Brazil's connection with Japan is huge. If we have received amazing heritages and gifts from Japanese culture such as delicious cuisine, manga and cartoons, martial arts and much more, we can also be proud to have exported some really cool stuff. Football did not arrive in Japan in the hands of Brazilians, but it is undeniable that local football has a before and after Zico.
The Kashima Antlers appeared in 1947, but they went back and forth in the main division and in the second division until the appearance of the J-League in 1993. Zico arrived in 1991 after his second stint at Flamengo and surprising everyone by destiny. He soon became an idol, retiring in 1994, becoming coach in 1999 and rising to the Japanese national team in 2002. He is now the club's technical director and still great idol.
Before that, the European and South American teams already knew the ways of Tokyo and Yokohama because of the Interclub Worlds. After withdrawals and police stories of the duels between South Americans and Europeans, back and forth, to decide who would be world champion, Toyota's sponsorship made the tournament to be played in the Asian country. Even with the change of Interclubes to a tournament organized by FIFA in 2004/05, Japan continued to host the competition. São Paulo in 2005, Internacional in 2006 and Corinthians in 2012 were champions in Yokohama. Flamengo in 1981, Grêmio in 1983, São Paulo in 1992 and 1993 were champions at the national stadium in Tokyo.
Little by little, the J-League was drawing the attention of other players and coaches. Leonardo arrived in 1994, shortly after being world champion, in a successful passage that was followed by a return to Europe that also had good moments. In other words, it was not an end-of-career decision.
The same can be said of Arsene Wenger. Arsenal's historic 22-year coach moved from Nagoya Grampus to the English team. There he was champion of the Emperor's Cup and Super Cup before joining the London team and winning the Premier League several times.
Despite not being a continuous and unequivocal success, the formation of the league and the arrival of international expertise made national football grow and flourish. Which was perfect because the country would host the 2002 World Cup, along with South Korea.
If Japan had only one Cup played, precisely in 1998, and lost all three group stage games, this time they won two, drew one and passed as leader of their group. However in the round of 16 they lost 1-0 to Turkey.
But Brazil would avenge that. When they took Turkey in the semifinals they also won 1-0, in Ronaldo's famous goal. In the end, another Brazilian conquest in Japan with the 2-0 over Germany. To confirm the good luck of the Japanese winds, at the Tokyo Olympics, Brazil was gold in football too.
Since then, Japan has always been present at the World Cups and continues to be a destination for Brazilians and also for players looking for new challenges and an interesting experience. Andres Iniesta, Barcelona legend, arrived in 2018 and is still active at the age of 37, with Vissel Kobe winning the Emperor's Cup and Super Cup.
United by history, Brazil and Japan have another incredible relationship that is worth knowing.