Before the festival came into existence, the Meiji Shrine tournament was used to be held in Japan and is considered as the predecessor of the festival.
The National Sports Festival is the one of the biggest national multi-sports tournament, held in Japan every year. Its name is commonly abbreviated to 'Kokutai'. The first edition of the National Sports Festival was hosted in the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe region in 1946, and since then the festival has been held every year with different states competing against each other. The festival symbol is a red torch inclined to 30°.
Only athletes holding Japanese citizenship are allowed to participate in the event.
The festival consists of three parts: the winter, summer & autumn sessions.
The winter session includes skiing, skating, & ice hockey; the summer session includes mainly water sports; and the autumn session has various other sports.
For each sports competition in each of the session, players and teams compete against each other as members of their states. Prefectures gather points according to the result of each player or team.
The points of each prefecture are also considered according to gender. At the end of the fall session i.e. the last session in a year, the state that gets the maximum number of points for male players and teams is awarded the Emperor's Cup.
The state that gets the maximum number of points for female players and teams is awarded the Empress’s Cup.