Under normal circumstances, the Japan Football Association would prefer that its referees be conductors, blending into the background and occasionally providing a guiding whistle as the players take center stage.

But after a 2019 season that saw match officials thrust into the national spotlight, 2020 will see them take an even more central role as the J. League prepares to introduce video assistant referees (VARs), one of the sport's biggest additions in the modern era, into its first division.

VAR has had mixed success in leagues where it has been introduced, with its rocky implementation in the English Premier League — especially the infamous line used to judge offside calls — coming under particularly intense criticism.