Osaka is also known as the home of a large number of professional sports teams and a frequent host to major amateur events such as world championships and major Japanese competitions. With the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics Osaka 2007 in August, the sporting fever is running high in Osaka.
Osaka is the home of a large number of professional sports teams. There is also no lack of major sporting venues, which provide ample opportunities for numerous people to watch various live sporting events. This in turn has resulted in greater fan support, the driving force behind Osaka’s identity as a place of sports.
The first among Osaka’s iconic professional sports would be baseball.‘Hanshin Tigers’ and ‘Orix Baseball Club’ both use an Osaka ballpark as one of their home stadiums.
Professional baseball is so beloved by many Japanese people that a discussion of the results of the previous night’s game serves as a greeting for many people. When Hanshin Tigers won the league championship in 2005, a party atmosphere swept the entire Osaka. The effect spread to the economy as well, attracting nationwide attention.
Osaka is also the top producer of professional baseball managers, coaches and players. By nurturing numerous talented players, Osaka has served as a cornerstone of Japanese baseball, displaying its strength by winning the first-ever 2006 World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Osaka is also the home of 2 teams of J. League (Japan professional football league), ‘Gamba Osaka’ and ‘Cerezo Osaka’.
Gamba Osaka is one of Japan’s top teams, winning its first-ever league championship in 2005. 5 of the Japanese national team members in the 2006 FIFA World Cup GermanyTM were from Gamba Osaka, and some its alumni have gone onto well-known clubs abroad.
‘Osaka Evessa’ won the inaugural league championship of the Japanese professional basketball league, ｂｊ league (Professional Basketball Japan), launched in 2005.
In Japan volleyball league, ‘V. League’, ‘Sakai Blazers’ and 2 other men’s teams out of the total of 8 are based in Osaka. An Osaka-based women’s team, ‘JT Marvelous’, is also active.
Osaka has also hosted many international championships, including World Judo Championships, World Table Tennis Championships, ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and IAAF Japan Grand Prix.
Osaka is also known for amateur athletics. In particular, the ‘National High School Baseball Championship’, held in spring and summer, is a popular national tournament with televised coverage for every game. The event started in 1915 as the ‘National Middle School Baseball Championship’ and was held in Osaka’s Toyonaka Stadium.
49 regional champions battle for the top spot in this tournament-style event, and the prefecture of Osaka is home to a number of perennial powerhouse schools that stands first in the spring-summer cumulative total.
The ‘National High School Rugby Tournament’, which determines the best high school rugby team in the country, is also held every year in ‘Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Stadium’ in Higashiosaka City, Osaka.
Student athletes nationwide train all year in hope of reaching “Hanazono”. The first full-fledged rugby stadium in Japan, Hanazono is sometimes called the ‘rugby Mecca’ and is a household name.