- Regular readers of our comments section will have seen the contributions of Lucas Santos, who has provided some invaluable input. Here, he looks at how Japan often had different manufacturers’ logos on otherwise identical shirts
Japan had alternated Adidas, Asics and Puma kit designs since 1975 (when Asics-branded strips were worn for the first time), with a white-blue-white kit usually used as the home and a blue-white-blue kit was worn as away, usually with the Japanese flag with a red border as team badge.
As seen in Jon Jones’s piece on countries changing colours, Japan switched to red in the late 1980s, and it is 1988 that we will take as our starting point, as the kits stayed the same but the logos seemed to continually change.
The red strip debuted in the 1988 Kirin Cup against Brazilian club side Flamengo on May 29, 1988 in Nishigaoka Soccer Stadium, Tokyo, where the uniform was worn with the Puma logo. It was worn also in the 1988 AFC Asian Cup, which was Japan first presence in the continental tournament. Curiously, it was the first Japan uniform to have the Three-legged crow logo on the chest, in a circular badge. In that year the kit was worn with red shirts, white shorts and red socks.
The following year, during the 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, in the matches against Indonesia, North Korea and Hong Kong, were used two variants of the 1988 kit, an all-red home kit and an all-white away kit, with the Adidas trefoil replacing the Puma logo.
In 1990, the Puma leaping cat returned on the kit, replacing the Adidas trefoil. With this variant, Japan played the 1990 Dynasty Cup (a tournament where all the Far East teams played) and Kazuyoshi Miura made his international debut for Japan. In 1991, the kit was worn with the Asics logo replacing the Puma logo, with which Japan played the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Tournament qualifiers and the 1991 Kirin Cup (where Japan played against Tottenham Hotspur and Thailand).
The red kit proven itself unlucky with Japan failing to make to Italia 90 and the Barcelona Olympics. In May 1992, Japan debuted a new blue-white-blue Adidas strip, with the same design as Liverpool 1991-93 (though strangely, the socks featured the trefoil while the shirt and socks featured the adidas Equipment logo), and it was used in the 1992 Kirin Cup match against Argentina, at the Tokyo National Stadium.
The away kit, which was the same design as the home kit with inverted colours, was worn on July 7 in the Kirin Cup match against Wales in Yamagata.
However, the adidas Equipment kit was short-lived, as during the 1992 Asian Cup in Hiroshima, a new kit, designed by the Japan Football Association made its appearance.
The new blue kit featuring a white and red geometrical motif (with the away kit being with the blue and white inverted) and the national flag (which, before 1988, was worn in the left breast of the shirts) worn on the left sleeve.
Initially, the kit was worn with the Adidas trefoil logo. In that season, the new home kit was worn in the tournament matches against North Korea, Thailand, China and in the final against Saudi Arabia, while the new away kit was worn in the Asian Cup match against Iran, as well in a friendly against Inter Milan on February 20 of the following year.
In 1993, during the later stage of the 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, played in neutral ground, in Doha, Qatar, Japan wore variant with the Puma logo in place of the Adidas trefoil, with the home kit mostly worn.
In the match against Iraq on October 28, 1993, known as ‘The Agony of Doha’, a stoppage-time equaliser from Iran’s Jaffar Omran Salman meant the game finished 2-2 and Japan finished third in the group, meaning they lost out to rivals South Korea for a place at USA 94. The away kit was worn against Iran and South Korea.
In 1994, under the coaching of the former Brazilian striker Paulo Roberto Falcao, who was later replaced in December 1994 by Shu Kamo, Japan wore kits with the Asics logo at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, as well in the 1994 Kirin Cup matches on May 22 against Australia and on May 29 against France in Tokyo.
In 1995, Japan wore both the Asics and adidas variants, with the former being worn on the 1995 King Fahd Cup and in the 1995 Dynasty Cup in Hong Kong (where Japan wore also an all-blue combination in the match against China on February 23), while the latter was worn in the Adidas Descent Match against Saudi Arabia on October 28 in Yamagata and in the 1995 Umbro Cup.
The following year, Japan wore a new kit with flame designs on the sleeves and the shorts and a white collar with red accents, which debuted in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics with the Asics logo. Against Hungary, the change version was worn.
In 1996 Asian Cup, in the United Arab Emirates on December 1996, the kit was worn with Puma logos, while the Asics variant was also worn by the U20 team in the 1997 FIFA World Youth Cup in Malaysia. The all-white was used in the quarter-final loss to Kuwait, despite the opponents also wearing white shorts.
In World Cup qualifiers in 1997, matches, such as in the match against Iran in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, the adidas version was worn. Japan, under the guidance of the coach Takeshi Okada, for the first time made it to the World Cup finals.
For the World Cup, the kit was updated slightly, with the flame now represented on the sleeves in a similar way to which it had been on the shorts.
Japan didn’t wear their white change shirts in any of their three group games, but they did use elements of the kit to make three different combinations – blue-white-white against Argentina, all-blue against Croatia and the default home in the final match against Jamaica.
An adidas branded version was worn by the U20 and U21 teams and Puma was worn by the U19 team.
After 1998, this trend was not seen again, with Japan consistently wearing adidas in the years since.