The holding midfield specialist, who is proud to have made a name for himself as a no-nonsense stopper, is far from surprised by Germany's growing Japanese influence. "It's incredible how many of my compatriots are playing [in the Bundesliga]," said Hosogai recently. "I think Japanese players have the attributes to establish themselves in Europe." bundesliga.com takes a closer look at Hertha's Samurai in shining armour...
Hajime Hosogai was born on 10 June 1986 in Maebashi, Japan, the capital of the Gunma Prefecture. Located at the foot of Mount Akagi in the centre of the country with a population of just over 300,000 and It was here that Hosogai took his first steps towards becoming a professional footballer by joining local side FC Maebashi at the age of 13.
A stint playing for Maebashi Ikuei High School, where he was enrolled, helped Hosogai establish himself as 'one to watch' amongst Japanese scouting networks. In 2005 the defensive midfielder became the envy of schoolboys throughout the region when he was snapped up by J. League outfit Urawa Red Diamonds - "the biggest club in Japan" according to Hosogai - coached, at the time, by 76-time German international Guido Buchwald.
Buchwald, a 1990 FIFA World Cup winner who was always delighted in working for a club "where my heart belongs", handed Hosogai his professional debut at the age of 19 on 9 April 2005 in a 1-1 draw with Gamba Osaka. Playing second fiddle to more experienced players meant Hosogai had to bide his time before injuries to key defenders facilitated a starting berth in the 2005 Emperor's Cup final - a 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse which clinched Urawa's place in the 2007 AFC Champions League.
In 2006, Buchwald's final season in charge, Hosogai was struggling to make a real breakthrough. "I will strive to work hard to make this dream come true," declared the midfielder, who was competing with Makoto Hasebe's prominence at the club. However, being part of the side that won the 2007 AFC Champions League remains a fond memory for the midfielder despite his limited involvement, as does a third-place finish in that year's FIFA Club World Cup.
Hasebe's decision to move to Wolfsburg in 2008 opened the door for Hosogai to become a first-team regular, an opportunity that didn't pass him by as he went on to cement his status as a fan favourite. "My dream is to be a player whom a lot of supporters love," was a quote attributed to Hosogai by the club's official website. The affable Asian regularly attends public events in his homeland, such as the 2008 Saitama Railway Summer Festa, where he even tried his hand at being the station master.
Former 1. FC Köln sporting director Volker Finke became the third consecutive German head coach Hosogai had worked under at Urawa and who promoted the then 23-year-old to vice-captain. Consistent performances soon resulted in a call-up to the Japanese national side in 2010, the natural progression after several appearances for the Under-23 team. Debuting in a 1-0 friendly win against Paraguay, his promise soon caught the attention of teams abroad.
Considering Hosogai's footballing development and ensuing career boasted a heavy German influence, it came as no surprise that he answered the call when Bayer 04 Leverkusen came in for his services in December 2010, just short of his 100th appearance for Urawa. "I wanted to choose a much more difficult path," stated Hosogai. "Right now, I want to grow. I think this is a critical phase in my career, but I'm ready for the challenge."
Hosogai promptly joined Bundesliga 2 outfit FC Augsburg on loan. Though the midfielder missed part of the second half of the season to feature in Japan's 2011 Asian Cup win, scoring a crucial goal in the semi-final against South Korea, he still helped guide the Bavarian side to promotion. Hosogai remained at Augsburg the following season and regularly impressed in their top-flight survival fight, most notably when man marking compatriot Shinji Kagawa in a 0-0 draw with champions Dortmund.
Married to Sayaka Nakamura, the woman he credits for being there "to convince and support me when I decided to play overseas," Hosogai maintains an active website as well as a dedicated mobile app. However, home is never far from his heart and when a tragic earthquake hit Japan in 2011, Hosogai appeared in a hastily-arranged friendly against a J. League select XI alongside Bundesliga compatriots Hasebe, Atsuto Uchida and Shinji Okazaki: "When I think about it, I feel distressed."
Hosogai returned to Leverkusen during the 2012/13 season, but having failed to assert himself for much of the campaign, jumped at the chance to reunite with Jos Luhukay at Hertha Berlin. Given his obvious versatility and self-sacrificing nature, Hosogai has proven an invaluable presence in front of Berlin's backline. "I just do my best, whoever I'm up against," explained the Japanese international. "What I think now is that I need to improve even more." An ominous admission.
Compiled by James Thorogood