The coronavirus pandemic shredded the Japanese sporting calendar in 2020, with the Tokyo Olympics the biggest casualty when it was postponed until next summer.
Soccer and baseball had seasons interrupted as schedules were ravaged and rearranged while many other tournaments and events were canceled. But sports managed to go on and spectators gradually returned to stadiums as restrictions were relaxed.
There were also a number of feel-good stories to offset the COVID-19 doom and gloom.
Posters seen on a street in Tokyo on April 1, 2020, are aimed at promoting the Tokyo Olympics. The Olympics, which were postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, will be held from July 23 to Aug. 8 in 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
The Olympic rings glow in the dark after being reinstalled in Tokyo Bay off Odaiba Marine Park on Dec. 1, 2020, after they underwent a safety inspection and maintenance. The rings were temporarily removed in August following the Tokyo Summer Games' postponement. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Cutouts of Shonan Bellmare football club supporters are placed on seats ahead of a J-League first division game behind closed doors against Vegalta Sendai at Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka, near Tokyo, on July 4, 2020. The J1 resumed the same day after a roughly four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Fans of J-League football club Urawa Reds, wearing face shields amid concerns over the novel coronavirus, gather at a pub in Saitama, eastern Japan, on July 4, 2020, to watch the Reds' match on TV. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Kawasaki Frontale celebrate after clinching the J-League first-division football title with a 5-0 win over Gamba Osaka on Nov. 25, 2020, at Todoroki Stadium in Kawasaki, near Tokyo. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Pepper humanoid robots and Spot dog robots cheer for the SoftBank Hawks in the stands at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka on July 7, 2020, during a professional baseball game held without fans. (Kyodo)
Cheerleaders root for the Orix Buffaloes from the stands at the baseball club's season opener against the Rakuten Eagles at Kyocera Dome in Osaka on June 19, 2020, the opening day of the coronavirus-delayed season in Japan. Nippon Professional Baseball has decided to admit fans from July 10. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
The SoftBank Hawks celebrate after winning their fourth consecutive Japan Series title with a 4-1 victory over the Yomiuri Giants in Game 4 at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka on Nov. 25, 2020. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku (on the raised ring) delivers a speech in closing the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at an empty Edion Arena Osaka on March 22, 2020. The tournament was held behind closed doors. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Shobushi (R), a lower-ranked wrestler, performs in a "shokkiri" sumo comedy routine during a regional tour in Gifu Prefecture on July 29, 2018. He died aged 28 on May 13, 2020, due to multiple organ failure caused by the novel coronavirus. (Kyodo)
Among some of the headline-makers that provided Japanese sports fans with much-needed cheer, tennis star Naomi Osaka claimed her second U.S. Open title against a backdrop of simmering racial tensions in the United States. Racing driver Takuma Sato captured his second Indy 500 win at the famous brickyard and Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish became the first Japanese pitcher to lead the MLB in wins.
Two-time defending Olympic men's champion Yuzuru Hanyu delivered a dramatic and nearly flawless free skate to win his first Japan figure skating national championship in five years.
The first Japanese player to go pro in the United States via the NBA draft, Rui Hachimura made his mark with a solid rookie season with the Washington Wizards, Naoya Inoue defended his IBF and WBA bantamweight boxing world titles in Las Vegas and figure skating heartthrob Daisuke Takahashi opened a new chapter in his storied career, making his ice dance debut with partner Kana Muramoto.
Naomi Osaka of Japan poses with the U.S. Open trophy on Sept. 13, 2020, the morning after winning the women's singles final in New York. (Getty/Kyodo)
Composite photo shows Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs pitching against the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 25, 2020. (Kyodo)
Racing driver Takuma Sato is pictured following an interview in Tokyo on Dec. 7, 2020. (Kyodo)
Yuzuru Hanyu performs his free skate at the national figure skating championships at the Big Hat arena in Nagano, central Japan, on Dec. 26, 2020. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Naoya Inoue (R) punches Jason Moloney during their bantamweight title bout at MGM Grand Conference Center on Oct. 31, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Top Rank Inc/Getty/Kyodo)
Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards dunks the ball during a preseason game on Dec. 13, 2020, in New York. (NBAE/Getty/Kyodo)
Japanese ice dancing duo Kana Muramoto (L) and Daisuke Takahashi perform in the rhythm dance segment at the NHK Trophy figure skating competition in Osaka on Nov. 27, 2020. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Forced to adjust his Olympic expectations due to shoulder injuries, gymnast Kohei Uchimura won his fifth national horizontal bar title in what he called an important step toward the Summer Games, while Seattle Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki dabbled in high school coaching, spending three days as a special instructor with schoolboy baseball powerhouse Chiben Wakayama.
Kohei Uchimura performs on his way to winning the horizontal bar final at the national gymnastics championships at Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture, eastern Japan, on Dec. 13, 2020. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Former Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki serves as a temporary coach for Chiben Wakayama high school's baseball team on Dec. 4, 2020, in Wakayama, western Japan. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo