Last modified on November 16, 2010

IN 2010
Japan's women win bronze at the World Championships
The World Women's Volleyball Championships took place from October. Japan was in Group A in the first round and defeated all teams. In the 2nd round, it was in Group E. It lost its first game to China. But it beat Turkey the day China lost to Serbia. In the semi-finals, Japan played against Brazil but lost in a competitive match. It however defeated the USA on Nov 14 to win the bronze. It's the first time in 32 years Japanese women won a medal.
Michiyo's note: There was little reason to write about volleyball for a long time as Japan no longer had one of the world's best teams. But this could be the start of a new volleyball era.

IN 2002
Fuji Film to close club
Fuji Film gave a press conference on May 15 to make it official that they were closing down their volleyball club. Fuji Film won the Nihon League 5 times, but it could not do well since the V.League was founded. The company said it will try to search for a club to accept some of its star players so that they can continue volleyball elsewhere.

IN 2001
World Grand Championships Cup (in Japan)
The Japanese men first faced Argentina on Nov 20. And to the delight of the fans, Japan clinched the game 3 sets to 2. But to Yugoslavia,Japan could not even win one set. It lost 0 to 3 on Nov 21. Japan lost to S. Korea too on Nov 23 0 to 3. And then to Cuba the next day 1 to 3. Japan's hope for a medal has vanished.

The games opened in Saitama on Nov 13 with the women's games. Japan played on the day and faced Sydney Olympic bronze winner, Brazil. But surprisingly, Japan took the first 3 sets to win. Japan also defeated S.Korea on Nov 14, 3 sets to 1. But on Nov 16, Japan lost to China 3 to 0. The following day Japan lost again, this time to Russia unable to take even one set. But on the final day, Nov 18, Japan defeated the US to clinch the bronze. It's been 17 years since Japan's women's team won a medal.

IN 2000
Hitachi's women team to shut down
One of the most prestigious volleyball clubs, Hitachi announced on Nov. 27 that it will close at the end of the V.League season which begins in Dec. It's reported to be part of the company's restructuring plan. What had especially made it's closure definite was the fact that the women's national team lost the berth to the Olympic Games in Sydney. Hitachi clinched 18 league victories since it was founded in 1964. There were a number of players selected to the Olympic medal winning national team. In July, Unitika, another famous team decided to close its team. As Unitika, Hitachi will seek teams which would acquire the players and coaches.

Beach volleyball medal
While Japan's indoor volleyball is in a long period of slump, there's bright prospective in BEACH volleyball. On Aug. 6, Japanese women Mika Saeki and Yukiko Takahashi clinched second place in the world tour. It's the first time since 1996 for Japan. And the wonder is, they lost in the 3rd round of the tournament but managed to move up in the losers' side.

Sydney Olympics Men's Qualifier Final
Japan, even though it defeated Venezuela on July 23,it's hope to play in Sydney was shattered when Argentina defeated Portual 3 to 0. Japan has lost its Olympic berth for the 2nd time since the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Japanese men
Jul.21 1 to 3 Argentina
Jun.22 3 to 0 Portugal
Jun.23 3 to 0 Venezuela

Unitika to close club
It was announced on July 5 that Unitika Phoenix will dismantle at the end of July. The players will look for teams that will take them in. Unitika's volleyball club was founded in 1954. It was one of the best giving birth to the "witches of the orient " as they were called during the 60s contributing to Japan's winning the Olympic gold.

Sydney Olympics Women's Qualifier Final
Japan would've had to come in within 4th to win a berth to the Olympics. But on June 25 Croatia defeated Italy, to win the ticket. So did China qualify. Japan finished the tournament 6th place. It's the first time Japan is not playing in the Olympics since the sport became official at the 1964 Games in Tokyo.
Japanese women
Jun.17 3 to 1 Argentina
Jun.18 3 to 0 Canada
Jun.19 3 to 1 Netherlands
Jun.21 1 to 3 China
Jun.22 0 to 3 Italy
Jun.24 2 to 3 Croatia
Jun.25 1 to 3 S.Korea

Suntory clinches mens'
The final of men's V.League was fought between Suntory Sunbird and Toray Arrows. Brazil's Bernard Gilson contributed to Sunbirds' final set to defeat Arrows 3 to 0. Gilson was selected MVP. It's Sunbirds' 1st win in 5 years.

IN 1999
1999 WORLD CUP(in Japan)
From Nov. 2, the women's World Cup kicked off with 12 teams taking part. The teams that finish in the top 3 automatically win a berth to the coming Olympics. The men's started from Nov. 18.
Japanese men's
Nov.18 2 to 3 Canada
Nov.20 3 to 1 Argentina
Nov.22 2 to 3 Spain
Nov.23 0 to 3 Cuba
Nov.26 1 to 3 USA
Nov.27 3 to 0 China
Nov.28 3 to 2 Tunisia
Nov.30 0 to 3 Italy
Dec.1 0 to 3 Russia
Dec.2 1 to 3 Brazil
Russia's first place in the men's event was secured on Dec.1 with its overwhelming victory against Japan. Cuba took second and Italy third. Japan finished third from last ahead of China and Tunisia.

Japanese women's
Nov.2 3 to 1 Argentina
Nov.3 3 to 1 USA
Nov.4 0 to 3 S. Korea
Nov.6 3 to 2 Italy
Nov.7 0 to 3 Russia
Nov.10 3 to 1 Croatia
Nov.11 3 to 0 Peru
Nov.12 3 to 0 Tunisia
Nov.14 0 to 3 Cuba
Nov.15 3 to 0 China
Nov.16 0 to 3 Brazil
Japan finished 6th. Cuba took first place.

Toyobo wins first championship title
The women's final was played on March 7. The teams were Hitachi and Toyobo. Toyobo won its first V.League title by clinching 3 sets straight. MVP went to Evguenia Artamonova of Russia who's been playing in Japan for 4 years. There will be no chance a non-Japanese will be awarded next season, because V.League will be played only with domestic players.

Player killed in car crash
Fuji Film's Kazuo Izuka drove through Tomei Expressway after practice on Jan. 25. 14 vehicles crashed into eachother. Izuka and 2 others were killed in the accident. Izuka used to play for Nisshinseitetsu until the club was shut down. He joined Fuji Film last year. Izuka was 1.99 meters tall. He was on the verge of becoming the team's regular player.

IN 1998

The championships opened in Tokyo on Nov. 3, and Japan's teenage pop group Speed celebrated it with the fans.
Men's final
Nov.29 Italy 3 to 0 Yugoslavia

Men's semi-final
Nov.28 Cuba 1 to 3 Yugoslavia
Nov.28 Brazil 2 to 3 Italy

Japanese men in the 2nd round
Nov.18 1 to 3 Argentina
Nov.19 2 to 3 Spain
Nov.21 0 to 3 Brazil
Nov.22 1 to 3 Cuba
Nov.24 2 to 3 S. Korea
Nov.25 1 to 3 Canada
Nov.26 2 to 3 Bulgaria

Japanese men's preliminary round
Nov.13 0 to 3 Spain
Nov.14 3 to 0 Egypt
Nov.15 3 to 0 South Korea

Women's final
Nov.13 Cuba 3 to 0 China

Women's semi-final
Nov.11 China 3 to 0 Russia
Nov.11 Brazil 1 to 3 Cuba

Japanese women in the 5th to 8th place final
Nov.11 0 to 3 Croatia
Nov.12 1 to 3 the Netherlands
Japan finishes 8th--the worst ever in the world championships.

Japanese women in the 2nd round
Nov.7 1 to 3 Russia
Nov.8 0 to 3 Brazil
Nov.9 3 to 0 Dominican Republic

Japanese women's preliminary round
Nov.3 3 to 0 Peru
Nov.4 3 to 0 Kenya
Nov.5 3 to 0 The Netherlands
Japan proceeds to the second round.

Women's team trains with Cuba
Defending champion Cuba arrived in Japan on Oct. 20. They will be joined by the Japanese women for a joint training in Hokkaido.

World Championships squad announced
The Japan Volleyball Association on Oct. 19 announced the players representing Japan for the men's and women's teams.
Women's team Men's team
Asako Tajimi (Hitachi) Takashi Narita (Fuji Film)
Hiroko Tsugumo (NEC) Yoichi Kato (Tsukuba Univ.)
Chie Kanda (Toshiba) Yuichi Nakagaichi (Nippon Steel)
Naomi Etoh (Hitachi) Masayoshi Manabe (Nippon Steel)
Minako Onuki (NEC) Koichi Nishimura (NEC)
Chikako Kumamae (Unitika) Kentaro Asahi (Suntory)
Junko Moriyama (Toyobo) Masaji Ogino (Suntory)
Hitomi Mitsunaga (Daiei) Nobutaka Hirano (JT)
Ikumi Ogake (NEC) Katsuyuki Minami (Asahikasei)
Miki Sasaki (Daiei) Minoru Takauchi (NEC)
Hiromi Suzuki (Yokado) Hideyuki Otake (NEC)
Eriko Isobe (Unitika) ?hiko Miyazaki (Matsushita Electric)

National championships end
On May 4, the national championships finals for men and women teams were held in Osaka. Panasonic defeated Nippon Steel in the men's, while in the women's Daiei beat Unitika for its 4th title. It was the first time in 17 years for Panasonic to clinch the title.

Golden era manager is dead
Former woman's national team manager Shigeo Yamada was reported to have died on Feb.5. He was 66. But it was made public only on Apr. 6 as Yamada did not wish anybody outside his family to know until only 2 months after his death. The cause of death has not be disclosed, other than the assumption that it may have been cancer of the kidney. Yamada led Hitachi's women's team to clinch the Japan League 18 times. He was national team manager when Japan won the silver in the Olympics in Mexico, the gold in Montreal. He led the team until the Soeul Olympics. However, his life was scandalized later on. He was rumored to have sexual harrassed women players of Hitachi, and indicted for taking out 100 billion yen out to Hong Kong without reporting the action.

Nippon Steel wins men's V.League
On Mar. 15, Nippon Steel defeated NEC 3 to 0 for its 2nd straight V.League title. Captain Yuichi Nakagaichi who was a former national ace attacker had not been playing well in recent years. However, this season, he hit the ball well after recovering from a surgery of both knees last May. He was named MVP. It's his third time to win the title.

Daiei is not shutting down team afterall
The women's volleyball team of Daiei will not close afterall. It was learned on Mar. 11, that a number of Daiei affliates have decided to support the team. The V. League, which will have 10 teams from next season will be confirming this move.

Daiei clinches V.League title
On Mar. 8, Daiei and NEC faced eachother in the final of the women's V. League. Daiei overwhelmed NEC winning 3 sets to 0. This is Daiei's 2nd V. League victory. The players of Daiei were elated, especially due to the fact that it was the last game they played in the V. league. They are expected to be in the national championship in May before closing the team.

Daiei plans to suspend volleyball club
Daiei Inc reported to the director of the Japan Volleyball Association on Jan. 16, that its volleyball team will cease to exist after May, after the national championships. The news of this possibility came out just the day before the official announcement. The team is at the moment the leader in the women's V.League. Team members include 2 national team members, and former members plus Yoko Zetterlund who represented the US at the Barcelona Olympic Games. This news is a shock for the Japanese sports world, because many have believed that Daiei, Japan's largest retail chain store which owns a strong track and field team and a pro baseball team had been running its business successfully.

IN 1997
Grand Champions Cup in Japan(Nov.14 to 24)
Women's final standing Men's final standing
1. Russia (5 wins ) Brazil (5 wins )
2. Cuba (4 wins 1 loss) The Netherlands (3 wins 2 losses)
3. Brazil (3 wins 2 losses) Cuba (3 wins 2 losses)
4. China (2 wins 3 losses) China (3 wins 2 losses)
5. Japan (1 win 4 losses) Japan (1 win 4 losses )
6. South Korea (5 losses) Australia (5 losses )

Japan beats S. Korea in Grand Championship
Japanese women's national team finally stopped their losing streak against South Korea at 17. This was on Nov. 14, the first day of the Volleyball World Grand Championship held in Japan. Japan won 3 sets to 1. Captain Asako Tajimi is the only one who actually played in all the consecutive defeats. The victory was earned at Osaka Castle Hall, before a turnout of 4500. That's not much, but at least the match was broadcast during TV's prime time.
Michiyo's Note: This turned out to be Japanese women's only victory in the competition.

