Originally Posted by Orion
Japan never was a figure in track and field, and that's the category that has been expanded the most. Japan can usually be counted on to rake in men's gymnastics medals and a couple swimming events, plus the one-off minor sports (badminton, table tennis, etc.). I think the biggest hindrance to Japanese tennis is the prevalence of alternatives. Also, tennis didn't arrive in Japan until after WWII, whereas Germany has been in tennis country for ages. If you look down the ranks of junior girls, the next twenty years should be very promising for Japanese tennis.
A country's truly great in sports when it produces the results consistently. It's no good having spectacular results here and there - it only proves that the medals and titles come only when certain athletes are present, not the country in general.
It's only recently Japan managed to pull some of its traditionally good sports together. Before Athens, there was about a twenty year gap where Japan hardly won medals in gymnastics and swimming - most of those were won by the U.S., Russia and China. It's really no coincidence that from 1988 to 2000, Japan didn't even finish close to the top-10 in the medal tally.
And it's also no concidence that its worst performance happened in the 90s when its economy was suffering because of bad investments and a pathetic government that didn't have clue how good decisions are made.
Anyway, back to tennis - correct me here (if I'm wrong) but didn't Japan had a men's team that made the final of the Davis Cup before
WWII? If that's the case, then I'm pretty sure tennis wasn't exactly foreign during those times.