They accomplished this in 1999, joining the newly-opened Division 2 and earning promotion in one season thanks in no small part to the efforts of club legend Amaral. The concentration of teams in the Kanto area allowed for natural rivalries to develop, and the relocation of Verdy Kawasaki to Tokyo in 2001 gave fans a derby to look forward to, though only occasionally as the two teams rarely played in the same division.
But despite solid attendance Tokyo struggled to produce results in the league; their first trophy would come after an improbable triumph over the heavily-favored Urawa Reds in the 2004 Yamazaki Nabisco Cup. Tokyo played for over an hour with 10 men after Jean received a first-half red card, holding their opponents to a scoreless draw in 120 minutes despite a 75% pro-Reds crowd and winning 4-2 in penalty kicks.
The club’s next trophy, another Nabisco Cup, came in 2009 with a 2-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale. Just one year later, Tokyo embarrassingly stumbled into the third and final relegation spot at the end of the 2010 season.
In their return to J2 for the first time in 11 seasons, Tokyo had little trouble winning the league and earning promotion. They would also capture their first Emperor’s Cup on New Year’s Day 2012, winning 4-2 against Kyoto Sanga in a first-ever cup final to feature two ‘J2’ clubs.
After a disappointing eighth-place finish in the league and a semi-final exit in the Emperor’s Cup, the club announced the replacement of departing manager Ranko Popovic with Italy's Massimo Ficcadenti, who had previously coached former Tokyo star Yuto Nagatomo at Cesena.
Another popular Brazilian player was Lucas Severino, who joined Tokyo from 2004 through 2007. Following a brief retirement in 2011, the striker who represented Brazil at the 2000 Sydney Olympics returned to the capital in order to help his old club earn promotion.
Kiyoshi Okuma, who played for Tokyo Gas from 1987 to 1992 became the club’s first J-League manager from 1999 to 2001. After several years of coaching Japan’s youth sides, he returned to his longtime club in 2010, failing to prevent relegation but quickly steering Tokyo back to the J1 and their first Emperor’s Cup title in 2011.
Goalkeeper Yoichi Doi was the team’s starting goalkeeper for eight seasons from 2000 to 2007. The pinnacle of his career came in 2004, when his game-saving performance against Urawa Reds saw him named MVP of the Nabisco Cup. He started in well over 300 J1 matches, many of them while wearing the blue and red badge.
A number of current Samurai Blue members emerged at FC Tokyo, including current Inter star Yuto Nagatomo and Gamba Osaka center-back Yasuyuki Konno.
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