Japan finished third at the 2010 World Championship, taking their first medal in the competition since a silver in 1978 in the Soviet Union. On home soil four years ago, they won all five of their first round pool matches and five of their seven second round group matches to clinch a place in the semifinal. After losing to Brazil 3-2, they defeated USA in five sets to win bronze. That medal signalled a return to the podium for Japan, who finished in the top two in every edition between 1960 and 1978. In that time they secured three gold and two silver medals in six consecutive championships. After a fourth place in 1982 it wasn’t until 2010 that they returned to the semifinals again.
Japan won Olympic gold in 1964 and 1976. After a bronze at the 1984 Games they had to wait 28 years for another medal, a bronze at London 2012. That result gave coach Masayoshi Manabe high hopes for his team looking forward to Rio 2016.
They have been ever-present in the World Grand Prix, but their track record in the tournament had for so long been bittersweet as they had never finished outside of the top 10 but also never won a medal. All that changed in 2014 though, as in front of a home crowd in the Final Six they defeated Russia, Turkey, China and Belgium to finish second and clinch silver.