Veteran Ito joins Azul Claro

Azul Claro Numazu have announced the signing of veteran midfielder Teruyoshi Ito, who is delighted to return home.

The 42-year-old Shizuoka native, who earned 27 caps for Japan between 1997 and 2001, spent 13 seasons at Shimizu S-Pulse.

Ito then moved on to Ventforet Kofu, AC Nagano Parceiro and Blaublitz Akita before joining MEIJI YASUDA J3 League newcomers Azul Claro.

“I’m thankful to the club for giving me an opportunity and excited to play again in my home prefecture,” Ito commented.

“I hope I can contribute to our results on the pitch.”


Gainare open official Instagram

Gainare Tottori launched their official Instagram account on Saturday.

The social media portal will allow fans to get a glimpse into the team’s training sessions.

The closer access to the team is expected to benefit aspects such as match day atmosphere, with goal celebrations amongst the content uploaded.

Gainare’s account can be accessed at


Tochigi sign Swiss goalkeeper Leoni

Tochigi SC on Friday announced the signing of former Switzerland international goalkeeper Johnny Leoni on a full transfer from AC Nagano Parceiro.

The 32-year-old, who made 15 appearances in last year’s MEIJI YASUDA J3 League, earned his senior debut for Switzerland in 2011 and was previously on the country’s squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

“I want to thank Tochigi SC for giving me another opportunity to play in the J.League and I’m incredibly happy to return to Japan,” Leoni said. 

“Tochigi are one of the top clubs in the J3 and I promise to do my best to help achieve promotion.”


Parceiro striker Kondo retires

AC Nagano Parceiro on Monday announced the retirement of striker Yusuke Kondo.

The 32-year-old turned pro in 2003, joining FC Tokyo after graduating high school. 

Kondo went on to play for a number of clubs in all three J.League divisions including Vissel Kobe, Consadole Sapporo, and Tochigi SC.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me over my 14-year career,” he said.

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to do more at Nagano, but I hope to make use of my experiences as a player in the next phase of my life.”


J.League home opener schedules announced

The J.League has announced its scheduled home openers for the upcoming 2017 MEIJI YASUDA J1, J2, and J3 League seasons.

The J1 League kicks off on February 25, with the J2 following one day later on February 26. 

The J3 League, which expands to 17 clubs following the addition of Azul Claro Numazu, launches on March 11.

The full schedule, including kick-off times and broadcast details, will be announced on Wednesday, January 25.

[The following schedule includes only home openers]

2017 MEIJI YASUDA J1 League

Round 1

February 25 (Saturday)

Vegalta Sendai vs. Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo (Yurtec Stadium)
Kashima Antlers vs. FC Tokyo (Kashima Stadium)
Omiya Ardija vs. Kawasaki Frontale (NACK5 Stadium)
Yokohama F. Marinos vs. Urawa Reds (Nissan Stadium)
Shimizu S-Pulse vs. Vissel Kobe (IAI Stadium)
Cerezo Osaka vs. Jubilo Iwata (Yanmar Stadium)
Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs. Albirex Niigata (Edion Stadium)
Sagan Tosu vs. Kashiwa Reysol (Best Amenity Stadium)

February 26 (Sunday)

Gamba Osaka vs. Ventforet Kofu (Suita Stadium)

Round 2

March 4 (Saturday)

Urawa Reds vs. Cerezo Osaka (Saitama Stadium)
FC Tokyo vs. Omiya Ardija (Ajinomoto Stadium)
Ventforet Kofu vs. Kashima Antlers (Chuo Bank Stadium)
Jubilo Iwata vs. Vegalta Sendai (Yamaha Stadium)
Vissel Kobe vs. Albirex Niigata (Noevir Stadium)

March 5 (Sunday)

Kashiwa Reysol vs. Gamba Osaka (Kashiwa Stadium)
Kawasaki Frontale vs. Sagan Tosu (Todoroki Stadium)

Round 3

March 11 (Saturday)

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo vs. Cerezo Osaka (Sapporo Dome)
Albirex Niigata vs. Shimizu S-Pulse (Denka Swan Stadium)


2017 MEIJI YASUDA J2 League

Round 1

February 26 (Sunday)

