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Japanese Soccer Personalities


Japan Football Hall of Fame

3rd group of inductees, 2006
Born in Chiba Prefecture on January 9, 1852, as Nisuke.
Head teacher at Physical Education Teaching Centre, professor at Tokyo Normal Higher School, professor at Tokyo Women's Higher Normal School, honorary headmaster at Tokyo Women's School of Physical Education and Music. Father of physical education in schools, credited with major role in promotion of physical education for women.
Initiator of spread of soccer in Japan. Begins development of soccer in school physical education and club activities.
During teacher training at Physical Education Teaching Centre (founded in 1878, later merged into Tokyo Normal Higher School), preaches importance of outdoor sports in addition to teaching light exercise. In "Playing Outdoors - Outdoor Exercise" (written jointly with Morinari Tanaka), published in 1885, introduces soccer as example of outdoor exercise. Item 17 in this book, "Football", is the first ever description of soccer to be written in Japanese, and with the original and revised versions going on to influence later physical education books, this leads to soccer gaining a place among physical education in schools.
Reaffirms both physical and mental value of soccer in physical education during observations in Europe in 1901-2, and works to spread the sport upon his return to Japan. Having been leader at the club, Tokyo Normal Higher School Association Football Club uses books Tsuboi brought back from Europe as reference and receives his opinions and proofreading in publishing "Association Football" (1903), and "Football" (1908). These books were the first specialist soccer books in Japan to explain soccer mechanisms in detail, and contributed to the spread of soccer in the country. Tsuboi himself is active in coaching soccer at the Tokyo Normal Higher School-Affiliated Elementary School, and teachers and football club members receiving his tutelage go on to spread soccer into more schools across the country. Tsuboi also succeeds in developing soccer into sports clubs in universities and specialist high schools through this football club.
Receives 4th Class Order of the Rising Sun in 1909
Passes away in 1922
Elected into Japan Football Hall of Fame as part of third group of inductees in 2006.

* Tokyo Normal Higher School was established in 1873 as Tokyo Normal School. Its name was changed to Normal Higher School in 1886, and to Tokyo Normal Higher School in 1902.
* The school's football club was founded in 1886 as a "Football Club", with Gendou Tsuboi as its first leader. "Football" was initially used as a loan word from English in the title, before Chinese characters were adopted instead from 1904-5.

*Information supplied by Japan Football Museum


Brings sports into school physical education and recommends the playing of soccer

If we trace back to the roots of the prosperity that soccer currently enjoys in Japan, we find stories of British navy troops, Lieutenant Commander Douglas and his subordinates being the first to play football in Japan, or of a match being played by foreigners in a settlement in Kobe City two years previously, but it was Gendou Tsuboi who was the first to actually teach the sport to young people and introduce it in writing, with the aim of spreading soccer throughout Japan. Tsuboi, a physical education teacher for more than 40 years between 1879 and 1922, a little after Douglas's time, is now revered as the founding father of soccer in Japan.

Tsuboi was born in 1852, the year before the arrival of the black ships of Commodore Perry. The second son of a farmer from the modern-day Ichikawa City in Chiba, he was initially named Nisuke. Tsuboi appears to have been a fundamentally bright boy, having left for Edo at the age of 14 during the turbulent times at the end of the feudal era, with the ambition of studying medicine, and entering the shogunate institution of Kaisei School. Here, he would not learn Dutch studies, but would study English studies instead.

His newfound English abilities enabled him to become interpreter for George Adams Leland, an American professor at the Physical Education Teaching Centre, a new institution established to train physical education teachers. In three years of leading classes of students with Leland, Tsuboi naturally learned physical education theory and also picked up techniques as well, enabling him to teach the students after Leland had returned to the United States.

Having wanted to introduce outdoor sports on top of the standard exercises in physical education lessons, Tsuboi published "Playing Outdoors - Outdoor Exercise" in 1885 as a joint effort with Morinari Tanaka, a student of his. One of the sports included in the book was football, making this the first book ever to introduce soccer in Japan.

An excellent thing that Tsuboi did here was to explain that, although the rules state that each team should consist of 11 players, the game could still be played with more, making it easy for coaches to introduce the sport and play it according to their own respective circumstances.

After the closure of the Physical Education Teaching Centre, Tsuboi returned to Tokyo Normal Higher School to take the positions of associate professor, professor, and leader of the football club, before departing for a year's observational tour of Europe at the age of 43.

There is a well-known story here of him bringing a complete set of table tennis equipment back with him on his return, and it was certainly characteristic of the man to be constantly wanting to popularise any sport that could be played simply throughout Japan.

With a zeitgeist calling for the nation to fight to catch up with Europe and America, and considering physical education in schools as part of the policy to increase national wealth and military power, Tsuboi preached the function of games and sports, and considered that spreading the sport of football (soccer) - which was so popular throughout the world - across Japan would be important for the mental and physical development of the nation's young people. His teaching philosophies have been passed on to teachers at the University of Tsukuba and at many other academic institutions.


  • 9 January 1852 - Born as Nisuke, the second son of Shinsuke Tsuboi, a wealthy farmer in Shimousa Province.
  • 1866 - Travels to Edo to learn medicine. Studies English under Yasuyoshi Oka at Kaiseijo (which then becomes Kaisei School in 1868 under the new Meiji government).
  • 1871 - Graduates from Kaisei School and goes to work at the Southern College of the University (which would later become the University of Tokyo).
    Changes name from Nisuke to Koji, and finally to Gendou.
  • 1872 - Works at the newly-established Tokyo Normal School (later Tokyo Normal Higher School; now Tsukuba University).
  • June 1875 - Becomes teacher at Miyagi School of English.
  • 1878 - Becomes interpreter for George Adams Leland, an American professor at the newly-opened Physical Education Teaching Centre (moving back to Tokyo from Miyagi).
  • 1881 - Leland returns to the United States. Tsuboi takes over teaching responsibilities.
  • 1882 - Physical Education Teaching Centre publishes "New Gymnastics Theory".
  • April 1885 - Publishes "Playing Outdoors - Outdoor Exercise" as a joint effort with Morinari Tanaka.
  • April 1886 - Physical Education Teaching Centre absorbed into Tokyo Normal Higher School. Tsuboi becomes associate professor.
  • 1896 - Headmaster Jigoro Kano establishes sports association within Tokyo Normal Higher School. The association consists of eight clubs - judo, fencing, archery, apparatus gymnastics, lawn tennis, baseball, football, and cycling.
  • June 1900 - Ordered by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture to travel overseas (France, Germany, United Kingdom) for one year to research sporting activities. Departs the following February.
  • June 1902 - Returns to Japan via the United States. Brings back a table tennis set from the United Kingdom.
  • 1903 - Tokyo Normal Higher School Football Committee publishes "Association Football" (Shobido). Tsuboi writes the foreword.
  • April 1909 - Leaves his professorships at Tokyo Normal Higher School and Tokyo Women's Higher Normal School (now Ochanomizu University). Becomes instructor in Tokyo Normal Higher School gymnastics faculty.
  • April 1922 - Becomes honorary headmaster of Tokyo Women's School of Gymnastics and Music (now Tokyo Women's College of Physical Education).
    2 November - Passes away. Given the posthumous name of Kengyo-in Syakugenn Toji and buried at Shinjoji in Mukogaoka 2-chome, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.
  • Elected into Japan Football Hall of Fame as part of third group of inductees in 2006.