot see the match
live, it is a place to get together with the supporters who did
see it after getting off work. Some among the keenest supporters
have moved to live near to Komaba Stadium and Rikis so that
they can meet with other supporter friends, drink and discuss the
Reds and other soccer related subjects and return home late on foot
or by bicycle.
Allez Japon! Japanese soccer supporters abroad
During the 1988 World Cup in France, for the first time elements
of the Japanese soccer supporters culture in action abroad
become visible to a global audience. A substantial number of Japanese
fans flew to France, a flight of some 12 hours, only to discover
that many of them did not have tickets for any of the matches. One
product of the ticket scandal, when some thousands of Japanese were
left without a valid ticket in France, led to an image of Japanese
fans as eager to pay exorbitant sums to watch their team. Some sections
of the local media criticized the Japanese for profligate spending.
After such a long distance journey, however, it is understandable
that many wanted to get into see the games they thought they had
already paid to see! Television and newspapers reported Japanese
fans walking around soccer stadiums holding pieces of paper with
the words Need Ticket on it written in English or French,
and negotiating with ticket scalpers (see Asahi Shimbun, 14 and
20 June 1998; also Nikkei Weekly, 8 October 2001). Hence, when Japans
national team played its first match, against Argentina in Toulouse,
Japanese supporters occupied 70 per cent of the regular seats in
a stadium with a seating capacity of 36,500. An additional 10,000
or so Japanese supporters gathered at a park near the stadium to
watch a virtual World Cup match projected on to a large
screen (Asahi Shimbun, 15 June 1998). Allez Japon, and
cheers for individual players were heard all over the place for
over one hour before the kickoff (Asahi Shimbun, evening edition,
15 June 1998). One player commented afterwards, I felt as
if I were standing in the National Stadium in Tokyo.
When there were no matches scheduled, Japanese supporters rushed
to shop at famous brand stores or do some sightseeing. A luxury
shop in Lyon, where the match with Jamaica was held, introduced
a special shift for Japanese shoppers; increasing the number of
Japanese sales staff and changing the assortment of goods to match
the taste of Japanese people. Apparently successful, as it was reported
that sales tripled (Asahi Shimbun, evening edition, 26 June 1998).
What significance did the 1998 World Cup have for the Japanese supporters?
Irrespective of the Japanese teams victory or defeat, they
went sightseeing and shopping. While some male supporters professed
themselves to be delinquent and tried to portray their
Japaneseness by wearing, for example, a karate outfit,
most of them rather performed as mainstream Japanese by acting in
the same way as the average Japanese travel group. As Japanese supporters
were most likely to be encountered in this particular style, it
can be concluded that their behaviour sustained a distinctive characteristic
of the Japanese people abroad; the tendency to settle for passive
self-satisfaction, arguably also represented by the performance
of the few Japanese professional athletes who have hesitated to
Ultra Nippon: travelling with the national team
Every time one of Japans national football teams includes
Urawa Reds players, a group of Urawa Reds supporters sets out on
tour to watch the team play, even if the match is played faraway.
As English journalist Jonathan Birchall (2000, pp. 209-210) noted
in his study of Ultra Nippon, the hardcore Japanese
national team supporters group:
Dedicated European fans might make a few trips to Rome or London
or Stockholm, but Japanese national team fans are in a frequent-flying
category all of their own
.one company was offering supporters
a trip to see the away game against Kazakhstan in Almaty on what
was advertised as a three days no nights basis. The lucky fans were
to leave Japan on a Friday, travel overnight to the game on Saturday,
and leave immediately so that they could get back to Japan on Sunday
in time for work on Monday.
I was able to witness the involvement of a group of Urawa Reds
supporters at another qualifying match for the Sydney Olympic Games,
held in Hong Kong in June 1999. A male member of the group purchased
two Japanese flags (hinomaru) before the match. When a guard refused
to allow him to pass the gate with the flag affixed to the poles,
he removed the flags from the poles and wrapped them around his
body. At each national team match, he told me, he wore a black Adidas
soccer cap and his fellow Urawa Reds supporters wore blue T-shirts
that matched the national team colours. On the T-shirts was the
logo in honour of their favourite drinking place, Sakagura Riki,
as well as a large hinomaru mark on the front and the Japanese characters
Urawa and riki (literally, force)
on the back. A pair of baggy trousers completed the away team supporters
Upon entering the stadium in Hong Kong, the group stood in line,
held up a large banner with the hinomaru mark in the center and
written Lets go in high spirits! Lets shout to
one another! Lets act as samurai and the sons of Nippon!