Mito Hollyhock vs. Shonan Bellmare (K’s Denki Stadium)
Machida Zelvia vs. JEF United Chiba (Machida Stadium)
Yokohama FC vs. Matsumoto Yamaga (Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium)
Nagoya Grampus vs. Fagiano Okayama (Paloma Mizuho Stadium)
FC Gifu vs. Renofa Yamaguchi (Nagaragawa Stadium)
Kyoto Sanga vs. Montedio Yamagata (Nishikyogoku Stadium)
Tokushima Vortis vs. Tokyo Verdy (Pocari Sweat Stadium)
Ehime FC vs. Zweigen Kanazawa (Ningineer Stadium)
Avispa Fukuoka vs. Oita Trinita (LEVEL5 Stadium)
V-Varen Nagasaki vs. Thespa Kusatsu Gunma (transcosmos Stadium)
Roasso Kumamoto vs. Kamatamare Sanuki (Umana-Yokana Stadium)

Round 2

March 4 (Saturday)

JEF United Chiba vs. Montedio Yamagata (Fukuda Denshi Arena)
Shonan Bellmare vs. Thespa Kusatsu Gunma (BMW Stadium)

March 5 (Sunday)

Tokyo Verdy vs. Oita Trinita (Ajinomoto Stadium)
Fagiano Okayama vs. Roasso Kumamoto (City Light Stadium)
Renofa Yamaguchi vs. Avispa Fukuoka (Ishin Memorial Park Stadium)
Kamatamare Sanuki vs. Machida Zelvia (Pikara Stadium)

Round 3

March 12 (Sunday)

Zweigen Kanazawa vs. Shonan Bellmare (Ishikawa Athletics Stadium)
Oita Trinita vs. Renofa Yamaguchi (Oita Bank Dome)

Round 4

March 19 (Sunday)

Montedio Yamagata vs. Kamatamare Sanuki (NDSoft Stadium)
Thespa Kusatsu Gunma vs. Machida Zelvia (Shoda Shoyu Stadium)
Matsumoto Yamaga vs. JEF United Chiba (Alwin Stadium)


2017 MEIJI YASUDA J3 League

Round 1

March 11 (Saturday)

YSCC Yokohama vs. Fukushima United (Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium)
Kagoshima United vs. Fujieda MYFC (Kamoike Stadium)

March 12 (Sunday)

Tochigi SC vs. FC Ryukyu (Tochigi Green Stadium)
SC Sagamihara vs. AC Nagano Parceiro (Gion Stadium)
Giravanz Kitakyushu vs. Blaublitz Akita (Mikuni World Stadium)
FC Tokyu U-23 vs. Kataller Toyama (Yumenoshima Stadium)
Gamba Osaka U-23 vs. Gainare Tottori (Suita Stadium)
Cerezo Osaka vs. Grulla Morioka (Kincho Stadium)

Round 2

March 18 (Saturday)

Kataller Toyama vs. Kagoshima United (Toyama Stadium)
Fujieda MYFC vs. FC Tokyo U-23 (Fujieda Soccer Stadium)
Azul Claro Numazu vs. Fukushima United (Ashitaka Park Stadium)
FC Ryukyu vs. Grulla Morioka (Okinawa Athletic Park Stadium)

March 19 (Sunday)

AC Nagano Parceiro vs. YSCC Yokohama (Nagano U Stadium)
Gainare Tottori vs. Tochigi SC (Torigin Bird Stadium)

Round 3

March 26 (Sunday)

Grulla Morioka vs. Kataller Toyama (Iwagin Stadium)
Fukushima United vs. FC Ryukyu (Toho Stadium)

Round 4

April 2 (Sunday)

Blaublitz Akita vs. Grulla Morioka (Akigin Stadium)


Goalkeeper Yamagishi loaned to Giravanz

Giravanz Kitakyushu on Monday announced the arrival of veteran goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi on a season-long loan from Montedio Yamagata.

The 38-year-old, who spent the majority of his career with Urawa Reds beginning in 2001, made 41 appearances for Montedio in last season’s MEIJI YASUDA J2 League.

“I’m grateful for a new opportunity and excited to help Giravanz earn promotion in one season and contribute to many victories for our team,” Yamagishi commented.

“I look forward to celebrating with our supporters at our new stadium.”


Gainare unveil new manager

Gainare Tottori on Thursday announced Ryuzo Morioka as the club’s new manager.

The former Samurai Blue defender, who has overseen Kyoto Sanga Under-18s for the last two years, will be making his top team managerial debut.

“It’s a privilege to lead Gainare Tottori next season. I look forward to working with our players, staff, club officials, sponsors, and supporters so that we can celebrate together,” Morioka commented.

Gainare finished in 15th place in this year’s MEIJI YASUDA J3 League.


