American football in Japan 国内のアメリカンフットボール

Updated March 6, 2023

(I) Resources

Where to watch American Football in Tokyo. [ アメリカンフットボール場  American Football grounds]:

See also: American Football Fields in Tokyo 東京のアメリカンフットボール場

2016 schedules:

  • X-League (professional): Season from August 27, 2016 to December 12, 2016
  • College: Kanto League 2016 schedule (Japanese) – Regular season: September 3, 2016 thru December 4, 2016; play-offs in December 2016; final bowl game on January 14, 2017.
  • Rice Bowl: X-League winner vs. Japan college football champion (annually on January 3rd)

(II) January 2023 update

A game was held between Ivy League all-stars and an all-star Japanese, played at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, January 2023:

(III) December 2015 update

This weekend, Sunday, December 13th, 2015, is the 70th annual Koshien Bowl 甲子園ボウル, the Japanese college American football national championship game, which takes place at Hanshin Koshien Stadium 阪神甲子園球場, near Kobe/Osaka.

This year’s game pits the Waseda University Big Bears 早稲田大学BIG BEARS against the Ritsumeikan University Panthers 立命館大学体育会アメリカンフットボール部 パンサーズ.  KICK OFF at 13:05. #amefootjp

(IV) Original post:

Did you miss the big game between the Panasonic Impulse and the Elecom Kobe Finies?  What about the Keio University Unicorns vs. the Kokushikan University Rhinoceros??  慶應義塾大学ユニコーンズ vs. 国士舘大学ライナセロス ??  If you missed these epics battles, I apologize for posting so late. Don’t worry, although the season for American football in Japan is upon us, there are many game yet to be played.

In the Tokyo area, there are two leagues that engage in high-level American football, the professional X League and the amateur Kanto League, which comprises universities in the Kanto region. The X League champion is crowned in mid-December in the Japan X Bowl; meanwhile, teams from the Kanto League must first pass through the Kanto University American football championship 関東大学アメリカンフットボール選手権 (aka the Azuma Bowl あずまボウル). The Kanto champion then battles with other Eastern Japan teams prior to competing in the Kōshien Bowl 甲子園ボウル, which is the national championship for college football in Japan, also played in mid-December (held in 2013 for the 68th year).

Koshien Bowl bracket: road to the Japanese college champion in American football (source):

The college champion and professional champion meet in the Tokyo Dome for the amusingly-named Rice Bowl, held each year on January 3rd. Although professional teams have won 8 of the last 10 meetings, the games are competitive and the college teams have had plenty of success since the start of the championship in 1983.

My understanding is that X League players, while professionals in name, generally hold day jobs within their sponsor companies, as professional American football is not nearly as lucrative in Japan as baseball or soccer.

Flag football promotion related to the Koshien Bowl (source):

I attended my first X League game last September, on a warm, sunny day in the modest Kawasaki Stadium. I watched as the IBM Big Blue battled the Fujitsu Frontiers. The IBM squad was led by the strong arm of former UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft (49 of 60 for 439 yards), but his team fell to the overall more highly-skilled Frontiers. Overall I was impressed by the skill and professionalism of the teams. The only obvious difference between the X League and the NFL is the size and speed of the players.

There are some mildly funny team names in the X League (the Kajima Deers and the Tokyo Gas Creators, for example). Here is the list of top-division X League Teams in 2013. Due to relegation, some teams from last year have been added or removed; an interesting addition is the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Eagles 警視庁イーグルス, which, unfortunately for the prospects of law enforcement, have lost this season by scores of 7-59, 0-31, and 0-52.

2013 Japan X League teams:




College football

If you prefer college football, then check out the Kanto League. Not only are the team names fascinating (Kanagawa University Atoms, Musashi Institute of Technology Helios*, Saitama University Primrose), but the level of play and fan excitement is impressive, at least according to the Azuma Bowl, which I watched last November. The Hōsei University Tomahawks led for most of the game, and had built a 23-16 advantage with 5:27 to play. Tthe Nihon University Phoenix looked doomed, especially since their offense hadn’t found the endzone since the 2nd quarter. Somehow, Nihon University marched down the field and found themselves on the goal line facing 4th down. My friend and I were sitting in the Nihon University student section and were just as nervous as the undergraduates who surrounded us. The Phoenix lined up for the final play with 14 seconds to go. First the snap, then the hand-off, and then…touchdown!!! I hugged the student next to me. We looked at the scoreboard to confirm that Nihon was down 1 point, with the perfunctory extra-point to follow. Overtime was just around the corner. Still giddy from the touchdown, I watched the teams line up for the kick. The snap, the kick. No good. Game over. Nihon lost. Sports are cruel. The final score remained: Hōsei University Tomahawk 23 – 22 Nihon University Phoenix.

*Broken link: www heliosfootball com/top cgi


See also:

A cartoon by Ippei Okamoto (father of Taro Okamoto), depicting the early days of American Football in Japan:

And a surprising Big Ten football battle held in Tokyo in 1993:



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