Migration and Laws of Contagion: Cultivating Talent in Japanese Women’s Soccer

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2018

Publication Title

Japanese Studies




Even in 2018, a relatively small number of Japanese women play soccer; however, the Japan Football Association (JFA) and its affiliated leagues have played a central role in the development of the women’s game globally. In the earliest years of the new semi-professional L-League, team owners and trainers were committed to bringing some of the best female soccer players in the world to Japan, but that strategy changed dramatically just a decade later. Instead of foreign internationals playing in Japan, top Japanese national team members were heading abroad. This significant shift in the flow of female players provides a unique vantage point from which to think about the development of elite women’s soccer in Japan and to contemplate underlying assumptions about how soccer expertise is developed and transmitted. I will argue that the unique history of Japanese women’s soccer migration encourages us to ask some more probing questions about the logics that undergird many female players’ decisions to move from one country to the next. Common to these decisions are tacit ideas about the power of physical proximity and place, which I analyse using the anthropological concept of contagion.


The version of record can be found through Taylor and Francis.