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Monday 27 May 2013

Premier League stars from the Far East: Japan

A look back at players from Japan who have graced the Barclays Premier League

  • Junichi Inamoto scored past Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League for Fulham

  • Inamoto also starred for West Bromwich Albion

  • Kazuyuki Toda only featured four times in the league for Spurs

  • Hidetoshi Nakata came from Serie A to experience Barclays Premier League football

  • The number of Far East players in the Barclays Premier League since 2002

For football fans in Asia, the Barclays Asia Trophy represents a wonderful opportunity to see the stars of the Barclays Premier League in competitive action and to enjoy an experience similar to that at Barclays Premier League grounds in England.

Over the past decade the level of exchange between the Barclays Premier League and Asia has grown, not just through fans from the Far East having greater interest in the competition and the visits of Barclays Asia Trophy, which started in 2003. Around the same time there has been a greater influence of Asian players in the Barclays Premier League.

To date, 21 players from China, Japan  and South Korea have played in the Barclays Premier League since Sun Jihai, Li Tie and Junichi Inamoto started in 2002 (see chart in gallery above). Here looks at the players from Japan who played in the Barclays Premier League.

Junichi Inamoto (Arsenal, Fulham, West Bromwich Albion)

The midfielder was the first player from the Far East to join a Barclays Premier League club, signing for Arsenal in 2001. He did not make a league appearance for the Gunners and moved to Fulham on loan a year later. At Craven Cottage he played in 41 league matches, scoring two goals, including one in a famous win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

After two seasons at Fulham, Inamoto moved to West Bromwich Albion, where, having spent a year on loan to Cardiff City, he featured 25 times in the Barclays Premier League. He left in 2006 for Galatasaray, before moving on to Eintracht Frankfurt and Rennes, before returning to Japan, where he plays for Kawasaki Frontale.

Arsenal 2001-02 0 league appearances
Fulham 2002-04 41 appearances; 2 goals
West Brom 2003-06 25 appearances; 0 goals

Kazuyuki Toda (Tottenham Hotspur)

After impressing in Japan’s midfield at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Toda chose to join Tottenham Hotspur ahead of Sunderland. But the orange-haired midfielder struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane, appearing only four times in the league during the 2002/03 season, of which three were defeats. After one year he moved to ADO Den Haag in the Netherlands.

Tottenham Hotspur 2002-03 4 appearances; 0 goals.

Hidetoshi Nakata (Bolton Wanderers)

After seven years in Serie A, Nakata, Japan’s best player to date joined Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers on a season-long loan in 2005. The creative midfielder appeared 27 times in the Barclays Premier League, scoring once, as he helped Bolton to eighth by the end of the season.

Bolton Wanderers (loan) 2005-06 27 appearances; 1 goal

  • Ryo Miyaichi was unable to prevent Bolton from relegation in the 2011/12 season

  • Shinji Kagawa is the first Japanese player to win the Barclays Premier League title

  • Maya Yoshida has become a stalwart of the Southampton defence

Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic)

Miyaichi, a fast winger, joined Arsenal straight from high school in January 2001, and was loaned to Feyenoord, where he impressed. The following season he was lent to Bolton Wanderers for the second half and he appeared 21 times as the side struggled in the Barclays Premier League.The next season Wigan took Miyaichi on loan but injuries restricted him to just four league appearances, all off the bench.  

"I saw players like Junichi Inamoto and Hidetoshi Nakata both play in the Premier League and when I was young they were the role models that people in Japan could look up to,” he told the Wigan website. "I would like to become a role model like they were when they played in England and it is a great thing that there are more Japanese players in the Premier League now."

Arsenal 2001- 0 matches
Bolton (loan) 2012 21 appearances; 0 goals
Wigan Athletic (loan) 2012-13 4 matches; 0 goals

Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United)

A star of the Borussia Dortmund side who won back-to-back Bundesliga titles Kagawa opted to join Manchester United in the summer of 2012. In one season he has become the first Japanese player to win the Barclays Premier League title, his third in a row, appearing in more than half the matches in the League while scoring six goals, more than his compatriots had achieved in total.

Manchester United 2012- 20 appearances; 6 goals

Maya Yoshida (Southampton)

Signed late in the summer transfer window by Southampton, the ball-playing defender had a baptism of fire in the Barclays Premier League, coming off the bench away to Arsenal as the South Coast side went down 6-1. Since then he has adapted quickly and become a stalwart in the Southampton back line under first Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino, playing 32 times in the league.

Southampton 2012- 32 appearances; 0 goals

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Key Points

  • The sixth Barclays Asia Trophy takes place in July in Hong Kong
  • We take a look at some Far Eastern stars who have featured in the Barclays Premier League
  • There have been six players from Japan to have played in the Barclays Premier League