While Japan's opening World Cup clash with Germany captivated fans in the host nation, members of its basketball community have questioned why large blocks of seats inside Okinawa Arena remained empty for Friday's headlining game.

Tickets for Akatsuki Japan games at the venue have been in high demand, making the empty segments, including premium seats behind team benches, stick out among the otherwise packed stands.

According to official figures, 6,397 spectators watched Japan's 81-63 loss to Germany at the approximately 8,000-seat arena.

Large sections of seating inside Okinawa Arena remain unoccupied during Japan's FIBA Basketball World Cup game against Germany at the venue in Okinawa on Aug. 25, 2023. (Kyodo)

In a statement Saturday, the governing body, FIBA, said corporate customers had purchased tickets for the seats, but it did not know why they remained vacant and would investigate.

The unoccupied segments caught the attention of star Japan forward Yuta Watanabe, who expressed frustration on social media.

"Yesterday's game tickets were sold out, and I heard many people who wanted them missed out, so I don't know why there were so many empty seats facing the bench," Watanabe posted on Saturday.

"It seems like there's a specific reason, but rather than giving tickets to people who won't show up, how about selling them to people who really want to come."

Responding to a question about the issue in his postgame press conference, Japan head coach Tom Hovasse indicated the vacant sections made a noticeable impact on the mood of the arena.

"I want to say (the atmosphere) was the best, but I can't really say that," Hovasse said.

Masaaki Okawa, the former chairman of Japan's B-League professional basketball organization, also voiced concern.

"In a sense, it's more disappointing than losing the game. I'm worried about the next game against Finland," he said.

Meanwhile, on Friday, a World Cup record crowd of 38,115 flocked to Philippine Arena near Manila to watch tournament co-host the Philippines narrowly lose 87-81 to the Dominican Republic in their Group A opener.

World No. 36 Japan will play 24th-ranked Finland on Sunday in their second Group E game of the tournament co-hosted by Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia through Sept. 10.

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