Despite its small size - it is after all only the 62nd largest country in the world - Japan has undeniably had an everlasting impact on nearly every corner of the planet. Home to worldwide companies such as SONY, Toyota and Mitsubishi, the small nation has been a leader in the world of technological innovation for years, which has helped spur the east Asian country to create the globe’s third largest economy and the tenth largest population, fueled mostly by post-World War II development and reconstruction.

Frequently referred to as The Land of the Rising Sun, the commonly thought singular island nation is actually an archipelago consisting of 6,852 islands, though 97 per cent of the nation lives on the four largest landmasses.  Hokkaido to the north, Kyushu and Shikoku to the south and central Honshu house the vast majority of Japan’s 126 million residents.

Perhaps known best for Mount Fuji’s staggering appearance in the Tokyo skyline, Japan is a country steeped in history that brings much more than just the samurai, Sumo wrestling and sushi to the table, especially when it comes to sport.

Football in Japan
The FIFA Club World Cup returned to The Land of the Rising Sun in 2015 for the seventh time, after taking a two-year hiatus when the competition was held in Morocco in 2013 and 2014. Japan hosted the tournament in 2011 and 2012 after it had welcomed teams from around the world for the second through fifth edition of the competition from 2005 to 2008. In 2009 and 2010, the tournament was played in the UAE.

Urawa Red Diamonds, Gamba Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima who placed third in 2007, 2008 and 2015 respectively, are Japan’s top finishers in the tournament, but the 2016 hosts have quite the pedigree in other international competitions as well. Japan hosted the FIFA World Cup alongside Korea Republic in 2002 where they reached the Round of 16 in only their second appearance at the world finals after a disappointing showing during France 1998.

By the ninth centry, the samurai, a warrior class, had begun to threaten the hegemony of the emperors' rule in Japan. Their military leaders, shoguns, effectively took over the country's government from Kamakura (later Tokyo), while the emperor, shorn of much power, remained in Kyoto. Rejecting foreign influence, trade and Christianity in preference for the traditional Shinto religion, this feudal society persisted until the late 19th Century. In 1868 the emperor Meiji replaced the last shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, and westernisation began.