Japan wore a very eye-catching and very 1990’s soccer jersey for their FIFA World Cup debut in 1998. While the team flamed out in France (losing all 3 group stage matches), their jerseys stole the show with fans still pointing to the edition as one of the best.
And to celebrate the last 20 years of the Samurai Blue, adidas unveiled the 2017 home jersey that was inspired by the famous jersey. The new look from adidas puts a modern stamp on the jersey while retaining key elements of the 1998 jersey.
The solid blue jersey is highlighted with a flame on each sleeve. The flame emanates from the blue cuff and has a gradient effect with darker blue at the base and white near the top outlined in red. The updated JFA badge is on the left chest with the flag of Japan over the badge and ‘JAPAN’ below the badge. The adidas Performance logo is opposite.
The jersey has a white crew collar with triangular red insert at the front which gives it a v-neck look from a distance.
A ventilated side panel with the adidas 3-stripes in white run down the side of the jersey.
The original flame jersey was designed by then technical sponsor asics and the Japan Football Association (JFA) and used at the 1996 Summer Olympics in the US. The blue jersey featured a larger flame on the sleeves made with a white/blue/red outline.
It included the original JFA badge with ‘JAPAN’ in text underneath over the left chest and asics logo over the right chest. The flag of Japan was on the right sleeve under the flame.
The polo collar had a red triangular insert on the polo collar.
And the green goalkeeper jersey was arguably even more impressive. Once again taking the theme of over the top from the 1990’s the GK jersey was something special.
Japan switched to adidas in 1997 for Asian qualification for the ’98 World Cup with the only change to the jersey being the addition of the adidas wordmark over the right chest. adidas also used the same design for the goalkeeper jersey (seen above).
They switched back to asics for the 1998 World Cup and upped the ante on the jersey with a sublimated flame print covering the entire jersey. The flame was simpler with only a white/red outline making the smaller flame.
The original JFA crest was over the heart but the ‘JAPAN’ text was removed and asics logo on the right chest. The design included a white polo collar with red and blue trim and white piping running from the collar down the shoulder and around the sleeve.
The jersey had a matching flame motif on the legs of the shorts.
Japan have since qualified for every subsequent World Cup and were co-host along with South Korea for the 2002 World Cup when they advanced to the Round of 16. They also advanced to the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
France ’98 was the first appearance in a World Cup for Japan but it was not their first major international. They were the first Asian side to compete in a major international when they qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany. At the time Japan traditionally wore a white jersey with red detailing but in their opening quarterfinal match against Sweden they pulled on a blue jersey with red detailing and shocked the world with a 3-2 victory.
Shop for the Japan 2017 home soccer jersey by adidas at World Soccer Shop.