Serious blows to international competitions
It was made known on Nov. 4 that the Russo-Japan volleyball games for men and women which was held for the 33rd time this year will be called off. At the time it started, Russia, then known as the Soviet Union, and Japan were the best in the world. However, Japan has lost its past glitz and competition arenas have not been attracting enough fans in recent years. Japan's largest broadcaster NHK also had decided against extending contract for the broadcast of the Men's World League and the Women's World Grand Prix series.

Women stars tie the knot with Daiei
Yoko Zetterlund who ended her contract with, Toshiba after playing with them for 1 season, is returning to Japan for the coming season. This time, she's joining V.league team, Daiei. It is said that manager Salinger had high marks for Zetterlund. She's a 180 cm. tall setter. Also, Mayumi Saito who left Ito Yokado in July, 1996 will be playing with Daiei as well. They are regarded as the perfect replacements for Daiei's star player Mika Yamauchi who just retired from volleyball. Zetterlund and Saito are officially signing a contract with the Daiei on Oct. 1.

Devastating result in the women's Grand Prix
Host country of the Women's Volleyball World Grand Prix, Japan finished the competition last place. Japan lost the final game on Aug. 31 to South Korea 1 set to 3. Japan lost all 3 games. Russian became the winner, and Atlanta gold medalist Cuba came in 2nd.

Japan defeats gold medalist
Japan's woman's national team overwhemled Cuba, gold medalist of the Atlanta Olympic Games on Aug. 8 in Soeul. This was in the Women's World Grand Prix preliminaries. Japan defeated Cuba, 3 sets to 2.The last time Japan had a victory over Cuba was in Nov. 1992.

Popular player finalizes decision to retire
Mika Yamauchi who has been a Japan national team player has formerly retired on Aug. 5. Manager of Daiei, Salinger tried to talk her into continue playing but failed. It is said that since her marriage to former Orix Blue Wave baseball player, she has lost the feeling of commitment toward volleyball. She will though keep on being a public figure as a sports commentator.

25-minute rule goes into effect
Japan's national team, for the first time played under the new 25 minute rule on July 30. This was in the US-Japan men's volleyball series held in Kumamoto, southern Japan. Japan was able to win 3 sets to 2. Still, fans and organizers alike were disappointed about the fact that the winning team could take advantage of the system by taking their time to serve as the 25 minute limit ticks by. After that, the first team to reach 15 points through the rally point system wins. The rally point system was only used for the final set until now.

Disasters for the men's team in Brazil
On June 22 report, Japan has lost its 12th consecutive game in the World League. That means Japan has not won even one game or with the worst standing among 12 teams. Japan finished the final game of the first round of the World League defeated by host country Brazil 3 sets to 1. Meanwhile, earlier, on June 18, national team player, Hiroyuki Minami, fell from the 8th floor of his hotel room. Thank goodness he survived by landing on the 5th floor terrace. He did, however, fracture his right wrist,cheek bone and chin. At least, his injuries were not so serious that he would have to quit playing.

46th All Japan men and women's championships
V.League and corporate teams competed from Apr.30 to May 5. NEC clinched the title in both the men's and women's tournament. It's the first time a company has achieved such a feat. The men's NEC team defeated Matsushita Electric 3 sets to 0 for their 5th championship victory. The women's NEC had a close game against Daiei of 3 sets to 2.
Michiyo's Note: By the way, Yoko Zetterlund who represented the US team at the Atlanta Olympic Games played her last game with Toshiba in the championships. It's too bad Toshiba did not try renewing the contract. Toshiba is being promoted to the V.League from the coming season, and Yoko's presence would've made a difference to the fans. Suntory too will release American Bob Samuelson . Samuelson has been popular for his dynamic jump serve and skinhead. He was the MVP for the 1st V.League. However, he hardly played as a regular during the past year due to a knee pain. .

