Shunsuke Nakamura was the trailblazer, now we look at the Japanese imports following in his path

Speaking on the announcement that Celtic will tour Japan & South Korea this summer, Ange Postecoglou, who will return to the Nissan Stadium to face his former club, commented:

“I’m delighted to be taking Celtic to Japan this summer and it’s a tour made even more special by the prospect of facing my old team, Yokohama F. Marinos. It’s a great club that hold some special memories for me and I look forward to meeting up with friends there in July.”

As we prepare for Angemania in Japan, we decided to take a look at Celtic’s Japanese connections…

Wim Jansen

Jansen had a difficult spell in Japan. This wasn’t helped by his struggle to speak the language. On his announcement as Celtic manager, the Daily Record as they tend to do, sensationalised their headline by describing the Dutchman distastefully as “The worst thing to happen to Hiroshima since the Atom Bomb!”

However, Jansen will always be loved by the Celtic support. This is mainly due to the fact that he won Celtic’s first league title in ten years. Wim can also take credit for bringing club legend Henrik Larsson to Celtic Park, a transfer that would go on to be one of the greatest signings ever made.

Games managed: 51 // W: 32 // D: 10 // L: 9

Shunsuke Nakamura

Nakamura is a player who will be remembered forever by the Celtic support. The Japanese midfielder completed a move to Celtic during the summer of 2005 and was known to the fans simply as “Naka”. The midfielder was renowned for his spectacular free-kick abilities, but that wasn’t all he had in his cannon, as his touch and vision were second to none and the Japanese maestro was also very skilful.

Apps: 145 // Goals: 31

Koki Mizuno

Due to the success of Shunsuke Nakamura, Celtic looked to bring in another Japanese midfielder, this time winger Koki Mizuno. Brought in during January 2008, Mizuno struggled to gain first-team experience, not making his senior debut until November when he came on as a substitute against Motherwell with three minutes to go. The winger showed promise, he was quick and skilful, however lacked the physical presence that is much needed in the Scottish game. The midfielder would be released by the club in July 2010.

Apps: 12 // Goals: 1

Ange Postecoglou

Ange enjoyed his time in Japan. Yokohama were facing potential relegation when Postecoglou took over in the December of 2017. However, the Australian guided his side to a 12th place finish in the league and to the final of the J-League Cup, where they were narrowly defeated 1-0. In the 2019 season, Ange became the first Australian manager to win a league title in Japan when he steered Yokohama to their first J. League title in 15 years.

We have covered a lot about Ange over the last couple of days, but there really is never a time where you run out of words to compliment the man. The former Australian international has completely revitalised Celtic and it is so refreshing to see. Under Ange’s leadership the sky is the limit. Many fans believe that Celtic have finally got their man who is going to bring European success to Celtic Park.

Games managed: 108 // W: 81 // D: 11 // L: 16

Kyogo Furuhashi

The first of Ange’s raid of the Japanese market, Kyogo Furuhashi was a sign of things to come. It didn’t take long for Kyogo to become a fan favourite in Glasgow. Netting his 30th goal of the season at the weekend, Kyogo has shown that he has that instinct for goal that is craved at any level. 

Apps: 76 // Goals: 50

Reo Hatate

One of the three January signings in Ange’s first season was Reo Hatate. Hatate made his debut against Hibernian in a 2-0 win, where he was awarded man of the match. Two weeks later, Hatate would play a major role in Celtic’s 3-0 win over Rangers, scoring twice and assisting the other. The central midfielder has been praised from fans of football all around the world and has proven that he will be a top player wherever he goes.

Apps: 59 // Goals: 12

Daizen Maeda

Maeda also joined Celtic in January 2022, which saw him teaming up with Ange for a second time. Maeda is often praised for his fantastic work-rate and off the ball qualities. Maeda, too, made his debut against Hibs in that 2-0 win, scoring his first Celtic goal four minutes in.

Apps: 64 // Goals: 19

Yosuke Ideguchi

Another of Ange’s January signings, Ideguchi didn’t quite fit into the squad the same way as the others have. Although also making his debut against Hibs in that win, Ideguchi has failed to feature in many more games. Injuries have definitely hindered his career in recent times, last month while on loan at Avispa Fukuoka, the Japanese midfielder was ruled out for another three months with a broken ankle.

Apps: 6 // Goals: 0

Tomoki Iwata

At the start of the year, we saw Ange once again link up with a former player. Iwata was brought in from Yokohama F. Marinos on an initial loan deal with an obligation to buy. Iwata has made most of his appearances from the bench, starting in only three games.

Apps: 13 // Goals: 0

Yuki Kobayashi

The young centre-back also signed for Ange’s side in January this year. He made his debut in a 4-0 victory against St. Mirren and has gone on to feature five times for Celtic. Due to Cameron Carter-Vickers missing the rest of the season, Kobayashi stepped in to replace him at Tynecastle and will be hoping to maintain his position in the squad for the remainder of the season.

Apps: 5 

Goals: 0

It is fair to say that it is down to Ange that Celtic’s Japanese connection has been reignited and taken to a whole new level. People always talk about the Scottish game and how players from outside of the Scottish leagues don’t understand the game. I think we can safely say that that is a load of nonsense and many of the players mentioned above are proof of that.



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