The All Japan Championships are a sign of the determination of next year’s Olympic Games hosts to get sports and physical activity in the country back to speed as quickly as possible.
With the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 now scheduled for July 2021, Japanese sporting federations and the government have been pushing hard to get athletes and the general population back playing sport and getting more active after the months of restrictions imposed as a result of the global pandemic.
As reported in the New York Times, over the course of the pandemic, Japan hasn’t imposed the more stringent lockdown restrictions practiced by many countries. This is due to lower infection rates than many other nations, plus government policy to keep the economy moving. By July soccer matches were allowing fans to watch matches, albeit with strict social distancing measures and any celebration more raucous than applause forbidden.
Like other team sports in Japan, hockey has been running its national leagues, with the women’s league already completed and the men’s league due to be finalised later this month.
Offering another opportunity for the top athletes to play competitive hockey, the All Japan Championships is an elite event for the top men’s and women’s teams in the country. It is a one-off four-day event, taking place from 3-6 December and is in addition to the Japanese National League.
Taking part in the Championships will be the top four university sides and the top four company teams. The university sides qualified via the University Championships, which took place on 31 October and 3 November. The company teams held their qualifying event during the period 5-8 November.
The eight female teams taking part are: Yamanashi Gakuin University; Ritsumeikan University; Tokai Gakuin University; Tenri University; Sony HV Bravia; Coca-Cola Red Sparks; Glaxo Smith Klein Orange United and Nanto Bank Shooting Stars.
The male qualifiers are: Ritsumeikan University; Tenri University; Meiji University; Fukui University; Liebe Tochigi; Gifu Asahi Club; Hyojito Fullerton Hockey Team; and Alder Hanno.
The competition is a straightforward knockout format. The winners of the first round, which takes place on Thursday 3 December for the men and Friday 4 December for the women, will go through to a semi-final. The winners of the semi finals meet in a grand final on Sunday 6 December.