J-League Club Profile: Shonan Bellmare

Although they have not managed to repeat their early success, Bellmare remain a model for suburban clubs hoping to compete against their bigger metropolitan rivals.


Shonan Bellmare are a typical example of a suburban J.League club that, in the early years of professional football in Japan, helped to create an alternative to the baseball teams that were mostly based in bigger cities.

Bellmare’s roots date back to 1968, when they were the football club of Fujita Industries. After missing the first cut of the J.League in 1993, Bellmare, then associated with the city of Hiratsuka, joined the following year, further stunning observers by winning the Emperor’s Cup.

This unexpected triumph gave Bellmare a chance to join the Asian Cup Winner’s Cup 1995-96, which they ended up winning as well. Alas, these early victories remain the only two trophies in the history of the club so far, despite the club’s early competitiveness.

In 1998 Bellmare provided three players to Japan’s first-ever World Cup squad. Among them was a young Hidetoshi Nakata, who left for Italy the following season. With Fujita abandoning the club, Bellmare plunged to the bottom of the first division in 1999 and were relegated to the second division.

Despite a “rebranding” from Bellmare Hiratsuka to the current Shonan Bellmare, an attempt to increase fans in the Shonan region of Kanagawa, the club found themselves stuck in the second flight for the next decade. Only in 2009 did Bellmare secure promotion to the J1, and they were quickly tossed back a year later. With their most recent promotion after finishing second in the 2012 J2 season, they have come to be known as one of Japan’s “elevator clubs.”

While their history might not be as glorious as that of neighboring clubs in Kawasaki and Yokohama, Bellmare still boast significant local support, a promising indicator of their future in the league.

Top Players
Brazilian midfielder Betinho drove Bellmare’s offense forward in their early professional seasons, scoring 24 goals in 1994 and 25 in the following season. Now retired, he was named to the club’s hall of fame in 2003.

Behind him was Nobuyuki Kojima, who was Bellmare’s starting goalkeeper for their first five seasons with over 180 appearances.

Bellmare’s most famous player is undoubtedly Hidetoshi Nakata, who was twice named the AFC’s Player of the Year in 1997 and 1998. After representing Japan in the 1998 World Cup he joined Italy’s Perugia and eventually lifted trophies with Roma and Parma. After retiring in 2006 following two more World Cup appearances, he remains one of Japan’s most celebrated footballers and an international icon.

More recently, Brazilian midfielder Adiel had a considerable impact on the squad between 2006 and 2011. Though he greatly contributed to Bellmare’s promotion in 2009, stress fractures to both legs prevented him from playing in the 2010 J1 season.


Built in 1987, the multi-purpose Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka serves as Bellmare’s home. The tracked stadium seats over 18,000 spectators and was used as a base camp by the Nigerian national team during the 2002 World Cup.

Colors and Uniform

The unique neon green used by Bellmare was introduced as the ‘image color’ of parent company Fujita. Shonan are known for having used a number of special designs over the years, including uniforms commemorating the Japanese Star Festival.


King Bell the First, designed in the style of the Greek god Poseidon complete with a crown and trident, represents the ocean off the coast of Shonan.