Part 3 – Shunsuke Nakamura’s great influence on Japanese football

Part 3. About the custom “football notebook” that legend J.Leaguer Tsukasa Umezaki learned from Shunsuke Nakamura…

36-year-old Tsukasa Umesaki, the captain of Oita Trinita, who played more than 300 games as J-Leaguer and belonged to which Tomoki Iwata belonged from 2010 to 2020, is one of J-Leagers who was greatly influenced by Shunsuke Nakamura.

Currently leading the team not only in terms of play but also in terms of spirit, he talked about the “football notebook” he learned from Shunsuke Nakamura in an interview in December 2019.

Q. Is there anything you’ve been doing in your football career?

Umesaki: “I’ve been writing “football notebook” for 18 years since I was in the first year of high school. There are now 10 notebooks in total. All the triggers were Shunsuke Nakamura. I watched on a TV show about his habit of writing his daily realizations in his own “football notebook”. Basically, I write everything about football in my football notebook. What I noticed, inspiration, reflection points, etc. I write not only technical things, but also mental things such as the way of mind in football notebook.”

Q. What is the effect of writing?

Umesaki: “First of all, “never forget”. However, there is no point in just writing in the notebook, so I think it’s important to reread what I wrote. That’s why I still read back 10 notebooks I wrote in the past from time to time. When I’m faced with situation similar to what I experienced in the past, I can check the note and how to deal with it at that time. I’m very glad that I continued to do this. Shunsuke Nakamura is definitely the person who influenced to my way of life and way of thinking.”

Shunsuke Nakamura’s performance on the pitch tends to be featured, but his off-the-pitch behavior, customs, and words have great influence on many Japanese footballers. Kyogo Furuhashi, like Umesaki, revealed in a Japanese media documentary that he makes it a habit to write about football in his own football notebook, but his custom must have been influenced by Shunsuke Nakamura.

Since 2006, Japanese medias has featured Shunsuke Nakamura from various aspects many times. Many Japanese footballers who were fascinated by Naka’s free kick and creative play and started to aim to play in Europe.

Of course, it was not only players but also football fans who were fascinated by his performance. J.League has history of developing greatly influenced by Brazilian players and Brazilian managers.

For Japanese who value discipline and harmony, creative play and personality of Brazilian players are very attractive, and we have gradually acquired the habit of enjoying football through video and anime.

However, about 20 years ago, there were few examples of Japanese players playing active role in Europe, and I guess that Europian football and J.League football were recognized as different content for Japanese football fans. In other words, except for enthusiastic Japanese fans of football, it was not easy for many Japanese people to understand the difficulty and possibility of playing in the European leagues.

Of course, one of the factors is that there were far fewer opportunities for Japanese medias to feature news about European league’s football than now. I remember that after Shunsuke Nakamura’s free kick in the game against Manchester United, many Japanese media outlets began to focus frequently on European football.

Many Japanese football fans are happy that Japanese personality, performance, and dedication to the team began to be highly evaluated in Europe, and now fans have always talked about the development of Japanese football and European football.

I’m convinced that it’s a great achievement of Shunsuke Nakamura that Japanese people were able to expand their horizons to the world without completing football with only J.League. Nowadays, many Japanese people are interested in football, and it is not uncommon for us to watch football every week and talk about their performances on social media as fans of European clubs. In this way, Japanese football fanbase has developed. UEFA also could not ignore the development of Japanese football fanbase.

The above is the video featuring me as a Celtic supporter. This was released by UEFA last month as one of the contents to introduce each team to UCL.

About a month before Celtic Japan tour, I was contacted by UEFA project manager and met with UEFA shooting crew in Tokyo the day after the pre-season match against Yokohama F.Marinos and attended the shooting.

They were aware that many Japanese players have played in Champions League in recent years, and were interested in the positive impact of the success of Japanese players in Champions League on the development of Japanese football fanbase.

In particular, they seemed to have paid attention to the deep connection with Japan in the historic Celtic as unparalleled. I happened to be featured by them as one of Celtic supporters, so I took this opportunity to talk about the history of Celtic and the impact of Celtic Japanese players in Champions League on Japan in the interview, but I’m convinced that many football fans who are not actually Celtic supporters recognise Celtic and Shunsuke Nakamura.

This season, Celtic’s Japanese bhoys played in UCL again, and Kyogo’s performance at Atletico Madrid became big topic in Japan. Since the success of Japanese players in Champions League has big influence on Japanese football fanbase, I hope that the success of Celtic’s Japanese bhoys will once again shine spotlight on achievements and history of Celtic and Shunsuke Nakamura.

That’s all.


Matt Corr’s new book Majic, Stan and the King of Japan is out now and Neil Lennon, the Celtic captain that season, has written the foreword for us.

You can get a signed copy of the hardback version direct from Celtic Star Books by clicking on the image below. It’s also available an an e-book via Amazon Kindle and please note that all colour photographs that appear in the beautifully presented printed hardback book are also available in the Kindle version of Majic, Stan and the King of Japan…

About Author

I am a Content Creator and Origami art Creator, Analyst working for think tank in Japan and I joined this team in May 2023 and started to write articles as Japanese Celtic author for The Celtic Star. I live in Kobe(Japan) and have followed Celtic after 14 October, 2006, when I had watched the game against Dundee United FC - Shunsuke Nakamura scored a hat-trick. Also I am an enthusiastic supporter of Vissel Kobe, and I am familiar with various information and history of J-League. I have been posting threads on trajectory and background of Celtic Japanese players on Twitter mainly since summer of 2022 in order to further deepen the bond between Celtic and Japan. This time, I'm so proud to be more committed to Celtic by joining The Celtic Star team. I'm good at changing of viewpoints, so please expect my articles written from fresh perspective.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you Yatao , your posts dont get many replys but are much appreciated , Hail hail .