After having represented Japan at the 1993 U-17 World Championship (where he scored a goal) and at the 1995 U-20 World Championship (where he scored twice), Nakata was part of the Japan squads at the 1996 Olympics, where Japan upset Brazil, and at the 2000 Olympics. His senior national team debut came in May 1997 against South Korea. He was a key member of the Japanese side that qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, scoring five goals in qualification matches and setting up all three Japanese goals in the qualification play-off against Iran. He helped Japan reach the final of the 2001 Confederations Cup but left the national team before the final to join Roma for their final league matches. Nakata played in all four of Japan’s matches at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, scoring the second goal of a 2–0 first round win against Tunisia. At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Nakata played in all three matches for Japan, losing to Australia and Brazil, and drawing with Croatia. His performance against Croatia earned him a Man of the Match award. After the 2006 FIFA World Cup, on July 3, 2006, Nakata announced his retirement from professional football and the Japanese national team on his personal website “I decided half a year ago that I would retire from the world of professional football … after the World Cup in Germany.” Nakata wrote, “I will never again stand on the pitch as a professional player. But I will never give up football.” In a 2014 interview in TMW Magazine, Nakata confirmed that he had retired at such a young age because he was no longer enjoying football, and wanted instead to see what was going on in the world. Despite Nakata playing every match in Japan’s first three World Cup appearances, he was not selected for the country’s Asian Cup-winning squads in 2000 and 2004. In total, he was capped 77 times for Japan, scoring 11 goals, 9 of which came in official FIFA competitions.