Japan Unmasked – Learnings from a growing football nation

Japan’s moral code is described in chapter 9 of the wonderful book Japan Unmasked of Kiyoshi Matsumoto. Following quote can be found on pages 58 and 61.

“Bushido was an unwritten moral code of conduct for the samurai […] and is still highly relevant in Japanese sport. […] Coaches and players regularly invoke bushido, which is now defined as hard work, fair play and a fighting spirit.”

And the spirit played a key role so far in the World Cup for the Japanese team to survive a group with two former World Cup champions.

The Japanese team always believed in itself and made the turn-around three times.

  • Coming back in the game against Germany, 1-0 behind.
  • Coming back after the embarrassing defeat against Costa Rica
  • And finally coming back in the game against Spain, 1-0 behind.


And there is more to be admired: the squad meticulously cleaning their changing rooms, the fans tidying up the tiers, a head coach bowing to the fans. That is what ‘walking the talk’ means, cultural values translated into behavior by adhering to their unwritten moral code – and the moral code being very present in today’s society of Japan.

On the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, I discovered it, THE monument. An eagle proudly holding a golden football. Built by JFA, the Japan Football Association, as a tribute to Japan’s first World Cup winning football team.

On the base of the monument are attached all games with the result. The 1-0 victory in the quarter-finals against Germany in extra time on 9 July 2011 was considered a sensation. Japan became later in this tournament world champion by defeating the USA in the final.

And that’s exactly the goal of the men’s team, the Samurai Blue. Even though it was still a little too early this time, I am convinced that it will only be a matter of time before a men’s World Cup team will come from Japan.

Hard work, fair play and a fighting spirit. Are those not the attributes assigned as strengths of a German football team in the past?

➡ What, do you think, has changed?

Thank you for the book tip to Bettina Andresen Guimarães and for your input.

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