The IJF World Championships are being held at the Nippon Budokan, which hosted the sport when it made its Olympic debut at Tokyo 1964 and will again stage them during Tokyo 2020 ©IJF

The International Judo Federation (IjF) Championships, while always the biggest event of the sport's calendar, are even more highly anticipated this year for several reasons.

The Championships take place in Tokyo as judo returns home to Japan, at the Nippon Budokan, the Olympic competition venue next summer.

They will also serve as an official 2020 Olympics test event, to ensure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes.

Nippon Budokan also hosted the Olympic judo competition in 1964, with the IJF marking 55 years as an Olympic sport.

This summer's World Championships are also the biggest ever by number of participants - a record 841 judoka from 147 different nations.

The men's under-66 kilogram category features an immense 92 competitors, while the biggest field in the women's events is in the under-52kg, with 57 judoka.

After the individual men and women's divisions, the mixed team event is set to conclude the Championships next Sunday (September 1), with 15 nations taking part.

Top seeds and hosts Japan get a bye through the first round, and will face either South Korea or The Netherlands at the second stage.

Second-ranked China face Mongolia in round one, then will play either Russia or an IJF combined refugee team.

Georgia's five-time World Championship medallist Varlam Liparteliani, right, is looking to finally win his first gold ©Getty Images
Georgia's five-time World Championship medallist Varlam Liparteliani, right, is looking to finally win his first gold ©Getty Images

In the men's competition, Japan's Naohisa Takato is the man to watch in the under-60kg as he aims for a third world title in succession, while in the under -66kg, Italy's Olympic champion Fabio Basile will step up his preparations for 2020 after his shock victory at Rio 2016. 

"I’m very happy to fight here in Tokyo, I think Japan is the best nation for the judo education of the world," Basile said. 

"A male Italian judoka has never won gold at the Worlds and I hope I’m the first."

Japan's Shohei Ono, Olympic champion at under-73kg, is back at the World Championships for the first time since 2015 after taking a break to study and complete his dissertation - a technical analysis of judo techniques - and is on a 22-fight winning streak.

In the under-81kg, top seed Saeid Mollaei of Iran and Israel's second-ranked Sagi Muki are scheduled for an epic final showdown - previously Iranian judoka have withdrawn rather than fight an Israeli, although the IJF claim to have an undertaking this will not happen on this occasion.

In the under-90kg, five-time World Championship medallist Varlam Liparteliani is looking to finally win his first gold.

"A medal here is like gold because it means so much," the Georgian said.

"People love judo here and when you make a good result you should be happy and you make a good feeling in your heart.

"I come for gold but it’s not easy, I will do my best and give everything I have to try to win for Georgia."

One major absentee is France's Teddy Riner, the double over-100kg Olympic gold medallist.

Riner returned to the IJF Grand Prix circuit at Montreal last month following a two-year lay-off, but is in Tokyo in his role as chairman of the IJF Athletes' Commission rather than taking to the tatami.

France's four-time World Champion Clarisse Agbegnenou, left, is clear favourite in the under-63kg ©IJF
France's four-time World Champion Clarisse Agbegnenou, left, is clear favourite in the under-63kg ©IJF

In the women's events, Ukraine's 18-year-old Daria Bilodid is aiming to repeat her extraordinary trick at Baku 2018, where she became the youngest ever judo World Champion in the under-48kg.

Brazil's Olympic champion Rafaela Silva is in strong form after winning gold at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, while four-time world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou is clear favourite in the under-63kg.

"For me to be fighting in Japan is very important as it's the homeland of judo," the Frenchwoman said.

"I have three world titles and I want to win my fourth here, it would be the best for me and especially with the Olympics next year in the same venue."

Japan's efending under-70kg world champion Chizuru Arai continues her bid for Olympic selection on home ground after missing out in 2016, while fellow Japanese judoka, Sarah Asahina, is aiming to defend her crown from Cuba's top seed Idalys Ortiz.

"Tokyo is my hometown, I’m very excited to fight here," Asahina said.

"This is a great opportunity for me before the Olympics to fight at the Nippon Budokan.

"I will do my best and work hard."

Every day at Nippon Budokan, insidethegames will be providing in-depth coverage featuring a live blog with the latest results, a full round-up report at the end of the day, and a picture gallery showing the best of the action.