The Surprising Similarities of Sports Fandom in India and Japan

The World’s 5 Most Popular Sports
The World’s 5 Most Popular Sports

While long-standing trade partners and the leading nations of an effort to make the Asia Pacific region an open market, few would say that India and Japan have much in common. One is vastly larger than the other, while the other is vastly more developed. However, sports have a way of bringing out very similar passions in people regardless of their origin. And there are certainly similarities to be drawn from the top sports and the fan interests in both nations.

The imported bat and ball sport that India made its own

Cricket arrived in India in the 18th Century, brought to the nation by the British. At the time, Test cricket was all that was played, and while India was able to be competitive. However, it wasn’t until the advent of One Day International cricket that the nation found its true calling. Coming into the sport in the 1970s, India quickly established itself in the short-form. With the tipping point being the 1983 Cricket World Cup triumph over the indomitable West Indies.

Interest in short-form cricket grew further when India won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007. With the national cricket board deciding the lean into the success of the national team. In 2007, the high-powered, super-show that is the IPL was founded. With the champions of each of the seasons earning millions of viewers and celebrity status across India. Now, 93 percent of India’s 766 million sports viewers tune into cricket, which is about half of the population.

The imported bat and ball sport that Japan covets

Over in Japan, bat and ball reign supreme also, but not in the form of cricket. While India was influenced by the British in the 18th Century, the Japanese were influenced by Americans in the 19th Century. However, baseball did not really come into force as a national sport until 1950. When enough teams had been forged to create two leagues, which is now under the Nippon Professional Baseball banner.

A major propellant of baseball in Japan was corporate sponsorship. Pumping money into the system to create a better grade of talent and competition. The sport as it was some 50 years ago, when compared to the MLB in the US, continues to appeal to highly-valued qualities of Japanese culture. Virtues such as discipline, teamwork, perseverance, and loyalty to one’s club – both from players and fans. Now, the NPB is the most popular sports organization in Japan. Boasting around 27 million fans or one-fifth of the total population.

Modern sports with modern fans

Unlike what we’ll see below, neither baseball nor cricket is native or particularly long-standing sports. At least in terms of popularity – in either Japan or India. Both appeal to modern sports fans in the nations. Particularly because they have been held to a more cultural preference rather than the old ways or the new standards set in the nations of origin.

Online platforms recognize that these sporting hotbeds boast modern fans. And that even though baseball and cricket are dominant, they’re not the only sports that fans follow. So, the online betting platform for all sports translates its site entirely for Japanese sports fans. While others offer bonuses in Indian rupees. Still offering the service in English as a great deal of the Indian population speaks the language.

Great respect and fandom of the ancient sports

While the imported bat and ball sports reign supreme in both India and Japan, it is the ancient sports that rank second in both sports-crazed nations. In Japan, the second most popular sport is sumo wrestling. With its six annual tournaments, the structure of six divisions, and emphasis on continued success for promotion continuing to draw in spectators. In India, it’s all about kabaddi, which has been revitalized recently.

In 2014, the Pro Kabaddi League commenced somewhat quietly. But now, it is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. The sport itself has been around since ancient times, but the physicality and short nature of games still lend it to sports fans. Both the PKL and Japan’s sumo tournament structure draw in the best players of the sport from around the world, as shown by Iranian Fazel Atrachali coming to the PKL and Mongolian Hakuhō Shō being the grand champion of sumo wrestling.

Both modern greats of these two sports markets are bat and ball games, and yet there is a deep, ongoing love of ancient contests, so in these ways, Japanese and Indian sports fandom draws some similarities.

Garima Tomar

Senior Software Development Analyst at an IT firm

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