Nagoya Grampus got its start in the mid 1950s, as the company team of Toyota Motors. Ties to its former parent have been greatly reduced since 1993, despite the widespread perception that Toyota is a major "backer". This may be partly because Grampus plays many home games at Toyota Stadium, but the stadium is named after the city of Toyota, not the company. Whatever the case, today's Grampus is a very different animal from the corporate team that preceeded it. Toyota was a reasonably successful JSL franchise, and a clear candidate for inclusion as one of the founding members of the J.League in 1993, but apart from a two-year spell of relative success under coach Dragan Stojkovic (including the 2010 league title), Grampus has generally been a consistent mid-table manifestation of mediocrity.
The team adopted the name "Grampus" - an archaic British word for the gargoyle-like characters found on old castles - specifically, the "lion-fish" gargoyles on the top of Nagoya Castle, the city's most distinctive landmark. The team mascot is a killer whale (orca) named Grampa. The orca mascot has earned Grampus their most commonly-used nickname: "The Red Whales".