Japan are one of only two teams, along with China, to have played in all 23 editions of the event, and reached the podium for the first time last year when they took the silver medal. Yuko Sano was named tournament MVP and best libero as the Japanese finished second in Group 1’s Final Six in Tokyo. That followed a fourth-place finish in the 2013 edition, which also finished on home soil. Further fourth-place finishes came in 1997 and 1994.
Japan won three World Championships and two Olympic golds in the 1960s and ’70s. Their recent success can be traced back to Masayoshi Manabe's appointment as coach in 2008. They finished third at the 2010 World Championship, taking a first medal in the competition for 32 years, and followed that by claiming bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Their return to the Olympic podium for the first time since 1984 sparked volleyball fever across Japan and fans are dreaming of similar success at Rio de Janeiro 2016. However, at last year’s World Championship they finished level-seventh before taking fourth place at the Asian Games. They also finished fourth in the 2011 World Cup, beating Brazil and the United States along the way, and won the Montreux Volley Masters title the same year.