Football season has officially begun. If catching up on the latest scores online, or watching games on cable television aren't enough to satisfy your fix there is good news. It is possible to watch live games here in Japan. "Live" as in, actually being able to attend games in person.
"Football?" "Do you mean soccer?" Are the most common responses I get when I begin to talk to people about football here in Japan. Better known as "American Football" in most countries, and "Gridiron" Down Under, the sport is alive and well here in the Land of the Rising Sun. Football, just "Football" as we Americans like to call it has a suprisingly long and decorated history here in Japan. The first game was played between two university teams in 1934. Today, the sport is played nationwide at 114 high schools, 220 universities, and 61 corporately sponsored club/company teams in the X-League.
Game rules are based on, and mirror those of the NCAA in the United States. The regular season usually starts the last week of August and culminates in the national championship game on January 3rd.
The top level of play in Japan, the X League, enjoys a pretty solid following. Some of the top teams in the league feature former NCAA stars and class Japanese players with experience in the now defunct NFL Europe, and various Arena Football leagues stateside. This year's league is wide open and should feature plenty of interesting match-ups. Both the X league and collegiate league titles will be defended by two teams that have amassed impressive records over the last few seasons. The Obic Seagulls of the X league will look to defend their national title for a fifth consecutive season, and Kwansei Gakuin University will hope to repeat as collegiate national champions for a fourth straight season. You can follow the X league at www.xleague.com. Team information along with schedules, times, tickets, and stadium directions can all be found on the site.