16 Japanese Sports Names You’ve Never Heard Of

16 Japanese Sports Names You've Never Heard OfForeign sport names in Japanese? Easy. Besides 野球 (やきゅう) for baseball, they are almost all in katakana, and they all sound fairly close to their original pronunciation. But you may be wondering why baseball is one of the few foreign sports that has kanji. The truth? Many did. Except the foreign name just stuck better.

When foreign sports were introduced to Japan, they were given kanji and Japanese names to make them easier to understand and pronounce. Baseball stuck. So did 卓球 (たっきゅう – ping pong) and to a slightly lesser extent 撞球 (どうきゅう- billiards).

But what about the rest? And what meaning were they given to aid in understanding?

Let’s test your deductive abilities. I’ll give you the literal translations of the major sports. Using your brilliant reasoning, you figure out what the actual sport is.

(Answers at end of post)

1. 門球 :Gateball
2. 孔球: Holeball
3. 投球: Throwball
4. 庭球: Gardenball
5. 羽球: Featherball
6. 氷球: Iceball
7. 鎧球: Armorball
8. 蹴球: Kickball
9. 塁球: Baseball
10. 避球: Avoidball
11. 籠球: Basketball
12. 排球: Emissionball
13. 送球: Sendball
14. 杖球: Staffball
15. 闘球: Battleball
16. 袋球: Bagball

(Thrilling picture of a cat on a dragon’s head so you don’t accidentally see the answers)

シンキングタイム (Thinking Time)!

シンキングタイム (Thinking Time)!

Think you have it figured out? Check your answers!

1) Gateball 2) Golf 3) Bowling 4) Tennis 5) Badminton 6) Ice Hockey 7) American Football 8) Soccer 9) Softball 10) Dodgeball 11) Basketball 12) Volleyball 13) Handball 14) Hockey 15) Rugby 16) Lacrosse

How well did you do? Glad Japan decided not to keep some of these names? Think some should be brought back mainstream?

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


16 Japanese Sports Names You’ve Never Heard Of — 8 Comments

    • Avoidball at least makes sense. I can’t figure the angle they were going with for the emission kanji.

      • Clearly the intent of emissionball is to emit the ball to the other side. Oddly enough it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of gateball though.

    • The American football is called a football because the ball is 1 foot long. Well technically it’s 0.91 foots, but you know, the naming was probably done by a guy, specifically someone who works at subway (笑).

  1. Only one I got was 排球、thanks to ハイキュー‼︎ (^o^)
    The main characters all have 烏野高校排球部 on the back of their warmup jackets.

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