Next, following their leader, an individual dressed in a karate
uniform with a hinomaru mark embroidered on the breast and hakama
(i.e., Japanese-style trousers), hand-sued by his wife, shouted
another order: Spread the large banner!, and the horizontal
banner was unfurled. At that moment, many cameramen rushed over
and focused their cameras on the spectacular scene. Their wives
and girlfriends also smiled for the cameras, although in Hong Kong,
too, the women followed their habitual convention of watching the
match while sitting apart from the male supporter group. In fact,
after the game female fans went to the lobby of the Japan national
teams hotel and enjoyed the thrill of having their pictures
taken with players and getting autographsof course, most of
the players they were interested in, were members of the Urawa Reds.
Just before the start of the match, Urawa Reds supporters with Ultra
supporters began singing the theme song from the NHK (Nihon Hôsô
Kyôkai, or Japanese National Broadcasting Corporation) TV
drama Monokaki Dôshin Inemuri Monzô, entitled Genki
dashite yukô [Lets go in high spirits]. This television
drama serial highlights the traditional narratives in Japan that
governed relations between male and female, husband and wife, father
and daughter, and mother and daughter during the Edo era (1603-1868).
A few key lyrics quoted from the drama were written on the large
horizontal banner the supporters held. These displays were clearly
conducted with the expectation that the mass media, especially TV
cameras and newspapers, would cover them and bring the groups
activities to the attention of the wider Japanese public.
The Urawa Reds supporters visit to Hong Kong was a 4-day package
tour, during which the members could watch two qualifying matches.
As spare time was ample, the group usually displayed a behaviour
similar to the activities of the Japanese supporters in France.
In other words, this supporters tour was in many ways similar
to other sightseeing tours that Japanese people usually take when
holidaying abroad (Chon et al, 2000). When not at the matches, the
group boarded a bus and took in the main sightseeing attractions
in Hong Kong with the help of a local guide; meals had been prearranged
in special restaurants. Almost all of the members of this tour also
participated in similar group package tours to watch the qualifying
matches and Finals of the 1998 World Cup.
Moment of resistance?
As previously stated, the leaders of the Urawa Reds supporters set
their sights on presenting interesting and stimulating visual
images (Crazy Calls and Todoriki, 1994, p. 122) based on their
understanding of various subcultures in America and Britain and
mainly focused on one factor, delinquency. Even the
clothes and styles of fashion worn by the Urawa Boys, is influenced
by this way of thinking. The recent styles of performance of Urawa
Boys are based on those of supporters in Serie A, Italy. Today,
Urawa Reds most fanatical supporters spend every moment entranced
in the carnival. Not caring about the real meanings,
they call out mixed up chants, songs and performances derived from
English and Italian soccer fans, simply indulging in the pleasure
that cheering the team on gives them (Giulianotti, 1999).
However, when it comes to cheering on the national team, the group
focuses on cheers that are based on their Japaneseness,
or their sense of Japaneseness; for example, by displaying the lyrics
of the theme song from the popular Japanese television drama on
their horizontal banner. For them, tying the hinomaru flag around
the body is part of a performance. Kawabuchi Saburô, chairman
of the J.League, has suggested that for some Japanese soccer supporters,
soccer has become connected to their sense of national identity:
But thats something different from the militarism and
patriotism that we had during the war years. I think it is a good
kind of national awareness. These days, watching soccer may be the
only time when people think about their nationality. (quoted
in Birchall, 2000, p. 212)
In domestic competitions it can seem, superficially at least, that
by their actions even Urawas most fanatical supporters are
discontented with the Urawa Reds team and club. I would argue however
that perhaps the basis of their irritation is really their latent
feelings about the conditions in the companies they work for and
the Japanese work environment in general. In everyday life, cultural
conventions prevent them from expressing their feelings in a straightforward
way, which were neither Japanese behaviour nor proper
male conduct. As they all have been socialised to believe
that their behaviour should be seen as strictly Japanese,
they follow this idea, even when cheering on the Urawa Reds. Particularly
on the pitch, when TV cameras and the nationwide audience watches
every move of the group, they are eager not to infringe the public
expectations. In addition, the media are most salient in transporting
and constructing role models of proper male Japanese conduct.
