JFA, the Japanese governing body of soccer in the country, has announced that in the near future, the J.League will be fully integrated into the lower non-professional leagues similar to the English system.
Theoretically as early as the 2010 season, J2 clubs will not only fight for the chance to promotion to J1 but also to prevent relegation to the JFL.
The path to promotion to the J. League will remain constant. Any team not owned by a parent company, a university squad, or as a reserve team for a professional club, and also with a top 4 JFL placement and permission from the JFA, can rise to the professional ranks. Once J2 reaches 22 teams, however, the fully professional J. League will be considered "full". At this point, the bottom ranked team in J2 will be relegated with the top team from the JFL that fulfills the standard requirements being promoted. While Mito has never had this position at year's end, and would seem unlikely to hold it after many younger teams join the league between now and then, that chance is certainly there for the poorest pro team in Japan.
Also announced, once J2 grows to at least 18 teams, the promotion/relegation series between the 16th placed J1 club and 3rd placed J2 club will be eliminated and three spots will be directly decided by yearly placement.
Within 5 years, it seems likely that Japanese soccer will see two pro divisions with mostly the same teams bouncing back and forth each year, a happy pool of JFL teams at least until J2 has 22, and then a sad pool of J2/JFL teams having trouble making it/returning to the pro league... Assuming the public support is there, creation of a third professional division upon the start of this system seems like a good idea to prevent this.