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Early days (1991–2000)

The Sasakawa Sports Foundation (SSF) was established with the support of The Nippon Foundation on March 15, 1991. Then, as now, the foundation’s goal was to promote sports in Japan and encourage the country’s residents to adopt healthier, more fulfilling lifestyles.


Birth of the Sasakawa Sports Foundation

The Sasakawa Sports Foundation (SSF) was established in 1991 with the approval of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture (now the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) and the support of The Nippon Foundation. One of the SSF’s earliest initiatives was the SSF Sports Aid program, which offered subsidies to local sports organizations working to invigorate sports in Japan. By 2010, the program had provided 5 billion yen in support to a total of 8,400 projects. Its legacy was a significant broadening of the range of sports activity enjoyed by residents of Japan.

Birth of the Sasakawa Sports Foundation


First Sports for All International Fair

In 1992, the SSF held the first annual Sports for All International Fair in Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities. The fair promoted “sports for everyone, anytime and anywhere” and gave visitors the chance to experience over 30 new and relatively unknown sports. Local municipalities and sporting organizations worked together to hold the Sports for All International Fair regularly until 2002.

First Sports for All International Fair


First National Sports-Life Survey

Recognizing the need for accurate data on sports in Japan, in 1992 the SSF developed a survey to ascertain the frequency, intensity, and duration of sports activity among the country’s residents. The National Sports-Life Survey soon became one of the SSF’s best-known activities, allowing the foundation to compare survey results with other countries. Each year’s results are published in the Sports-Life Survey series.


First Challenge Day in Japan

Challenge Day is a sports event for residents of local municipalities that originated in Canada in 1983. In 1993, the SSF coordinated Japan’s first Challenge Day, held in the town of Kamo (now part of the city of Unnan) in Shimane Prefecture. The event is currently run by The Association For International Sport for All (TAFISA) and held around the world. In Japan, too, the event continues to be held annually. More than 3 million residents of over 100 municipalities across Japan participate in Challenge Day events every year, making it the largest citizen sports event in the country.

First Challenge Day in Japan


First SSF World Sports Photo Contest

The SSF World Sports Photo Contest promoted sports photography as a cultural activity. It was held six times starting in 1995 with the support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Amateurs and professionals from over 50 countries entered around 10,000 photographs in each contest, with exhibitions of the winning photographs held across Japan. The event became known worldwide for the extremely high quality of the photographs entered.


First issue of White Paper on Sport in Japan

In 1996, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of its founding, the SSF published Japan’s first white paper on sports. Originally, white papers were produced by governments, but because there were no sports white papers for Japan, the SSF took the lead in creating one. The paper, which compiled the latest data on sports promotion in Japan and overseas and offered recommendations, became an essential reference for those involved in sports and related endeavors. It is currently produced on a three-year cycle, with summaries for integrnational readers also available.

Growth and reorientation (2000–2010)

When the Japanese government released its Basic Plan for the Promotion of Sports in 2000, the SSF embraced this new direction for sports in Japan, even updating its slogan from “Sports for All” to “Sport for Everyone” to reflect greater emphasis on the individual. Aiming to become a center for sports information and aid, the SSF began developing new initiatives that would address the needs of the country’s residents even more closely.


First National Sports-Life Survey of Young People

The SSF National Sports-Life Survey of Young People complements the National Sports-Life Survey by gathering data on younger residents—ages 10 to 19 from 2002 to 2016, and ages 12 to 21 since 2017. The results of the survey attracted attention for the polarization they revealed around sport and physical activity.


First Shonan Open-Water Swimming meet

Although Japan is an island nation, marine sports are not as popular among its people as elsewhere. To reverse this drift away from the sea, in midsummer of 2004 the SSF held an open-water swimming meet on the Shonan coast, a seaside area popular with young people not far from Tokyo. (Open-water swimming has been an Olympic event since the 2008 Beijing Games.) The event became popular with men and women, young and old, with around 2,000 participants every year. In 2009, management of the event was transferred to related organizations.

First Shonan Open-Water Swimming meet


First Tokyo Marathon

The SSF was instrumental in holding the Tokyo Marathon, which sees 30,000 contestants run through central Tokyo every year. The goals of the marathon included opening the roads to sports, holding an event where disabled and non-disabled people could compete together, and cultivating a culture of sports volunteering and charity. From planning and proposals to negotiations and attracting contestants, it took more than 10 years for the event to be realized. Working with the Tokyo Metropolis and the Japan Association of Athletics Foundations, the SSF managed 10,000 volunteers. Later this event would spread across the nation, and city marathons would be held in many locations. Starting in the fourth year of the event, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation was established to manage the event, which remains extremely popular.

© Tokyo Marathon Foundation


First National Sports-Life Survey of Children

Extending the National Sports-Life Survey and National Sports-Life Survey of Young People, in 2010 the SSF launched a National Sports-Life Survey of Children targeting children aged 4 to 9 (4 to 11 since 2017). The survey showed that a clear division of children into those who did and did not exercise or play sports was already underway by the age of 8. The results of the survey are published as National Sports-Life Survey of Children. In 2017, this survey and the National Sports-Life Survey of Young People were merged.

Transition and transformation (2011–)

One year before the Japanese government unveiled its Sports Basic Plan in 2012, the SSF transitioned toward research and survey activities as Japan’s only sports think tank. The foundation also revised its management policies, becoming a private, non-profit, independent organization.


Launch of Sasakawa Sports Research Aid

In 2011, the SSF ended its initial program of subsidies for sports organizations, having achieved its objectives. Along with its reorganization as a think tank, the foundation launched a new program to subsidize research activities related to sports policy. This aid continued until 2019.


First Sport Policy for Japan contest

Sport Policy for Japan brought third-year university students together in competition to come up with the best sports policy proposals. The SSF held the contest annually until 2018 to cultivate and promote network-building among the next generation of researchers. Since 2019, the conference has been jointly held by the Sport Policy for Japan Planning Committee and the Japan Society of Sports Industry.


Launch of Japanese sports history interview series

In 2012, the SSF began an interview series with Japanese athletes and related figures who have played leading roles in the nation’s sports history. The series aims to promote understanding of Japan’s sports history and the achievements of these key players. Interviews with more than 100 subjects have already been published as booklets or online.


First Sports Academy

Sports Academy features lectures exploring what a society with “Sport for Everyone” should look like in light of a range of sports-related challenges. It was held monthly until 2020 for members of the general public, in study group format with groups of around 20 people.


26th TAFISA World Congress Tokyo 2019

This international conference was hosted by TAFISA-JAPAN, of which SSF is a member. The conference theme was “Sports for All: Tradition and Innovation,” and it was held in Tokyo with the SSF playing a central role. This was the second time the conference was held in Japan, and more than 600 people from 78 countries attended.


Founding of Regional Sport Management Organization

In 2019, the Regional Sport Management Organization (RSMO) was founded in Kakuda, Miyagi, uniting local sports organizations that support regional revitalization efforts focused on sports. Today the RSMO weaves together sports promotion planning by the city of Kakuda and survey activities and proposals from the SSF as it experiments with a range of programs. It aims to influence other regions as well.

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