When I started writing about darts in Asia, I wrote a lot about Japan and about the results in Japan. Lately I focussed on other parts of Asia (PH, South Korea) more, but of course I won’t forget about Japan. I promised a ‘Darts Around Asia’ piece about Japan, so here it is.
Places to play
In Japan, there are thousands of places to play a game of soft tip darts, but only a couple of hundred to play steel. Dartsbars are really important in Japan, while most players are getting sponsored by one which then is also their ‘’home’’ to practice and play demonstrations. It’s also a place for their fans to go to and come see their favorite player play, take a picture, get a signature, and so on. To me, the dartscommunity in Japan always seemed pretty open.
It probably won’t surprise you that most steel tip spots are in and around Tokyo. Second comes Kobe and third Nagoya. If you’re interested in a complete overview of bars that contain a steeltip board, I recommend you to view this map made by @HiddeWanKenobi
Recently very popular has been the Fido steeltip board. It has to features of an electronic board (automatic counting, sounds) so it has that sort of ‘arcade/gaming’ element to it. I think that’s one of the things that makes soft tip so popular and addicting (Leslie Lee also mentioned it), so I’ve seen the Fido board doing fairly well recently.
It’s pretty obvious that Seigo Asada is the number one player of Japan. Asada had a great 2019: He became PERFECT TOUR champion for a stunning fifth time in a row, made the semifinals of the PDC World Cup together with Haruki Muramatsu, made history to be the first Japanese player to reach the third round of a PDC World Championship and hit his first 100+ average on tv. He tried Q-School in 2020, had one good day but that wasn’t enough to get a card.
But who else are there besides Seigo Asada? We all know Haruki Muramatsu and Yuki Yamada both did fine in 2019. Muramatsu was the second best Japanese player on the Asian Tour for the first half of the year, Yuki Yamada for the second half of the year. Both won an Asian Tour, but it was Yamada who ended up at the PDC World Championship. Most people expected him to lose first round against Ryan Meikle, but Yamada ended up winning. Darren Webster was too strong in the second round, but still it was a great experience for Yamada which made him decide to try Q School again.
Yuya Higuchi also played on the international stage before, he played the BDO World Trophy. In 2019 he hit his highest average ever, 97. Averages don’t say everything, but I still think Higuchi could be a dangerous player if his level stayed a bit more steady.
I also expect George Nishitani to make huge steps forward in the near future. He recently got signed by TARGET and moved from the PERFECT Tour to the JAPAN Tour. He participated for the first time in STAGE 16 and became runner-up straight away, he also beat Seigo Asada in the SUPER DARTS Live Match battle, sadly Nishitani lost in in the final to Ryuta Arihara.
Another player doing well recently is Toyokazu Shibata, winning STAGE 14 and 16 of the JAPAN Tour. Masaki Oshiro also does well on the tour, and he will play SUPER DARTS as a result of him being first on the annual ranking
The most well-known lady in Japanese darts is of course Mikuru Suzuki. She became World Champion in 2019, played the Grand Slam of Darts, the PDC World Championship and got herself an invite for SUPER DARTS. She also won both pairs and single titles at the WDF World Cup and the Dutch Open and became Swedish Open champion. In 2020 she was able to defend her title as World Champion and will go to defend her number one spot on the JAPAN Ladies ranking as well. I could write an article on Suzuki alone, I believe she is one of the players who paved the way for Japanese and Asian darts.
In the shadows of Suzuki, some other great female players fight their battles and some even try their luck on the international stage. Yukie Sakaguchi was able to overtake Suzuki on the JAPAN LADIES ranking for a short while, but in the end it was Suzuki who got back the number one position and got the SUPER DARTS invite. Some other ladies who do well on the JAPAN LADIES tour are Mayu Shimizu, Natsumi Iwata, Miyu Miyawaki and Mana Kawakami.
Mayumi Ouchi also went to Europe a couple of times, to the WDF World Cup to win the pairs tournament with Suzuki, but also to the BDO World Masters, where she lost to Lisa Ashton in the Quarter Finals. Ouchi plays the PERFECT Tour where she does well, but Sato and Zhou are a bit too strong on this tour. What I personally like about Ouchi is her confidence.
Last but not least, Kasumi Sato is one of the younger players. Only 28 years old and from Tokyo, this lady is the most underrated Japanese player in my opinion. She is PERFECT TOUR champion for three consecutive years now, which is amazing. She played the BDO World Masters in 2019 and made it to the semis. And finally, in 2020 she got signed by a big company (Unicorn). It’s pretty rare for Unicorn to sign female players, so I believe she has a very bright future ahead and I think Unicorn saw the same thing I have been yelling on social media and articles for a while (thanks Unicorn, surely this gives me a free set of her darts to review when they get released?). She also won the Tokyo Darts Open this year.
There’s a couple of good youth players in Japan. On Dutch television Sakuto Sueshige, Tomoya Goto and Shusaku Nakamura were mentioned as good players among the boys. I’m curious to see what they will do in the future.
One girl’s player I saw play during the Tokyo Darts Open recently was Aka Sayaka and I’m already a fan. I think she played very well during that tournament, winning the youth competition with a 3-0 win in the final, hitting some very good scores during the match.
I think this is the longest article I wrote up to date. I actually wanted to write more, because darts in Japan is really interesting in terms of merchandise, fanbases and events so I’ll write a follow-up article on those themes in the future, it just doesn’t fit in this article anymore, haha.