Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa have worn the blue jersey for the past three decades, representing the nation on the world stage. Samurai Blue famously co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea, in what was their second appearance in the competition.
However, where does his nickname ‘Samurai Blue’ come from? And why do they wear the color blue? GOAL brings you the answers to these questions and more.
Why is Japan called Samurai Blue?
Japan’s nickname ‘Samurai Blue’ (also known as ‘Blue Samurai’) is due in part to the blue color of their game kits, which have been blue since the 1930s. The second half of the name is inspired by the Japan’s ancient warriors, or samurai, who are widely recognized as part of the country’s international identity.
The nickname has been championed by the Japan Football Association (JFA) for over 15 years. Prior to the 2006 World Cup, the JFA listed ‘Samurai Blue’ as one of the options to become the recognized nickname of the national team. It resulted in the overwhelming preference of Japanese fans that year.
However, ‘Samurai Blue’ had already been in colloquial use for many decades prior to that point. The name connotes fighting with pride, a sense of fair play, and a strong desire for victory.
Why does Japan wear blue?
The flag of Japan, called Hinomaru, is instantly recognizable and doesn’t feature the color blue at all. Symbolizing the disk of the sun, the national flag of Japan represents purity and integrity. The red gradient represents sincerity, brightness and warmth.
There are a number of reported reasons why they wear blue instead of red. The success of the Japanese soccer team in the 1930 Far Eastern Championship Games, where they won their eighth consecutive soccer title in blue, is claimed by some to have been the catalyst.
Others say it was his participation in the 1954 World Cup qualifiers, where the Tokyo Imperial University team made up the majority of the playing team, and he wore blue when playing at the national level.
Another belief is that the color represents the blue sky and the ocean, symbolizing the national territory of Japan. The truth seems to be somewhat elusive, but there seems to be an element of superstition in all the stories.
Over the years, blue became Japan’s main color in soccer, but other color variations have been used as well. In the 1980s, for example, they wore white with a blue trim, and in the 1990s, they wore a kit with white stripes with red diamonds.
How is the crest of Japan?
The Japan team crest features the Yatagarasu, a three-legged crow from Japanese mythology that is a symbol of the sun. The Yatagarasu holds a solid red ball that resembles the red dot (the sun) on the national flag.
Below the crow are the initials ‘JFA’ for the Japan Football Association and the name ‘Japan’ above it.
All of these details sit against a white background with a vertical red stripe.