Vanuraure Hachinohe

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Vanuraure Hachinohe is a very new club, which was not even a part of the amateur football landscape prior to 2000. The northern half of Tohoku is more sparsely populated, and much further behind the south in developing competitive football clubs. While Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures both had representatives in the J.League by the turn of the century, it has only been in the past decade that clubs like Blaublitz Akita, Fukushima United and Grulla Morioka made their way into the top levels of the amateur game, and it was only the launch of the J3 which brought these prefectures into the pro ranks. Aomori prefecture -- at the far northern tip of Honshu is still the odd-man out.

However, that is likely to change before much longer. In fact, Aomori now has two teams in the JFL which are both on track towards a professional future. While Reinmeer Aomori -- located in the prefecture's capital -- shows good promise, an even more interesting story can be found in a smaller cluster of small cities further south, where the pride of local football fans is Vanraure Hachinohe.

Vanuraure is one of those ubiquitous "soccer school" organizations that are found in many rural areas (where no J.League youth academy has established itself). Like other similar teams, including YSCC and the club that provided the base for today's Zweigen Kanazawa, the youth-oriented school eventually spawned an "adult" football team made up of "graduates". The Hachinohe-based sports club and its youth teams have been around for about a decade, but it was only in 2005 that some former students of the soccer school and local football fans had the idea of establishing a team to compete in top amateur competitions. In just three years the team has made its way to the Tohoku second division, and local support grew at a tremendous rate.

Perhaps the best part of Vanuraure's story is the way that it co-opted local culture and traditions. Hachinohe and its neighboring towns along the "Sanriku" coast are major fishing ports, which have a reputation for top-quality seafood that goes back some 1500 years. Drawing upon that connection, Vanuraure adopted a logo that includes branched seaweed amidst a blue-and-green field, along with the orange sillhouette of a squid.  While that may restrict the possibilities for a "cute and cuddly" sort of mascot. like you find throughout most of the J.League, in a rough, historic fishng town like Hachinohe, a squid seems to be the most appropriate mascot you could imagine. Sure enough, to mark its advance into the JFL, Vanuraure unveiled a mascot character named "Vanta", whose head is shaped like a giant squid.

Despite a lot of local interest, Hachinohe faces an uphill battle as they try to fight their way into the J3. The town is smaller than any other J.League hometown except Kofu, and in Ventforet's case the population of Kofu City is augmented by some fairly large nearby towns. Hachinohe is in a very rural pocket of rugged coastline, and it will take a great deal of support from the locals to give Vanuraure the support base needed to climb into the professional ranks.

Nevertheless, anyone who has even the slightest bit of romantic sensibility will surely be rooting for The Fighting Squid. The J.League can only be richer for the small-town character that teams like Vanuraure bring.