The Kashima Antlers organization can trace its history back to the formation of the Sumitomo Metal Industries club team, in 1947. However, it was a small and loosely organized company team until 1974, when it entered the second division of the Japan Soccer League (JSL), and relocated to Kashima, in Ibaraki Prefecture. The team's name is derived from the name of its home town - "Kashima" is Japanese for "deer island". The town is located on a sandy outcrop bordering the Pacific Ocean, and surrounded on almost all of the other three sides by tidal estuaries, the Tonegawa River, and Lake Kitaura. It is the site of Kashima Jinja, one of the most important Shinto Shrines in eastern Japan.
The Antlers joined the J.League in 1992, as one of the League's founding members. It is also the most successful club in Japan, having won the J.League title seven times, in addition to a multitude of cup trophies.