Mitoma was born in Ōita, Japan but spent his childhood growing up in Kawasaki, part of the Greater Tokyo area. He soon joined Kawasaki Frontale's academy at the U-10 level and made his way up the various age groups before shortly being offered the chance to play under coach Yahiro Kazama for the Senior Team. Kaoru made the choice of attending the University of Tsukuba to study whilst training with senior team. His reason for this, is because he felt like he needed to develop and improve his game, but also due to him feeling he could not contest with the likes of Koji Miyoshi and Ko Itakura for playing time in the senior squad. The University of Tsukuba is a well known university in Japan which has produced some great footballing talent, including the likes of Frontale teammates Shogo Taniguchi and Shintaro Kurumaya. Mitoma majored in physical education, played for the university side and trained with Kawasaki during his three years there.
Whilst at university, Kaoru also received his first call up to the Japan National side with U-21 side and then the U-23 team. He also played in Universiade tournaments, 2018 Asian Games and 2019 Toulon Tournament, getting invaluable experience and confidence in his abilities.
He was recently called up to Japan U-23 side which competed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, however he was not given much playing time which was to everyones disgruntlement and frustration, given that the games were calling out for someone like Mitoma to make the difference. In the three substitute appearances he had at the Olympics, he scored 1 goal in the 67 minutes he played across the three games.
Mitoma will undoubtedly be receiving his first call up to the Japan Senior Team very shortly given his fine form and the fact that Japan have got some incredibly talented young upcoming players.
It is easy to forget that even though Mitoma has been signed to Frontale since 2018, he only made his professional debut for Frontale on the opening day of the 2020 J.League season, which of course worse plagued and curtailed by the covid pandemic.
He had one appearance for Kawasaki Frontale in 2019 and that was in a J.League Cup match against Nagoya Grampus in which he only played 4 minutes. Despite doing his studies at the time, Mitoma would occasionally join in training sessions with the Frontale Senior team as a Special Designated Player. (For those unfamilar with Special Designated Players, it is a system which was developed to allow young players to train and play with a club whilst also achieving an education in their chosen study at High School or University)
In 2020 for his debut season, Mitoma made an immediate impact both in the league and for Kawasaki Frontale. He made 30 appearances in the season, scoring 13 and assisting 13 in 1594 minutes and only starting in 11 games. He also had 5 appearances in the J.League Cup where he scored 3 goals and assisted 1, as well as 2 appearances in the Emperors Cup in which he scored 2. In his debut season, he became the first rookie to reach double digits in goals in the J1 since Yoshinori Muto for FC Tokyo. He also won the league with Kawasaki Frontale.
For this current 2021 J.League season, Mitoma has played 20 times, scoring 8 and assisting 3 in 13 starts. He also had 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 appearances in the AFC Champions League in which Kawasaki have reached the Round of 16. Kaoru had also played in the Japanese Super Cup in which he scored 2 goals in the 3-2 win over Gamba Osaka to give his side a taste of silverware prior the the season starting.
Despite only playing in the league for two seasons, Kaoru Mitoma is very much a player and name on the forefront of everyones lips and one of the most highly talked about players in the league, despite the argubaly talented foreign signings and names the league also has. The fact that he is also able to stand out in a Kawasaki side which is full of attacking talent and incredible depth, Mitoma makes his case to manager Toru Oniki as to why he deserves playing time.
Style of play
Mitoma is undoubtedly a highly skilled and technical player. Usually deployed on the left wing, he can also play on the right wing and centrally when needed. However, he is best out on the left wing. Kaoru may be right footed, but he is able to use both feet in various situations. Whether it is to run with the ball, make a pass, shoot or dribble. Mitoma has an array of skills in his repertoire and puts them to full use in games, regularly using them to beat his man on the wing in order to cut inside. When I have watched Mitoma play, I always see him making runs along the wing and looking to create an attacking opportunities. He regularly drops his shoulder to feign cutting inside, before dragging the ball back and taking it past the startled defender to cross. He also has the ability to pull off some nutmegs and stepovers in order to confuse his opponent. But Kaoru also has the intelligence and great ability to read the game well. He knows when he is able to try out these techniques and dribbles and when to play the more simple passing game. You can often see Mitoma playing along the wing and running the ball along the edge of the goal-line to cut one back into the box for a teammate. He also has the vision to play in a teammates with direct through balls in between the defensive line or can whip in a delicious curled cross for a teammate to head.
Mitoma is a very dedicated and hard working player. He is constatntly looking to get involved in the game in any way shape or form. If he needs to, he can drop back to assist the defence or central midfielders and can look to support a counter attack. But he can also show some great strength to hold the ball up until an opportunity presents itself. Whilst Mitoma may not be the strongest player, he does make up for any lack of strength with his speed, pace and technical ability. Even when he finds himself in precarious situations where he is up against 2 or 3 defenders, he is always able to dance his way through them using intricate skills and passing.
Kaoru is also very clinical in front of goal when given the chance. He does not require the support of players around him to score goals, he is very much happy to create his own chances and opportunities by running at defenders, beating his man and taking the shot himself from just inside the box. But he can also score goals from outside the box, set pieces or crosses in from teammates, hitting the ball first time on his weaker foot or with his head when needed. In terms of tap ins, Mitoma is practically 10/10 for scoring.
Because of his attacking mindset and want to create opportunities, Mitoma is certianly better suited to a side which plays attacking football and looks to score goals. Kawasaki Frontale tend to play a 4-3-3 formation with Mitoma playing on the left wing or play a 4-1-4-1 with Mitoma playing slightly deeper.