In 2019, Japan won’t just be the home of karaoke, sumo wrestling, and sushi – it’ll also become home to thousands of rugby-obsessed fans from all over the world for 13 days of tries, testosterone and tackling!
That’s right, the ninth Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan on 20 September to 2 November 2019 at 12 venues across the Land of the Rising Sun, giving rugby fans and travellers alike the chance to explore this ancient land that somehow manages to mix quaint Eastern tradition with cutting edge technological flair.
So if you’ve got clients about as equally keen on rugby as finally ticking Japan off their travel bucket list, then you’re going to want to read on.
Here’s a guide on what you can do beside watching all the action in seven of the most popular host-venue cities in Japan during the Rugby World Cup:
1. Tokyo Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo)
As if you ever needed a guide to Tokyo!
With more things to do than you could poke(mon!) a stick at, our favourites would be visiting Asakusa and Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple in the morning; checking out the Imperial Palace in early afternoon; shopping for the latest electronic gadgets in Akihabara in the late afternoon; and finishing up with some sushi and beer in Shinjuku just before the start of your game.
2. Sapporo Dome (Sapporo City, Hokkaido)
A winter wonderland during the months of December to February, Sapporo is actually one of those up-and-coming Japanese cities that is often overlooked by visitors to Japan. But with the city hosting some games of the Rugby World Cup in 2019, you won’t have any excuse not to visit this dynamic city famous for its beer and green spaces.
Beer fanatics should check out the Hokkaido Brewery and the Sapporo Beer Garden & Museum, and everyone shouldn’t leave without taking a photo of the iconic Sapporo Clock Tower, built in 1878. With the sun soon to set, make sure you ride the Moiwa-yama Ropeway for panoramic views of the city from a vantage point 531-metres above sea level.
3. International Stadium Yokohama (Yokohama City, Kanagawa prefecture)
Tokyo’s rival city, Yokohama, is all set to host some of the action of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. If you’re in town for a game or two, make sure you visit the tranquil Japanese garden Sankei-en, the futuristic Yokohama Landmark Tower for stunning views of the urban sprawl that seemingly goes on forever, and the quirky Cup Noodles Museum, dedicated to this Japanese invention.
4. Kobe City Misaki Park Stadium (Kobe, Hyogo prefecture)
Unfortunately the site of a catastrophic earthquake in 1995, Kobe has risen from the ashes likes a phoenix to become one of Japan’s most attractive and cosmopolitan cities. And despite it’s smallish size, there’s surprisingly so much to do in this hip and happening city whilst you’re in town for the rugby.
For example, visit the amazingly nearby Nunobiki Falls for a dose of nature, the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum for a taste and little history lesson of Japan’s national spirit, take a selfie in front of the Gigantor Robot for your Facebook wall, and then take the Kōbe Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway all the way to the top for unrivalled views of this stunning coastal city.
5. Hanazono Rugby Stadium (Higashi Osaka, Osaka)
Undoubtedly the foodie capital of Japan, make sure you spend an afternoon or evening before or after the BIG game sampling many of the region’s specialties, such as okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake), takoyaki (aka octopus balls), and kushikatsu (deep-fried battered skewered chicken or pork, seafood and veggies).
Head to Dōtonbori for the best variety of Osakan street food.
6. Toyota Stadium (Toyota, Aichi prefecture)
You won’t just find the Toyota Motor Corporation’s HQ here! When in town to catch a game, there’s plenty of stuff to do in this industrial city just east of Nagoya to keep you busy, such as visiting the Tokyo Municipal Museum of Art, soaking in the Sanage Onsen just a short drive away, and, of course, checking out the Toyota Kaikan Museum which showcases Toyota’s latest products and offers a history of the Toyota company.
7. Hakatanomori Football Stadium (Hakata, Fukuoka)
Known for its ancient temples and plentiful beaches, Fukuoka will also be known for its part hosting some of the Rugby World Cup games in 2019. If in town for a game, spend some time exploring this overlooked city, such as paying your respects at the Kushida Shrine, marvelling at the majestic Fukuoka Castle, and then taking a time-out at quiet Ohori Park – one of the most beautiful water parks in Japan right in the city centre.