The Japanese love affair with the Bundesliga began back in the 1970s, when Yasuhiko Okudera caught the eye of legendary Cologne manager Hennes Weisweiler. The young midfielder was offered a contract and made his debut for the Billy Goats in October 1977, becoming Japan's first professional player in Europe. He went on to help Cologne land a Bundesliga and DFB Cup double in his very first season – and the rest is history...
Makoto Hasebe(Eintracht Frankfurt)
Okudera blazed a trail for future generations of Japanese footballers in Europe, and his legacy stretches right through to the present day – his compatriot Shinji Kagawa is a fan favourite at giants Borussia Dortmund, while Eintracht Frankfurt's Makoto Hasebe has just broken Okudera's record for Bundesliga appearances made by a Japanese player.
In honour of that achievement, bundesliga.com runs the rule over the other Japanese players currently lighting up the German top flight...
Watch: Hasebe puts the team first after breaking Okudera's record for Bundesliga appearances by a Japanese player:
Genki Haraguchi(Hertha Berlin)
The captain of the Japan national side has started all but three of the Eagles' games this season, either as a defensive midfielder or a central defender, and has helped them to stay remarkably solid at the back. Frankfurt have conceded just 24 goals in 23 Bundesliga games, a tally bettered only by champions and league leaders Bayern Munich (13).
As well as winning over half of his tackles and challenges, Hasebe boasts an 83 per cent pass completion rate, and his calming influence has been invaluable as the Eagles have soared to sixth place in the table. A natural leader, he has also won over 100 caps for Japan, who currently sit joint-top of their 2018 FIFA World Cup group with Saudi Arabia. Hasebe broke the record for a Japanese player of 234 Bundesliga appearances set by Okudera on Saturday, earning his 235th in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Freiburg.
Gotoku Sakai(Hamburger SV)
Following in the footsteps of Okudera, Osako has been a key figure for Cologne this season, as the Billy Goats have also mounted an assault on the European places. The 26-year-old has formed an eye-catching partnership with Anthony Modeste, who is keeping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski on their toes at the top of the Bundesliga scoring charts.
Osako scored in successive games against FC Schalke 04 and RB Leipzig, as well as setting up both of Modeste's goals in the recent 2-1 win over Ingolstadt. He has also created no fewer than 63 scoring chances, an average of around three per game.