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They had a rough 2011, but this selection of Japanese players could have a much better time in the next 12 months if they can find a new team in the January transfer window

ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz | Japanese Football Editor

New Year in Japan is a time for reflection and renewal. In December, friends and colleagues gather for bonenkai, which literally means "a party where we can forget everything that's happened to us this year". In the days leading up to January 1, houses are cleaned before the new year comes and the Japanese make their first shrine visit to pray for success and happiness in a tradition known as hatsumode.

Despite an influx of Japanese players to Europe, it was not a happy year for all as many struggled to find form or even get playing time. While many of the European Samurai surely had bonenkai of their own after a forgettable 2011, now they must get their affairs in order for the coming year. With the winter transfer period now in full swing, here are five players who must find a new home if they are to make their 2012 a happy one.

AKIHIRO IENAGA | Mallorca, Midfielder, 25


SEASON STATS
Appearances
4
Goals
0
Assists
0
TRANSFER FILE
Transfer value
1m
Interested clubs
Leverkusen
Chance of leaving in January 95%

A year has elapsed since the 25-year-old moved from Osaka, where Gamba had loaned him to cross-town rivals Cerezo, to Spain's Mallorca. There Ienaga has struggled, with just 18 appearances in the last year and complaints from former manager Michael Laudrup that he was unable to communicate well in English or Spanish.

Reports tell of an impending half-year loan to the Bundesliga's Leverkusen, where Ienaga should benefit from a league that has its fair share of Japanese players. But, unless he makes a greater effort to adjust to his environment, Ienaga could end up being a disappointing bust.

EIJI KAWASHIMA | Lierse, Goalkeeper, 28


SEASON STATS (ALL COMPS 2011)
Appearances
19
Goals Conceded
25
Yellow Cards
2
TRANSFER FILE
Transfer value
€1-2m
Interested clubs
Vitesse, QPR
Chance of leaving in January 20%

Considering how respected he is by team-mates and fans alike, the casual observer might be hard-pressed to find a reason why Kawashima should leave his current team. He's the captain, has the support of the front office and has a firm hold on Japan's goalkeeper position.

But here's the catch: Lierse simply aren't very good, with just three wins from 19 matches so far in the Belgian Pro League season. And, while Kawashima's presence is surely one of the reasons that they aren't already in the relegation zone, there are any number of better teams out there who could give him more exposure and a better defence to work with. Kawashima's contract is set to run out in June, giving Lierse incentive to sell while they can.

TOMOAKI MAKINO | Koln, Defender, 24


SEASON STATS
Appearances
3
Goals
0
Assists
0
TRANSFER FILE
Transfer value
€500-750k
Interested clubs
FSV Frankfurt, Urawa Reds
Chance of leaving in January 100%

Makino has been caught in the unfortunate position of regular spots on the Samurai Blue roster and Koln's bench. With just three appearances this season, he's clearly on the outside looking in at Stale Solbakken's lineup and the only way that he will be able to keep in Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni's good graces will be to find appearances, and fast.

As of late this week. reports had Makino set to pack his bags for Bundesliga.2 side FSV Frankfurt, but, on Saturday, Japan's Sponichi reported that Japanese club Urawa Reds may have convinced the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima player to reunite with mentor Mihailo Petrovic. Wherever Makino chooses, hopefully he will be able to find a more permanent home for the 2012-13 season.

RYO MIYAICHI | Arsenal, Forward, 19


SEASON STATS
Appearances
2
Goals
0
Assists
0
TRANSFER FILE
Transfer value
2m
Interested clubs
Feyenoord, Valenciennes, Fulham
Chance of leaving in January
80%

Miyaichi was expected to win a place in Arsenal's first team after his fine form for Eredivisie side Feyenoord earned him a treasured English work permit. Instead, the 19-year-old has spent most of his time playing for the reserves, with a couple of League Cup appearances thrown in for good measure, before he was injured late in the autumn.

With the Gunners chasing down a Champions League place, it's unlikely that Arsene Wenger will take any risks by throwing the teen in at the deep end; in fact, he has stated that he wants Miyaichi to find more playing time elsewhere. Feyenoord have expressed interest in bringing the youngster back and any other club would also do well to give him a chance.

TAKASHI USAMI | Bayern Munich, Attacking Midfielder, 19


SEASON STATS
Appearances
3
Goals
1
Assists
0
TRANSFER FILE
Transfer value
€1-1.5m
Interested clubs
Nurnberg, Augsburg, Dusseldorf
Chance of leaving in January 70%

Like Miyaichi, Usami is another 19-year-old who came to Europe with high expectations and few results. Since his loan from Gamba Osaka last summer, the attacking midfielder has made just one appearance in both the Bundesliga and Champions League, and another DFB Pokal appearance, in which he scored off the bench.

Usami's six goals in 14 matches for Bayern II show that he has potential but, without playing time, he may be forced to return to Gamba after the London Olympics. A move to another Bundesliga side would give him opportunity to build up his strength and get a second look from Bayern's coaching staff.

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