|National federation||Japan Ice Hockey Federation|
|IIHF since||January 26, 1930|
|Top league||All-Japan Championship|
|Current champion||Nippon Paper Cranes|
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Tokyo is the capital and largest city.
|All-Japan Championship||1930||-||National championship|
|Asia League Ice Hockey||2003||-||Multi-national league|
|J-Ice League||2005||-||Collection of regional leagues|
|Japan Intercollegiate Games||1925||-||University competition|
|Japan Ice Hockey League||1966||2004||Defunct national league|
|All-Japan Women's Championship||1982||-||National women's championship|
|Japanese Women's Hockey League||2012||-||National women's league|
History of hockey in Japan
The English brought the game of ice hockey to Japan in the early 1900's and the first recorded games were played in 1912. The sport soon became popular, especially in the northern regions of the country. The Japan Ice Hockey Federation was founded in 1929, and Japan joined the IIHF on January 26, 1930. After World War II, the country was expelled from the IIHF on April 27, 1946, but it was reinstated on March 10, 1951.
The All-Japan Championship was first contested in 1930. The top clubs, including Hokkaido's Oji Eagles from Tomakomai and Nippon Paper Cranes from Kushiro, the Sapporo Ice Hockey Club, the Seibu Prince Rabbits, and Furukawa Denko (now the Nikkō Ice Bucks), have always been located on the north island of Hokkaido and in the Greater Tokyo area. A university competition known as the Japan Intercollegiate Games has been staged since 1925.
From 1966-2004, the Japan Ice Hockey League existed alongside the All Japan Championship. The Oji Eagles and the Seibu Prince Rabbits won the most JIHL titles, with 13 apiece. There was an influx of foreign imports, especially from Canada, Czechoslovakia and the USSR, during the 1970s. The list of prominent players included Soviet stars Yuri Liapkin, Viacheslav Starshinov and Helmut Balderis, Czechoslvaks Jiri Holocek and Frantisek Pospisil and Canadian Randy Gregg. The federation banned the use of foreign players in 1984, although foreigners were still to coach. This decision was later reneged upon during the 1990s. Some notable Canadians who played in the league afterward included former junior stars Ryan Kuwabara and Steve Tsujuira and ex-NHL defensemen Tom Kurvers and Tom Pedersen.
Since the 2003-04 season, the top teams from Japan have participated in the multi-national Asia League with teams from China, Russia, and South Korea. A team from Japan has won the league in every year except 2010. The teams usually ice several imports, mostly from Canada and the United States.
The men's national team participated in the inaugural 1930 World Championship, where they finished in a tie for sixth place. After that, they did not take part in the World Championships again until 1957. Japan played in the Top Division for the first time in 41 years in 1998 and remained at that level until 2005.
At the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, goaltender Teiji Honma caused great interest by wearing a wire cage - similar to a baseball catcher's. The Japanese competed in six consecutive Olympics between 1960 and 1980. One of their best players during the 1960s was netminder Shoichi Tomita, who later served as Japan's representative on the IIHF Council.
Sapporo played host to the 1972 Winter Olympics, and the hosts finished ninth after defeating West Germany and Yugoslavia. The Winter Olympics again came to Japan in 1998, with Nagano as the host city. With former National Hockey League and Canadian National Team coach Dave King behind the bench, the Japanese played well on home ice, and although they did not qualify for the Championship round, Japan tied Belarus 2-2 and only lost 3-1 to heavily-favored Germany. They have played in all seven Asian Winter Games since 1986, winning the gold medal twice and the silver medal five times.
Some top Japanese players over the years have been: Sadaki Honma, Yoshio Hoshino, Takeshi Iwamoto, Katsutoshi Kawamura, Hideo Kurokawa, Minoru Misawa, and Osamu Wakabayashi.
The women's national team made its international debut at the 1987 World Women's Hockey Tournament and participated in the inaugural IIHF World Women's Championships in 1990. With Nagano serving as hosts, the women received an automatic bid to the 1998 Winter Olympics. They later qualified for the 2014 Sochi games. The Women's U18 national team has participated in the IIHF World Women's U18 Championships since 2009.
The junior national team first appeared at the IIHF World U20 Championship in 1982. Their best finish was eighth place in the Top Division in 1993. The U18 national team participated in the IIHF Asian Oceanic U18 Championships yearly from 1984-1999. They won the gold medal ten times, and the silver and bronze medals three times apiece.