Japan Data

Young Japanese Choose Ohtani Shōhei as Most Popular Athlete for Third Consecutive Time

Sports Society

Ohtani Shōhei was overwhelmingly the favorite pick in the survey of young Japanese.

A survey conducted by Sasakawa Sports Foundation in June and July of 2023 found that the most popular athlete among young people in Japan aged 12 to 21 was the Major League Baseball player Ohtani Shōhei of the Los Angeles Angels, followed at some distance by the soccer players Mitoma Kaoru and Lionel Messi.

The sports-related survey of young people is conducted every other year. This is the third consecutive time for Ohtani to top the survey, after the surveys conducted in 2019 and 2021. His 22.3% share of the vote was the highest to date.

In March 2023, Ohtani helped the Japanese national team win the World Baseball Classic for the third time. Ohtani has been out of the Angels starting lineup since September 3 due to surgery on his right elbow, but his performance until then was stellar, as the first player in Major League history to have the combined record of 10 victories in a season as a pitcher, 40 home runs, and 20 stolen bases, along with being the first Japanese to become the American League’s home-run champion. These achievements were reflected in his popularity in the survey.

The runner-up in the survey, Mitoma, was in the spotlight for his performance during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and as a player for Brighton in the Premier League. A Sasakawa Sports Foundation official noted the trend for athletes who are active on the global stage to rank highly in the survey.

Ohtani Shōhei (baseball) 22.3%
Mitoma Kaoru (soccer) 3.1%
Lionel Messi (soccer) 2.7%
Ishikawa Yūki (volleyball) 2.3%
Hanyū Yuzuru (figure skating) 2.0%
Hachimura Rui (basketball) 1.7%
Momota Kento (badminton) 1.6%
Takahashi Ran (volleyball) 1.4%
Suzuki Ichirō (baseball) 1.3%
Kawamura Yūki (basketball) 1.1%
Niwa Kōki (table tennis) 1.1%
Stephen Curry (basketball) 1.1%
Lars Nootbaar (baseball) 1.1%

Created by Nippon.com based on a survey by the Sasakawa Sports Foundation.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Ohtani Shōhei gets a hit against the Philadelphia Phillies on August 9, 2023. © Reuters.)

Hanyū Yuzuru figure skating baseball Ohtani Shōhei Mitoma Kaoru