Vanraure Hachinohe

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Team Logo & Mascot:

Vanraure Hachinohe is a relatively 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 than, 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 J3 which brought these prefectures into the pro ranks. Aomori prefecture - at the far northern tip of Honshu was still the odd-man out until 2019.

In fact, Aomori had two teams in the JFL as a J3 place was sought bu the prefecture, and both are on track towards a bigger 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, the J.League's newest member!

Vanraure 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.

The team is based in Hachinohe, a city in Aomori Prefecture in Japan. As is often the case with Japanese teams, their “exotic” name has a deep meaning – these names are not just thrown together from foreign words pulled out of a hat, even if that seems the case sometimes. Vanraure comes from the combination of two Italian words: derivante, meaning "derived from, origin"; and australe, meaning "southern" (where do you think Australia got its name – geography editor!). Putting them together to give us the club's name, it refers to the area in which the club was founded - in the southern area of Hachinohe, in Nango.

 

The club was founded in 2006 after a merger of that original Nango FC and Hachinohe Industry SC and the nascent club joined division 2 of the Tohoku League. In 2008 the club announced its intention to turn professional and aim for a J.League place. In 2014, when the J.League's third tier – J3 – was introduced, the club had already applied, and been approved for J.League Associate Membership. To qualify for any eventual promotion some ground improvements and other criteria had to be met but the team were granted entry to the Japan Football League (JFL) – the feeder league for the J.League itself . From there Vanruare had to do well enough to achieve promotion to J3 and they did so by ending the 2018 season in 3rd place. JFL champions, Honda Lock, refused promotion – as they have always done, preferring to remain an amateur club – while 2nd-placed FC Osaka did not yet have the J3 licence needed to move up. Hachinohe took their chance and their promotion and, for 2019, are in the J.League.

 

Perhaps the best part of Vanraure'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, Vanraure adopted a logo that includes branched seaweed amidst a blue-and-green field, along with the orange silhouette 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 fishing town like Hachinohe, a squid seems to be the most appropriate mascot you could imagine. Sure enough, to mark its advance into the JFL, Vanraure unveiled a mascot character named "Vanta", whose head is shaped like a giant squid.

Despite a lot of local interest, Hachinohe faced an uphill battle as they tried to fight their way into 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 took a great deal of support from the locals to give Vanraure 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 now that they have made it into J3. The J.League can only be richer for the small-town character that teams like Vanraure bring.