Japanese Sports Vocabulary: 32+ Easy Words!

Did you know that the total number of medals earned by Japanese athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was 58? Even more impressive, they set a new record for the most gold medals won. It’s evident how well-versed Japanese people are in sports or 運動, pronounced as undou. This got us wondering: besides international sports, are there any traditional Japanese sports you’re familiar with, such as sumo or kendo? If not, we’re thrilled to share a fantastic Japanese sports vocabulary with you.

Many sports in the Japanese language have borrowed English words. But there’re unique ways to pronounce them in Japanese. So though Japanese sports vocabulary may be easy to remember since they’re influenced by English, we must learn what the words look like and practice the Japanese pronunciation. So why don’t we do it as a team?

The Most Popular Sport In Japan

What’s your best guess? Your response will likely be the same as ours. Yes, it’s baseball.

At a time when the country was absorbing more Western traditions and practices, baseball made its way to Japan during the Meiji era. Baseball is a popular sport among Japanese boys of all ages, from primary school through university. There is, of course, a Japanese player at the top of the heap. Currently, Shohei Ohtani is one of the world’s top 10 most popular players. Before joining the Los Angeles Angels, he played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Japanese Baseball League.

Also, the popularity of baseball is highlighted by the fact that more than 30 baseball-themed anime have been produced so far. Since there is plenty of it, it’s obvious that the Japanese are truly engaged in this sport.

Japanese Sports Vocabulary - Baseball

3 Basic Words For Sports In Japanese

  • スポーツ (supo-tsu) – Sport
  • 運動 (undou) – Sport or exercise
  • アスレチックス (asurechikkusu) – Athletics

Japanese Sports Vocabulary

Japanse wordPronunciationEnglish definition
相撲sumouSumo wrestling
弓道kyuudouJapanese-style archery
将棋shougiJapanese chess

International Sports Words List

Japanse wordPronunciationEnglish definition
サーフィンsa finSurfing
体操 たいそうtaisouGymnastics
卓球takkyuuTable tennis (or ping pong)
バレーボールbare bo ruVolleyball
アメリカンフットボールamerikan futto bo ruAmerican Football
フットボールfutto bo ruFootball
ソフトボールsofutobo ruSoftball
乗馬joubaHorseback riding
ボーリングbo ringuBowling
ソフトボールsofutobo ruSoftball
アイスホッケーaisu hokkeIce hockey
スケートsuke toSkating

Outdoor Activities In Japanese

Japanse wordPronunciationEnglish definition
登山tozanMountain climbing

How To Ask About Sports In Japanese

  • 何かスポーツをしますか? (nani ka supōtsu o shimasu ka?) – Do you play any sports?
  • どのスポーツが好きですか? (dono supōtsu ga sukidesu ka?) – Which sports do you like?
  • どのチームを応援しますか? (dono chīmu o ōen shimasu ka?) – Which team do you support?

Get To Know Japanese Traditional Sports

Sumo Wrestling (相撲, Sumou)

Sumo is Japan’s unique form of wrestling and is the country’s national sport. It has its roots in ancient periods as a show for the Shinto gods.  Tradition holds that the sport is exclusively played professionally by males in Japan. And the rules are easy to understand. The wrestler who quits the ring or touches the ground with anything other than his feet first in a match, then he loses.

When Is This Sporting Event Held?

Every tournament lasts 15 days and begins and finishes on Sunday. There’ll be four tournaments in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka, each in a different month as follows: Tokyo (in January, May, and September), Osaka (in March), Nagoya (in July), and Fukuoka (in November).

Japanese Sports Vocabulary - Sumo

Kendo (剣道, Kendou)

Like fencing, kendo takes inspiration from the samurai sword arts. Bamboo swords, rather than metal swords, are commonly used in this martial art form. A “duel” between two swordsmen in black hakamas and protective gear will occur. And it’s typical to see students practice kendo in full uniform in Japanese schools.

Judo (柔道, Juudou)

Judo is a type of wrestling based on the concept of self-defense. Each motion in judo is driven by the strength of the opponent’s force, and one of the main goals is to throw off the opponent’s balance. In the Olympic Games, you may observe this martial art in motion. And we can always count on the Japanese judo players to succeed; they regularly win gold medals in this sport.

Karate (空手, Karate)

We all know what sports this is because it’s so popular. However, the origin of Karate may be attributed to Okinawa, where it was first developed. Today, karate is a global trend, and many people are either familiar with it or have taken classes in it at some time.


Do you want to play a game or engage in some physical activity now that you’ve mastered the Japanese sports word? Incredibly, we could experience Western-style and Japanese traditional sports together. Besides learning new Japanese vocabulary, you’ll be able to observe just how rich Japan’s cultural heritage is. Japanese people have done their own unique sport, and it’s still going strong in the modern day. You’ll be inspired by something you won’t find in other countries when you visit Japan. Also, get to know their language better.

Learn Japanese With The Ling App

Learn Japanese sports vocabulary with the Ling App

Do you always support the Japanese team when you’re watching the Olympics? So we assume that you’re already a fan of Japan, and you’re more likely to enjoy studying the Japanese language. So, why don’t you start learning Japanese with the Ling App right away?

Whether using a smartphone or an internet browser on a laptop, we have high-quality lessons and a vast library of resources available online. You can learn everything from essential words to more complicated grammar structures with the Ling App. Besides listening to how a native speaker pronounces the words, you can also take fun quizzes to refresh your memory.

So, are you all set to come along? Then download the Ling App from the Google PlayStore and Apple AppStore now, and prepare to be fluent in Japanese very soon!

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