The work-centredness of contemporary Japanese society remains a
major influence on the Japanese at play. It can be argued that for
the Urawa Reds supporters discontent stemming from work and the
norms of masculine behaviour in Japan are the inspiration behind
their leisure time behaviour. Their actions take place in a social
environment where the dominant factor is a conservative consciousness
that tries to maintain a consensual social system based on harmonious
judgment (Watanabe, 2000, p. 261). This can also be demonstrated
by the fact that rather than simply cheering on play on the pitch,
some supporters believe that they are better deployed in cooperating
with the administration of their club to create a better club. That
is to say, supporters are attracted to the notion of soccer, and
the J.League in particular, as a grand social experiment in which
their choices and actions will lead to the creation of an ideal
club. As one supporter, an employee of a major general contractor,
commented to me,
Im more interested in creating a better environment
than watching soccer games, like working on the operational aspects
such as improving the pitch grass for the Urawa Reds players.
(Interview, 12-14 June 1999.
People do not just go to Komaba Stadium to be reminded of the impressions
and memories of Reds matches or actions taken by supporters. Most
of what might be called the silent minority go there
with their own thoughts and feelings towards the team. One male
worker, born in 1950 near to Urawa and still living there, has been
a passionate supporter since 1994. He loves photographs and carries
around albums with close-up photos of players. He also has an album
exclusively featuring two of Urawas most famous players
Okano Masayuki and Ono Shinji (who played for Feyenoord Rotterdam
in 2001). Some of the photos even have players autographs.
He told me how his commitment to the team developed:
Whenever some players or their wives or even their children
see my wife or I, they always talk to us. There is warmth between
us since we recognize and call out to each other. It makes me happy
to realize that I am a supporter. Some players ask me about my son
and daughter, saying Is your daughter here today? I
dont really understand soccer though. My wife is more into
it. She was watching games when players who represented Japan were
playing. I wasnt. Maybe its difficult to understand
it unless youre really into it. In my case, Im just
a supporter. But because of the photos Ive taken, many people
talk to me and then we become friends. I think whoever is a supporter
finds it addictive, like, I want to see it again.
(Interview, 4 May 1998)
From his comments, it is evident that he enjoys supporting soccer
for the opportunity it provides him to expand his social network
of friendships. The feeling of being connected with players is also
a key aspect of being a supporter.
Another of the members of On the Withered Lawn, a man
born in Urawa City in 1964, who is a graduate of a private university
in Tokyo and works as an employee of a major general contractor,
I feel I should not just work all the time. Im calm
when Im working because Im not involved in production.
My job is to sort out companies that are not doing well as the result
of the collapse of the bubble economy, so I am in the position to
discuss and not to be dismissed. I used to work onsite before, as
the company often constructed tunnels. I tried to get my wife interested
in soccer in the beginning, but she couldnt get into it. (He
laughs). She just told me to do whatever I liked. I wont have
anything if soccer is taken away from me. It doesnt mean that
soccer is the main thing besides work, but I can afford to do what
I want to do.
As for how I feel, soccer obviously wins over work. No matter how
hard you try at work, everything depends on capability. Work isnt
forever. I could even get fired as the result of restructuring,
so I dont feel happy belonging to the company. Ideally, it
would be nice to be acknowledged as an individual so that I could
proudly say I am being useful for the company and get a reasonable
salary. Our legal residence is Urawa City, and I want to bring up
my children in Urawa, stay in the region, watch soccer and live
with pride in my hometown, even though we are not in Urawa at present.
Urawa is said to be a model for the J.League. ... But there are
many things that others cant imitate. As I said before, it
used to be a kingdom of soccer (especially the All Japan High School
Championship). I think those people in their 30s are the ones supporting
the team at present, together with some young people. (Interview,
12-14 June 1999)
Through a series of illustrations of the behaviour, at home and
abroad, of members of one of the more flamboyant supporters groups
in the J.League, this paper has offered a glimpse into how various
popular cultures, such as fashion and music, have been incorporated
into Japanese soccer supporter cultures. Members involvement
as supporters is constructed out of a variety of elements of their
daily life. Will it be possible through the J.League project to
establish a regional sports club system and continue to operate
it by virtue of the power of the people? Will the supporters
break away from the populist as articulated by dominant
political influences, and become truly independent as a popular
group, forming a consensus of opinion and thereby putting popular
democracy into practice? Taking into consideration the present
political situation in Japan in terms of political history and new
conservatism, it is not a particularly favorable climate. Nonetheless,
at least in the J.League, the 100 Year Revolution has
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Satoshi Shimizu is associate professor of sociology of sport and
body culture studies at the University of Tsukuba. He has been studying
modernization of the body, and also researching baseball and soccer
in Japanese cultural contexts. He is author of Archaeology of Koshien
baseball (1998, in Japanese).