Early Football In Japan
The history of American Football in Japan goes back to 1934 when Paul Rusch, a teacher and missionary from Kentucky (USA), came to Japan in 1925 to help rebuild the Yokohama and Tokyo YMCAs that were destroyed in a 1923 earthquake. George Marshall, an athletic teacher at Tokyo based Rikkyo University, and two military attaches at the US embassy, Alexander George and Merritt Booth, helped to form the first football teams at three universities in Tokyo (Waseda, Meiji, Rikkyo). In November of 1934 the first football game was played between an all-star team of the three Tokyo universities and a team of the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club consisting of Americans and British living in Japan. The Japanese college team won the game.
American Football quickly gained popularity in Japan. In 1937 a game between college all-star teams from eastern and western Japan drew a crowd of about 25,000 spectators. The reason for the success of the rough North American game in mild-mannered Japan might have been that American Football offered a combination of power, technical precision, discipline and team spirit that was hard to find in other sports These characteristics also matched well with traditional Japanese values.
Post War Growth
During World War II (1939 - 1945) American Football in Japan came to a halt. In 1946 during the Allied Occupation of Japan, Peter Okada was a young serviceman stationed in Osaka with the 108th Military Government Team. He observed reforms in the Japanese high school sports system. Kendo and judo had been banned from schools because it was believed that those sports promoted militarism. Okada noticed the Japanese morale was suffering so he made a proposal to introduce the American sport of football. He borrowed a few footballs from the Army and on his days off began teaching touch football to the students at Toyonaka and Ikeda High Schools. Japanese students learned the game quickly. Today more than 17,000 players participate in competition for about 400 teams. The winner of the Japanese High School National Championship game is awarded the Peter Okada Trophy
In 1980 Chuck Mills became head football coach at Southern Oregon State University. Mills had a great connection with football in Japan. Mills is regarded as the "father of modern Japanese football" after bringing Utah State University, the first U.S. college football team to play Japanese collegiate players in 1971. The Japanese version of the Hiesman Trophy is called the Mills Cup. In 1985, Mills took Southern Oregon State University to Osaka, Japan and defeated Kwansei Gakuin University. A year later at Raider Stadium, Kwansei Gakuin was the first Japanese college team to compete on American soil. This story was featured in Sports Illustrated.
Birth of the Pacific Rim Bowl
During the collegiate football matches of the mid 1980’s, Akira Furukawa, Chairman of the American Football Association (Western Conference) had a dream to bring Japanese high school football players together and play against an American High School team. Furukawa, a native of Kobe (near Osaka) and alum of Kwansie Gakuin University, met Ashland High School Head Coach Jim Nagel and the rest was history. After hard work, planning, special permission from OSAA, Ashland High sent its Varsity football team to Osaka, Japan in 1988 for the first Pacific Rim Bowl.
|1988||Nagai Stadium - Osaka||Ashland 13||Japan 0|
|1990||Philips Field -Ashland High||Ashland 21||Japan 7|
|1993||Nishinomia Stadium - Osaka||Ashland 21||Japan 14|
|1995||Philips Field - Ashland High||Japan 17||Ashland 14|
|1997||Nishinomia Stadium - Osaka||Ashland 20||Japan 18|
|1999||Philips Field - Ashand High||Ashland 21||Japan 20|
|2001||Nagai Stadium - Osaka||Japan 48||Ashland 0|
|2003||Philips Field - Ashland High||Japan 26||Ashland 0|
|2005||Oji Stadium – Kobe||Japan 28||Ashland 6|
|2007||Philips Field - Ashland High||Japan 27||Ashland 21|
|2009||Flash Field – Osaka||Japan 20||Ashland 0|
|2011||Philips Field - Ashland High||Ashland 26||Japan 0|
|2013||Oji Stadium - Kobe||Ashland 32||Japan 30|
|2015||Raider Stadium (Southern Oregon University)||Ashland 31||Japan 23|
|2017||Oji Stadium - Kobe||Japan 34||Ashland 7|