When he was at Shūyō Junior High School, he represented Yamaguchi Prefecture with future international teammate Seiichiro Maki. He went on to football powerhouse Teikyo High School. While at Teikyo, Tanaka was chosen as one of the Designated Players for Development by J. League and JFA. Because of this status, he was able to register as a FC Tokyo player while he was still eligible to play for his high school club.
After graduating Teikyo, he joined Urawa. His first league appearance came on April 29, 2001 against Kashima Antlers. His first professional goal came on May 21, 2001 against Tokyo Verdy 1969.
He made his international debut on July 31, 2005 in an East Asian Cup against North Korea when he replaced Keiji Tamada in the 67th minute. He scored his first international goal on August 3, 2005 against China in the same tournament. His most recent goal came against Qatar on November 19, 2008.