Japan's interest in Turkish football skyrocketed after two of its biggest stars - Shinji Kagawa and Yuto Nagatomo - moved to Turkish Super League clubs.
Takumi Suemitsu, Japan's deputy consul-general in Istanbul, told Turkish sports daily, Fanatik, that he is a Trabzonspor fan and was happy to see the bond between the two countries strengthen through football.
Beşiktaş transferred in Shinji Kagawa in the January transfer window. Kagawa is the second Japanese player in a Super League side after Galatasaray's Yuto Nagatomo.
Suemitsu said although Japanese interest in Turkish football may seem new, it all started when İlhan Mansız, former Beşiktaş forward, who joined Japan's Vissel Kobe in 2004. "His contribution to our ties was great. Likewise, Nagatomo and Kagawa are good players and put on a very good performance in the World Cup," he said.
The diplomat said that Turkish Super League matches are now being covered by the Japanese media and there could be an increase in the number of Japanese citizens visiting Turkey to watch Kagawa and Nagatomo play. "I think there may be more transfers from Japan too," he added.
Kagawa had a "dream debut," for Beşiktaş, scoring two goals in three minutes after coming on in a 6-2 win against Antalyaspor earlier this month. The Japanese midfielder has joined the Black Eagles on loan from runaway German Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund until the end of the season.
Videos of his debut went viral in Turkey and Japan and at a time Turkey seeks to boost the number of tourists from the Far East Asian country. Turkey experienced a decline in the number of Japanese tourists in the 2015-2016 period when the tourism sector, in general, experienced a challenging time due to the problems both in neighboring countries and at home.
However, 2019 bookings for Japanese tourists point to high demand. While the number of Japanese tourists visiting Turkey rose from 50,000 in 2017 to 82,000 in 2018; this increase of about 70 percent is expected to continue in the coming period.
Footballers may play a role in drawing more visitors as Japanese tourists have occasionally visited Beşiktaş training sessions to see Kagawa in action. Turkish media outlets recently reported that representatives of an agency that sells football broadcasts from abroad to the Japanese market made an unexpected offer to beIN SPORTS, which owns the broadcasting rights for the Super League and the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) to change the time of upcoming derbies between Kagawa's Beşiktaş and Nagatomo's Galatasaray so more Japanese fans can watch it live.
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