Yamauchi decides to retire too
It has been made known on May 2 that Mika Yamauchi who became the first Japanese woman to play volleyball professionally, is likely to retire after the men's and women's national competition held Apr.30 to May 5. She is marrying former Orix Blue Wave player Toshihiko Fujimoto on May 10.
Michiyo's Note:Mika is quite a charming player. She's even had a compilation of herself in portraits published. The retirement of another star player is making prospects for the recovery of Japan's volleyball scene even tougher.

First V. League all star games
On Apr.19 and 20, the V. League all star games for men and women were held for the first time at the Tokyo Gymnasium. 12 most popular players were selected to play on the Star and Max teams. Among them were Motoko Ohbayashi and Mika Saiki who announced their retirement in Mar.'97. Ohbayashi played volleyball for the first time in a month and a half, whereas Saiki came home for this event from her beach volleyball tour in LA and Thailand. A mixed game of men and women was also held.
Michiyo's Note: See a shot of Saiki from the back that I took at the all star game. It's under volleyball star.

Nippon Steel wins the men's V.League
Ace player,Yuji Nakagaichi blasted powerful spikes to give his team, Nippon Steel, its first V. League victory on Mar.16. "Gaichi" also was selected the season's Most Valuable Player. Nippon Steel was challenged by Japan Tabacco for the title and won it 3 sets to 1. Nippon Steel has had won 6 Japan League titles before.
Michiyo's Note:Although the championship attracted a full crowd of more than 13,000, the 3rd V.League's overall turnout has gone down for both men and women. The Japan Volleyball Association said on Mar.16, that there's been a 30 percent decrease compared to the previous season. The situation could get worse next season with the retirement of two popular women players, Motoko Ohbayashi and Mika Saeki.

Hitachi is no longer in the V.League
The company which has had one of the best women's volleyball team lost their second game on Mar.16, in the tournament to determine the league status. Hitachi, therefore, will be demoted to a lower division. Hitachi has had ruled the women's volleyball league for a long time with 18 Japan league victories. Many Olympic players with with the team. They have played poorly ever since firing ace players Motoko Ohbayashi and Tomoko Yoshihara from the team to start off the V.league in 1994.

First beach volleyball pro
Mika Saiki, who's retirement was confirmed on Mar. 3, has signed a professional contract with a company called Daiki to play beach volleyball. This action was taken on Mar. 14. According to the contract, she will make 20 million yen a year. She is the first Japanese beach volleyball player ever to tie a professional contract. By the way, her last appearance as an indoor volleyball player will be in the all star game in mid April.

Women's 3rd V.League ends
Team standing was finalized on Mar. 9.
Result as of the final round
1. NEC Red Rockets
2. Toyobo
3. Denso
4. Ito Yokado

8 teams competed for a total 50 thousand yen prize money.

First half Dec. 7 to 23
Mid-season Jan. 11 to 26
Later half Feb. 8 to 23

Stars announce retirement
Japan's women ace players, Motoko Ohbayashi and Mika Saiki have announced early in March that they will not sign with their teams, Toyobo and Unitika respectively. Saeki, however is not quitting volleyball. She is hoping to go into beach volleyball. Ohbayashi reported on Mar.7 that she would like to become a TV reporter.

Yoko Zetterlund is back in Japan
US national team player in both the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games is playing for a Japanese corporate team from January 11. This is good news for the women's volleyball league which has been losing fans lately. Yoko Zetterland used to play as Yoko Horie as a student of Waseda University, a private university in Tokyo until 6 years ago. She played well since those days, and her good looks attracted many fans. Until then, she had both Japanese and American passports. When she turned 20, she had to choose one nationality. She chose to become an American and live in the US. Yoko is for the first time a member of the Japanese corporate league, playing as both an attacker and setter of Toshiba.

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