Fans of professional American sports will be used to seeing stadiums named after companies. Insurance companies, banking companies, telecommunications companies. It’s a shame, then, that unlike in Japan, none of them are named after video game developers.
Hakata no mori Stadium, in Fukuoka, has that honour, as since 2008 it’s been known as “Level-5 Stadium”, after the Japanese developers of hit franchises like Professor Layton, White Knight Chronicles and the upcoming Studio Ghibli collaboration Ni no Kuni bought the naming rights.
It’s an unusual step for a developer to take, even in Japan, but then, it makes a little more sense when you consider one of Level-5’s biggest hits in its native country is Inazuma Eleven, an RPG series based on a youth football team.
What’s great about this isn’t just the fact it’s named after a beloved developer, but that it’s not some jokey backwater ground. Level-5 Stadium may only seat 22,500 spectators, but it’s the home ground of Avispa Fukuoka, a professional football (soccer, for the Americans) team that will this season be playing in Japan’s top flight after five years in the J-League’s second division.
Aside from Avispa Fukuoka matches, Level-5 Stadium has also played host to international football matches featuring the Japanese national side, as well as Rugby Union games.