Club | 15/09/2021

New partnership

Sanfrecce Hiroshima: The three arrows of the Samurai

1. FC Köln have announced a new strategic partnership with Sanfrece Hiroshima, one of Japan’s most historic clubs. Who are Sanfrecce? What are the names of their mascots? What player made the move from Hiroshima to Köln in 2010? Here is all you need to know about our friends in Japan.

FC in Japan

FC and Japan are a story that goes back many years. Not just because of Yuya Osako, the club’s most recent Japanese player. Yasuhiko Okudera, the first Japanese player to play in Europe, joined 1. FC Köln in the Double winning season of 1977-78.  The winger was known for his pace and shot and paved the way for Japanese players to make their way to Europe and to Köln.

Tomoaki Makino, who joined FC from Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Kazuki Nagasawa and Yuya Osako have also played for the club. Osako is best remembered for scoring the goal that secured a return to European football for the first time in 25 years. All three players are now active in Japan. Pierre Littbarski, Frank Ordenewitz, Milivoje Novakovic and Lukas Podolski have also featured in Japan.

Club history

Sanfrecce Hiroshima are one of the founding members of the J.League in 1993. The roots of the club lie in the team founded back in 1938 by Mazda workers, meaning it is the oldest club in the top-flight. They won the inaugural Japanese Championship in 1965. They enjoyed plenty of success back in the 60s, winning the league another four times and the Emperor’s Cup on three occasions up until 1970.

In the 16th century, a Samurai called Mori Motonari is said to have asked his three sons to break an arrow each – which all three managed to do. Afterwards, they were tasked with breaking three arrows; none of them were able to do that.

Since that day, not only have three arrows adorned the coat of arms of the so-called Mori clan, but these three arrows can also be found in the coat of arms of Hiroshima. In Japan, they are also a symbol of the fact that you can do more together than alone and represent team spirit. This is where the name "Sanfrecce" came from. “San” is the Japanese word for the number three and “frecce”, the Italian word for arrow.

Hiroshima: here and now

This season, Hiroshima are currently sitting in 11th in the J.League. In recent years, they have been very successful. In 2012, they were crowned champions of the J.League for the first time under Hajime Moriyasu, who then led the club to another two league titles in the following years. They have also taken place in the AFC Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Since this season, Sanfrecce Hiroshima now have a women’s team. They were founded in 2020 and are part of the new WE League. They won their first game 3:0 against AS Elfen Saitama last weekend and have two World Cup winners from the 2011 tournament. Miho Fukumoto and Yukari Kinga were both part of the victorious Japan side in Germany.


Mascots play an important role in Japan and every year there is a competition between the top three leagues in the country. The Sanfrecce Hiroshima club mascots are Asiatic black bears, which live in the mountainous regions in Chugoku. “Sancce” a mascot who is friendly towards the supporters was named in a gesture of gratitude towards our supporters, with parts of his name taken from the English “thank you” and the Italian “grazie,” and also a shortened version of the team name Sanfrecce. He was named best Mascot in Japan in 2015 and 2017. In 2000, he was joined by his girlfriend, “Frecce”. This borrows in part from the English “fresh,” expressing freshness, youthfulness, and purity.

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101. FSV Mainz 0527