J-League Club Profile: Shimizu S-Pulse

At the base of Mt. Fuji, the Shizuoka outfit have been colorful and prosperous members of the J-League since the inaugural 1993 season.


Shimizu S-Pulse were unique as a J.League founding member: with the Shizuoka region being the cradle of Japanese football, they were the only club founded independently of a Japanese corporation. They were a truly community-based team who, in a way, embodied the ideal vision of the league. Both the team and supporters embraced the Brazilian style of football, including a Samba ensemble in the stands.

S-Pulse’s first few years as a professional club were mostly positive, including a victory in the 1996 Nabisco Cup. But the most exciting years for the club were likely between 1999 and 2002, when S-Pulse competed with cross-regional rivals Jubilo Iwata and the powerhouses that were Kashima Antlers and Yokohama Marinos to be considered one of Japan’s finest teams. 1999 in particular was historical, with S-Pulse clinching the first-stage title, and painfully conceding the overall championship to Jubilo after penalty kicks.

After ending as runners-up in the 1998 and 2000 Emperor’s Cup finals, S-Pulse recorded a historical victory in the 2001 edition, which was sandwiched between two Xerox Supercup trophies. Despite the lack of titles since then, S-Pulse have remained competitive among the best clubs in Japan, and are one of four original clubs (in addition to Marinos, Antlers and Grampus) who have not yet been relegated.  

S-Pulse have reached four Cup finals in recent years, including the 2005 and 2010 Emperor’s Cup and 2008 and 2012 Nabisco Cup, but each time they have faltered at the final whistle. Despite the lack of victories, they remain one of the best-supported clubs in Japan, playing in what is widely considered to be the country’s most beautiful stadiums.

Top Players
If there is a ‘Mr. S-Pulse’ it is almost certainly Teruyoshi Ito, who played for the club from 1993 through 2010 with nearly 600 appearances across all competitions. The defensive midfielder may best be known internationally for his goal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics that gave Japan a shock 1-0 victory over Brazil.

Fans who followed S-Pulse during their ‘golden era’ will surely remember Alessandro Santos, who became the second foreign-born player to represent Japan on the international stage. Santos, who moved to Japan at the age of 16, was the J.League MVP in 1999 and would go on to play in two World Cups.

For over a decade, Ryuzo Morioka was a constant on the S-Pulse back line with 277 appearances in orange. He was a key part of Japan’s 2000 Asian Cup-winning squad and also played in the 2001 Confederations Cup and 2002 World Cup.

S-Pulse’s most recent notable alum is Shinji Okazaki, who played in Shimizu from 2005 to 2010. After making his international debut in 2008, the Hyogo native caught the attention of Germany’s Stuttgart, who signed him following an impressive performance in the 2010 World Cup.

Sweden international and former Arsenal star Freddie Ljungberg spent half a season S-Pulse, which would be his final stop before his retirement in 2012.


Nestled in the mountains overlooking the city of Shimizu, Nihondaira Stadium may be Japan’s most scenic stadium. Its iconic but cozy terraces seat 20,000 and offer stunning views of the city below as well as Mount Fuji. However, the stadium’s limited access have inspired the club to begin plans for a larger venue closer to major transportation hubs.

The multi-purpose Ecopa Stadium, some 60 miles away from Nihondaira, was built for the 2002 World Cup. It now serves as S-Pulse’s alternate home for higher-profile matches such as the Shizuoka Derby against Jubilo Iwata.

Colors and Uniform

Like Sanfrecce Hiroshima predecessor Mazda SC, S-Pulse had considered blue uniforms but eventually chose orange in order to balance the league’s color scheme. The Shizuoka club appears to have set a trend, with Albirex Niigata and Omiya Ardija also adopting orange since then.

National carrier Japan Airlines sponsored the club’s uniforms from 1992 to 2005, inspiring a now-iconic design motif that featured a map of the globe. The world map disappeared from S-Pulse shirts in 2007 but returned in 2012 to celebrate the club’s 20th anniversary.


Designed by American cartoonist Guy Gilchrist, Pal-chan’s name comes from the English word ‘pal’ (representing the friendship between the club and supporters) as well as the ‘pul’ of S-Pulse. He’s joined by two younger sisters, both named Copal-chan, and girlfriend Pikaru-chan.