Asano takes over at Parceiro

AC Nagano Parceiro on Thursday announced Tetsuya Asano as the club’s new manager.

The 49-year-old former midfielder has spent the last two seasons in charge of Kagoshima United, earning an impressive fifth-place finish in their debut MEIJI YASUDA J3 League campaign this year.

“I’m deeply moved to get an offer from such an attractive club,” Asano commented. 

“I want to work together with everyone in the organization to achieve our resolute goal of promotion to the J2.”


YSCC renew with Higuchi

Manager Yasuhiro Higuchi will continue to manage YSCC Yokohama in 2017, the club has announced.

The 55-year-old, who has previously managed at several J1 clubs, led the team to a 16th-place finish in his debut J3 League season.

“I’m grateful for the offer to continue my work despite finishing in last place,” Higuchi said. 

“In 2017 we want to apply everything we’ve learned this season and focus as a team on earning results.”


Trinita capture J3 to return to second flight

The 2016 MEIJI YASUDA J3 League season concluded on Sunday as Oita Trinita narrowly edged out Tochigi SC for the championship and automatic promotion to the J2 League.

Kazushi Mitsuhira’s brace gave the Kyushu side a 2-0 lead at Gainare Tottori, but goals from Tomoki Iwata and Yoshinori Suzuki were required to stave off a second-half fightback from the host, with the match eventually ending at 4-2.

A double from Tsugutoshi Oishi was not enough to get Tochigi past Gulla Morioka after Tokio Hatamoto equalised in the 68th minute. 

The result means the northern Kanto side will face Zweigen Kanazawa, who finished in 21st place in the J2, in a two-legged promotion-relegation play-off.


Azul Claro Numazu join J3

The J.League’s board of directors on Wednesday approved Azul Claro Numazu’s admission to the J3 League.

The eastern Shizuoka side, whose application for a J3 Club License was approved in September, qualified to join the J.League after finishing third in the Japan Football League, the amateur fourth division of the Japanese football pyramid.

Numazu, who play at Shizuoka Ashitaka Athletic Stadium, boast former Samurai Blue legend Masashi ‘Gon’ Nakayama as part of their squad.


Trinita striker Takamatsu to retire after season ends

Oita Trinita on Tuesday announced that striker Taishi Takamatsu will retire at the end of the season.

With the exception of one season on loan at FC Tokyo, the 35-year-old has spent his entire 17-year career at Trinita since joining the club out of high school in 2000. 

In addition to his 195 J1 League, 162 J2 League, and seven J3 League appearance, Takamatsu represented Japan at the 2004 Athens Olympics as well as in the Samurai Blue.

The player will salute supporters one last time following Trinita’s November 13 match against YSCC Yokohama.


Fifteen-year-old Kubo sets record for youngest J.League debut

Midfielder Takefusa Kubo became the youngest player to make his J.League debut on Saturday when he appeared for FC Tokyo Under-23 in their MEIJI YASUDA J3 League match against AC Nagano Parceiro.

At 15 years, five months, and one day of age, Kubo broke the record set in 2004 by Takayuki Morimoto, then of Tokyo Verdy, at 15 years, 10 months, and six days.

The junior high schooler’s debut drew significant attention, with 182 media representatives joining the 7,653 fans in attendance at Komazawa Olympic Stadium. 

Kubo’s involvement in play grew over his 45 minutes of action, and late in the second half he created some potentially game-tying chances for Tokyo in their 2-1 defeat.

“I didn’t take any shots and wasn’t able to contribute much, but it’s good that I was able to play 45 minutes,” Kubo commented after the match. “I want to become the sort of player who can break open a deadlock on the pitch.”

“It’s terrific to have a player who can draw this many fans to a J3 League game,” said J.League Chairman Mitsuru Murai, who was in attendance. 

“It’s star players like (Kubo) who will invigorate the division. Many of Tokyo’s Under-23 players are registered to the top team, and I hope we’ll see Kubo in the J1 League soon.”


J.League delivers verdicts on J3 Club License renewals

The J.League on Wednesday announced its verdicts regarding current J3 League clubs applying for the renewal of their J3 Club License.

Applications by Blaublitz Akita, Fukushima United FC, YSCC Yokohama, SC Sagamihara, Fujieda MYFC, Kagoshima United FC and FC Ryukyu have been approved.

Meanwhile, deliberations regarding Grulla Morioka will continue in November as the league examines the club’s administrative situation.

