The Meiji Yasuda J.League has made a habit of sending phenomenal players to European leagues, especially of late, and a dozen of them are set to play in UEFA competitions in 2023-24.
Leading the way are Takehiro Tomiyasu and Takefusa Kubo, who will be playing in the UEFA Champions League for Arsenal and Real Sociedad, respectively.
Tomiyasu, who came through the Avispa Fukuoka academy before starring for the senior team, is a crucial piece of the Gunners’ back line. He helped them to a second place finish in the English Premier League last season and now play in Arsenal’s first Champions League campaign in seven seasons.
Kubo turned down scores of European offers to begin his professional career at F.C.Tokyo. Then, after he’d established himself, he moved to Spain in 2019 and has played in La Liga ever since and he was especially good for Soeciedad last season, scoring nine goals to help the club qualify for the Champions League for the first time in a decade.
The UEFA Europa League will also be chock full of Japanese players, led by Kaoru Mitoma. The Kawasaki Frontale product was sensational for Brighton and Hove Albion last season, emerging as one of the Premier League’s most creative players and earning the Seagulls a club-best sixth place finish. Now they are onto European competition for the first team in the history of the club.
Joining Mitoma in the Europa League will be his former Frontale teammate Hidemasa Morita, who is now with Sporting CP in Portugal. Gamba Osaka product and current Freiburg danger man Ritsu Doan is into the Europa League as well, in addition to Ado Onaiwu with Toulouse, Keito Nakamura with LASK and Shoya Atsuta with Slavia Prague.
There are J.League products in the UEFA Europa Conference League too. Daichi Kamada helped Eintracht Frankfurt to a place in the competition, though he is a free agent and it remains unclear which UEFA tournament he will play in next season.
Elsewhere, the trio of Club Brugge’s Shion Homma, Hearts’ Yutaro Oda and AZ Alkmaar’s Yukinari Sugawara head into the Conference League at 23 years old or younger, representing the young next generation of Japanese stars made in J.League.