J.League Player Distribution – Data Visualisation

Leading up to what, for many reasons, should be an enthralling 2013 season, I’ll be creating some visual representations of data containing a number of interesting insights into the J.League and the wider of issues surrounding the growth of football in Japan. This post, which relates to the prefectures of birth of J.League Division 1 and 2 squad members at the end of the 2012 season, uses two methods to look at the same data. Initially each prefecture was accorded a simple total of squad members born inside their respective boundaries, and later, in an attempt to assess which prefectures could be regarded as the “football hotbeds” of Japan, I calculated that same number of players in the context of the relevant prefectural population.

Intriguingly, and looking at the data as represented on the heat maps, while it should come as no surprise that seven prefectures comprising 43% of Japan’s population furnish the J.League which approximately 49% of its total Japanese-born squad numbers, Aichi Prefecture, with a population of over 7 million and home to Japan’s fourth biggest city Nagoya, provided just 20 players to J.League sides in the 2012 season. This puts it on a par with Shiga, Mie and Gunma Prefectures, all of which in terms of population are at least 3.9 times smaller.

However, the most useful data came in looking at the number of J.League squad members from prefectures as a proportion of the overall prefectural population. Aichi once again fared very badly, ranking 44th of the 47 in total. Also of little surprise was to see Shizuoka Prefecture, considered the home of Japanese football and with a long, deeply established football tradition, over-performing with regard to population size. In 1956, over a decade before before the Japan Soccer League was established, many of Shizuoka’s elementary schools teams were already participating in annual prefectural tournaments. Furthermore, in the early days of the J.League, 20 out of 42 national team players were originally from Shizuoka, while at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Japan’s first ever showing at a World Cup finals, nine of its twenty-two players called Shimizu home. While the overall percentage of Japanese professionals hailing from the prefecture has shrunk from an astonishing 8.7% in 1994, it still counts for 7.6% of all J.League professionals, and its disproportionate influence on Japanese football shows little sign of abating yet,

Perhaps most surprising of all was the performance of two Kyushu prefectures, Kumamoto and Kagoshima, which placed second and third respectively as a proportion of population, followed by Kansai’s Shiga and Shikoku’s Ehime. In future posts I’ll aim to assess what could be the reasons for the outsized contribution of these four prefectures, particularly as the four prefectures count just four victories in total of the 91 All Japan National High School Soccer Tournaments to have taken take place to date, and none of the All Japan College Football Championships, which began in 1953.

The full, interactive heat maps unfortunately cannot be embedded, but can be accessed via the following links:

2012 J.League Squad Members as a Proportion of Prefectural Population

2012 J.League Squad Members – Simple Totals by Prefecture

To discover information on the heat map, including the total number of J.League squad members to originally come from a prefecture, simply click on the relevent prefecture to launch an information menu.

Alternatively, the static heat maps below can be enlarged simply by clicking the relevant picture.

2012 J.League Squad Members - Simple Totals by Prefecture

2012 J.League Squad Members – Simple Totals by Prefecture

2012 J.League Squad Members as a Proportion of Prefectural Population

2012 J.League Squad Members as a Proportion of Prefectural Population






Note – The data itself covers squad members born in Japan who were squad members of a J.League club at the end of the 2012 season, and as such those who moved to clubs outside the country during the year, including Hiroki Sakai, are not included in this analysis.


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