The dramatic three-way race for the J. League first-division title between Yokohama F. Marinos, FC Tokyo and Kashima Antlers is shaping up to be the latest in the league's long history of photo finishes.

Yet for avid followers of the J1, these chases are often as frustrating than they are thrilling, if only because it sometimes feels as though it's harder to figure out which team wants to win the league than it is to predict which team will actually manage to pull it off.

One of the J. League's most appealing aspects when compared to Europe's "Big Four" is its parity — rarely if ever are Japanese fans treated to once-horse races similar to those of the Premier League or Bundesliga.