Future Lego Japan. Source.
Japanese soccer began during the reign of the Taisho Emperor in the 1920s. In its first phase it was dominated by amateur clubs, usually based in universities such as Kwansei Gakuin. After the war, with Japan's rapid industrialisation, company teams prevailed. The players were still amateur but had steady day jobs with the sponsoring corporations. Some of the top clubs today started out that way, the best example being Urawa Red Diamonds, the former Mitsubishi team (Mitsubishi's logo being three red diamonds).
In 1993 the J League was created as a fully professional circuit of financially self-sufficient clubs stocked with Japanese players capable of cleaning up in the World Cup. Along with the new league came The 100 Year Plan: 100 clubs by 2093. The first season there were ten clubs in one division. This year there are 53 in three divisions, plus a waiting list of seven clubs.
An unspoken part of the 100 Year Plan is to make the sport more popular than baseball. So, which is more popular, Sanfrecce Hiroshima or the Hiroshima Carp? In a way it's oranges and apples because baseball plays so many more games than soccer. But if you take average attendance it looks like baseball still has the lead. Average attendance at Carp home games in 2013 was 21,447 (based on), whereas average attendance at Sanfrecce home games in 2011 was 13,203.
Montedio Yamagata visit Sanfrecce Hiroshima. [Sanfrecce win 5 - 1.]
Women's World Cup, June 15: Netherlands 1 - 1 Canada. June 16: Ecuador 0 - 1 Japan. Canada and Japan both qualify for the Round of 16. Tomorrow: Canada vs Switzerland. If Canada get past the Swiss there is the possibility of a Canada - Japan semifinal in Edmonton on Canada Day. [Canada 1 - 0 Switzerland.]
Where do Japan's female footballers play when they're not at the Women's World Cup? They play in the L League. The L League has been around since 1989, has three divisions encompassing 32 clubs, and is still mainly non-professional. The most successful club over time has been NTV Beleza, 12-time league champions, 5-time league cup winners, and 11-time Empress's Cup winners.