You’ve heard about the Japanese baseball experience, but what about other sporting events in Japan? Soccer (yes, it’s called soccer, not football) in Japan is another rowdy cultural experience for any Japan lover’s bucket list, and this stadium is a quick trip from Tokyo to take it all in.
Despite being collectively referred to as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the venues for the games actually stretch far beyond Tokyo – all the way to Kashima City in northern Ibaraki Prefecture. Only a three-hour train ride away from Japan’s capital city, the Kashima Soccer Stadium is no stranger to international guests as it hosted three FIFA World Cup games back in 2002.
Though Ibaraki hasn’t quite made a name for itself as a major tourist destination, Kashima Soccer Stadium is definitely known among serious soccer fans as it’s home to one of Japan’s Division 1 J.League teams, the Kashima Antlers.
Kashima Street Rockers
The Kashima Antlers made history in 2016 when they became the first Asian team to ever reach the FIFA Club World Cup finals. The team is strong, with 19 domestic titles won, including a record breaking eight J.League Cups. They are the reigning champions of the Asian Champion League as of 2018.
Antler supporters call themselves Kashima Street Rockers, a fitting name as they are absolute hardcore maniacs!
Brazilian soccer legend Zico, the team’s current technical director, is credited with putting the team on their path of victory as he helped the Antlers go from a relatively unknown team to Division 1 status during the nineties. Referred to as “the God of Soccer” by many Japanese fans, a statue of his likeness stands outside the stadium. He’s named in FIFA’s list of the world’s top 100 greatest living players as of 2004, and also coached Japan’s national soccer team during the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Antler supporters call themselves Kashima Street Rockers, a fitting name as they are absolute hardcore maniacs! To show their dedication, the Street Rockers collectively pass a banner boasting “Spirit of Zico” with the legend’s face on it from the bottom of the stadium’s seats to the very top in a coordinated wave.
They pack the stadium in droves, leaving little to no room for the opposing team’s fans, drowning them out with a full ensemble of drums, claps, and chants. Even if you aren’t really into soccer, their energy is infectious and you’ll be riled up after about three minutes of being surrounded by them. You may find yourself becoming an Antler fan by the end!
The stadium itself has roughly 40,000 seats and sells lots of popular locally-grown snacks such as yakiimo (grilled sweet potato), but definitely avoid the ¥700 rip-off beer.
Pray for victory at nearby Kashima Jingu Shrine
So you’ve gotten your fill of soccer madness, and have a sexy tan from sitting in the sun all day, now what? Check out nearby Kashima Jingu Shrine, which is one of the oldest in eastern Japan. It’s dedicated to the god of victory and martial arts, Takemikazuchi, so naturally, the Antlers come here before games to pray for triumph over their opponents.
Pet some deer and indulge in some seriously huge tri-colored dango (sweet rice dumpling) for a party in your mouth as you explore the expansive shrine grounds. If you have the time and don’t mind venturing out a bit, wrap up your trip by heading north to catch the picture-perfect sunset over seaside Oarai Isosaki Shrine. Ibaraki’s diverse landscape features beaches, mountains, and rolling hills so you can enjoy a variety of different sceneries in the unassuming and underrated prefecture.
How to Buy Tickets
J.League season runs from early March to early December with most matches being held on Saturday afternoons. Tickets range from ¥2,000 to ¥7,000 and can be purchased at convenience stores (Japanese skills required) or the J.League official website. Tickets are sometimes available on game day at the stadium box office.
For full schedule and tickets: