Japanese sports stars on the Olympic Torch Relay route: Osaka, Tokushima and Kagawa

Naomi Osaka of Japan serves against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in their Women's Singles Round of 16 match during the International BNL d'Italia at Foro Italico (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka of Japan serves against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in their Women's Singles Round of 16 match during the International BNL d'Italia at Foro Italico (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

OSAKA Naomi, SHIMIZU Kiyo and MOMOTA Kento are among the most famous Japanese sports stars from Osaka, Tokushima and Kagawa – the three prefectures set to host the Olympic Torch Relay this week.

The Olympic Torch Relay is now underway following the Grand Start ceremony in Fukushima. But how much do you know about the Japanese sports stars who are from the prefectures that will be visited this week?

Every Monday, Tokyo 2020 will highlight some of those who have graced the sporting world over the years as well as those who’s sporting careers have just begun, as the world counts down the days until the start of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates in her Women's semi-final match against Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic during the 2019 Australian Open (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates in her Women's semi-final match against Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic during the 2019 Australian Open (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

OSAKA Naomi

Hometown: Osaka

Sport: Tennis

Claim to fame: OSAKA Naomi needs very little introduction. As the number two ranked tennis player in the world (formerly number one), Osaka has enjoyed a meteoric rise both on and off the court. She is a four-time Grand Slam champion and the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion - all at only 23-years-old.

Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, although she has lived in the USA since she was three. When she competes in Tokyo, she will be one of Japan's strongest medal hopes.

2019 Getty Images

SHIMIZU Kiyou

Hometown: Osaka

Sport: Karate

Claim to fame: Shimizu Kiyou burst into the international spotlight in 2014 when she followed up an individual kata gold medal at the Asian Games with gold in the World Championships held that same year in Bremen, Germany.

In 2016, she made it two World Championship golds in a row when she triumphed in Linz, Austria, narrowly missing out on the treble when she picked up a silver at the 2018 World Championships in Madrid, Spain. With karate making its debut on the Olympic programme in Tokyo, she has the perfect opportunity to add a historic Olympic gold to her bulging medal collection.

Keisuke Honda of Japan celebrates after he scored a goal during the 2015 Asian Cup match against Jordan (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Keisuke Honda of Japan celebrates after he scored a goal during the 2015 Asian Cup match against Jordan (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
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HONDA Keisuke

Hometown: Osaka

Sport: Football

Claim to fame: After starting his career at Japanese club Nagoya Grampus, Honda Keisuke began a globetrotting journey around Europe, playing for some of the leading clubs in world football. A stint at CSKA Moscow was followed by three years with world football giants AC Milan, where he scored 11 goals in 92 appearances.

A versatile playmaker, who is equally at home playing behind the strikers as he is on the wings, Honda continues to ply his trade in the Azerbaijan Premier League with Neftçi PFK. He is also the current manager of the Cambodia national team.

Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi of Japan compete in the Women's Doubles semi-final match against Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara of Japan at the Japan Open Badminton Championships, a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi of Japan compete in the Women's Doubles semi-final match against Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara of Japan at the Japan Open Badminton Championships, a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
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MATSUMOTO Misaki

Hometown: Tokushima

Sport: Badminton

Claim to fame: A badminton doubles specialist and bonafide history maker, Matsumoto Misaki and her partner Ayaka Takahashi became the first pair from outside of China to win an Olympic gold medal since Atlanta 1996 when they triumphed at Rio 2016.

The Japanese duo's heroics in Rio saw them named Female Player of the Year for 2016 and their almost telepathic understanding of each other's play stems from over 10 years spent on the court together.

Catcher Tomoya Satozaki #22 of Japan bats during the first round of the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Japan beat People's Republic of China 18 - 2.  (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
Catcher Tomoya Satozaki #22 of Japan bats during the first round of the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Japan beat People's Republic of China 18 - 2. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
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SATOZAKI Tomoya

Hometown: Tokushima

Sport: Baseball

Claim to fame: Baseball is making its Olympic comeback in Tokyo after a hiatus of 13 years and someone who will be excited to see the sport back on the programme is retired baseball star Satizaki Tomoya.

The 44-year-old played out his whole career with local side, Chiba Lotte Marines before retiring in 2014. In total he played for 16 years in the Japanese baseball league.

Kento Momota of Japan competes in the Men's Singles second round match against Rasmus Gemke of Denmark at the 2018 Japan Open (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
Kento Momota of Japan competes in the Men's Singles second round match against Rasmus Gemke of Denmark at the 2018 Japan Open (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
2018 Getty Images

MOMOTA Kento

Hometown: Kagawa

Sport: Badminton

Claim to fame: Another badminton star looking to add an Olympic gold medal to his collection at this summer's Games is Momota Kento. In a recent interview with Tokyo 2020, Momota expressed his desire to return stronger, after the world champion suffered a car accident last year.

A prolific talent, Momota holds the world record for most badminton singles titles in a year. He has also proven his abilities on the highest stages, winning World Championships titles in 2018 and 2019, to add to the Asian Championships titles he won during the same years.

Yuta Watanabe #12 of Japan dribbles the ball during the FIBA Men's World Cup Asian Qualifier 2nd Round Group F match against Iran  (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Yuta Watanabe #12 of Japan dribbles the ball during the FIBA Men's World Cup Asian Qualifier 2nd Round Group F match against Iran (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
2018 Getty Images

WATANABE Yuta

Hometown: Kagawa

Sport: Basketball

Claim to fame: At over two metres tall but with the skills of a guard, Watanabe Yuta is one of the biggest stars of Japanese basketball. In his club career, Watanabe plays for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA, having previously become the first Japanese athlete to be offered an an NCAA Division I basketball scholarship.

Watanabe is also a member of the Japan national team setup and helped them win a bronze medal at the 2013 East Asia Basketball Championships. He has expressed his desire to play in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Volleyball at Tokyo 1964

DAIMATSU Hirofumi

Hometown: Kagawa

Sport: Volleyball

Claim to fame: Less known for his own sporting prowess and more for nurturing the talents of Japanese athletes, Daimatsu Hirofumi's greatest claim to fame was leading the Japanese women's volleyball team to gold at Tokyo 1964.

The team won 175 matches on the trot, including a World Championship gold in 1962 and the famous Olympic gold medal two years later.