Japanese football fans and the benefits of group screaming

by Kitty Drake in May 2019

Japanese football title Shukyu have dedicated their seventh edition to the J. League: the country’s top professional association football league. Featuring multi-image spreads of team mascots, and a series of spectacularly blurred images of footballers in movement, the issue documents the peculiar significance of the sport to Japanese culture. In one interview, league chair Mitsuru Murai suggests that football fandom might actually be able to stabilise Japan’s declining population, because the pure fact of thousands of people coming together to scream the name of their city every week vitalizes the community.

Everything is written in Japanese, but there’s a slim black-and-white booklet of English translations provided. It’s rudimentary, and for those unfamiliar with the J.League, rather difficult to follow, as not much background is provided. You can almost get more from the magazine just flicking through — some of the most beautiful images capture small details: team colours on the boot of a car; a tempura truck; the wonderfully serious expression on a match official’s face.

Interestingly, Shukyu closes on a pessimistic note. Hiroki Ogasawara, a professor at Kobe university, writes about the frustrations of being a J.League fan. Mostly that’s about emotion — and the difficulty of collectively expressing love, affection and desperation in Japanese culture. Unlike Murai, Ogasawara seems to be suggesting that Japanese fans are not screaming together enough. Or not yet.


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