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Date: 10/17/2017

While the Japanese women prepare for the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championship in under two months, many of the players will have one eye on the 2019 edition, to be held in Kumamoto, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – both opportunities to play in front of their home fans.


But first, they must concentrate on competing in the Japan Handball League (JHL), which threw-off for its 42nd edition just over a month ago. Many of the Japanese men’s and women’s national team players participate in the competition which is set to run until 11 March 2018, followed by the Ana Cup, taking place a few weeks later, from 23-25 March.


The JHL started in September 1976 when eight men’s and eight women’s teams joined and over the years it has grown to 18 teams as well as being involved heavily in the development of the East Asia Handball Club Championship which debuted in 2005 in Korea.


Many teams in the JHL have a long history, existing before it even existed with the oldest, men’s club Osaki Electric, celebrating their 57th anniversary this year. The newest teams come in the women’s competition with Osaka Lovvits and Prestige International Aranmare both celebrating their 12-month anniversary in 2017. Teams in the JHL are based across the country, with Ryukyu Corazon, in the men’s division, the most southerly. The team, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this season, is based on the chain of southwestern Ryukyu islands, neighbouring Chinese Taipei.


Nine teams compete in both the men’s and women’s divisions with the men’s competition featuring Toyota Auto Body (founded 1967), Osaki Electric (1960), Daido Steel (1964), Toyoda Gosei (1975), Wakunaga Pharmaceutical (1969), Ryukyu Corazon (2007), Toyota Motor East Japan (1966), Toyota Boshoku Kyushu (1992) and Hokuriku Electric Power (1990).


For the women, Hokkoku Bank (1975), Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing (1984), Hiroshima Maple Reds (1994), Omron (1974), Mie Violet Iris (2002), HC Nagoya (1967), Osaka Lovvits (2016), Prestige International Aranmare (2016) and Hida Takayama Blackbulls Gifu (2013) will be competing for national honours.


Aside from the national team and homegrown players, a number of teams feature players from outside of Japan, with the Lithuanian centre back Daiva Aleksandraviciute, who picked up Women’s EHF Cup and Challenge Cup experience with Egle-Sviesa Vilnius, playing for Sony and Korean centre back/left back Lee Mi Gyeong playing for Hiroshima. Gyeong played for Korea for a number of years, suffering heartbreak at the London 2012 Olympic Games after finishing fourth following a bronze medal match loss to Spain after the second period of additional time.


The current title holders in the men’s JHL are Daido Steel, who finished last season on 29 points, winning 14 of their 16 clashes, drawing and losing one. In the women’s division, Hokkoku Bank were as dominant as they could be, winning all 18 of their games, scoring 486 goals in the process.


For more information on the Japan Handball League, visit http://www.jhl.handball.jp/eng/ (English), http://www.jhl.handball.jp (Japanese) or follow their official Twitter account @jhl_official.