The Board of Directors will also evaluate the three clubs – Vanraure Hachinohe, Azul Claro Numazu, and Nara Club – who were awarded new J3 Club Licenses to determine in September whether or not they will be eligible to join the J3 League in 2017.


Additional Assistant Referee assignments for J3 announced

The J.League on Wednesday announced the schedule of matches for its Additional Assistant Referee (AAR) pilot program.

The trial initiative will see additional referees deployed near the goal in order to more accurately judge goal line situations.

It will take place at stadiums capable of supporting the required communications equipment.

The list of applicable J3 matches is as follows:

Round 24 - October 1 (KO 14:00) Cerezo Osaka U-23 vs. Fujieda MYFC (Yanmar Stadium)
Round 25 - October 16 (KO 13:00) Fujieda MYFC vs. Gamba Osaka U-23 (Ecopa Stadium)
Round 26 - October 22 (KO 14:00) Cerezo Osaka U-23 vs. Blaublitz Akita (Kincho Stadium)
Round 27 - October 30 (KO 14:00) FC Tokyo U-23 vs. SC Sagamihara (Ajinomoto Field West)
Round 28 - November 6 (KO 13:00) Blaublitz Akita vs. SC Sagamihara (Akita Athletic Stadium)
Round 29 - November 13 (15:00) FC Ryukyu vs. Gainare Tottori (Okinawa Athletic Stadium)
Round 30 - November 20 (13:00) Fujieda MYFC vs. Fukushima United (Fujieda Park)

AARs will also be implemented in the following matches:

- 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup (Semi-final & Final)
- MEIJI YASUDA 2016 J.League Championship (all matches)


J3 club license applications revealed

The J.League on Tuesday announced the results of J3 Club License applications for the 2017 season, with three clubs already having theirs approved.

J.League Hundred Year Vision Clubs with a J3 Club License may join the J3 if they fulfil a number of criteria.

These included having average attendance of over 2,000 per match, yearly revenues of over $1.5 million and a top-four finish in the Japan Football League.

J3 Club License Approved: Vanraure Hachinohe, Azul Claro Numazu, Nara Club

J3 Club License Denied: Tokyo Musashino City FC (Musashino Stadium does not meet J3 requirements)

Current List of J.League Hundred Year Vision Clubs

Vanraure Hachinohe (JFL)
Tochigi Uva (JFL)
tonan Maebashi (Kanto Soccer League 1st Division)
Musashino City FC (JFL)
Azul Claro Numazu (JFL)
Nara Club (JFL)
FC Imabari (Shikoku League)


Brazilian striker Lobo returns to Tochigi

Tochigi SC this week have announced the signing of Ricardo Lobo on a full transfer from Cypriot First Division side Doxa Katokopias.

The 32-year-old spent two seasons with Tochigi in the J2, scoring 28 goals from 67 matches, before later playing for Kashiwa Reysol, JEF United Chiba, and Ehime FC.

“I’m happy to be returning to Japan, and even happier that I get to come back to Tochigi SC,” Lobo said. 

“I’ve come to help bring the club back to the J2 and complete our original goal of earning promotion to the J1. Thank you for your continued support.”


J3 to introduce Additional Assistant Referees from Round 10

The J.League has announced its schedule of matches in which Additional Assistant Referees (AAR) will be used on a trial basis.

The trial will begin on May 22 in the 10th round of the 2016 MEIJI YASUDA J3 League and continue through the 23rd round on September 25.

Additional Assistant Referees, who will be stationed behind the goal line to provide more accurate judgements in the penalty area, will also be used in the later stages of the J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup as well as the J.League Championship.


Former Swiss international joins Nagano

Swiss goalkeeper Johnny Leoni has joined AC Nagano Parceiro from Le Mont, the club announced on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old, who spent the majority of his career with FC Zurich, has one cap for Switzerland and was a part of their 2010 FIFA World Cup squad.

“Japan is a country I’ve always wanted to visit,” Leoni said. “During these three weeks in Nagano I’ve learned that Parceiro are a strong team. 

“The players are strong-willed and training hard every day toward earning promotion to the J2 League.”


Stadium name change approved for Grulla Morioka

The J.League on Friday announced a change in the name of Grulla Morioka’s home ground.

Beginning on April 1, Morioka Minami Park Stadium will be known as Iwagin Stadium through the end of March 2019.

Grulla will travel to Osaka on Sunday to face Gamba Osaka’s Under-23s in the second round of the 2016 MEIJI YASUDA J3 League.