2019 Rugby World Cup Japan: Experiencing Japan Through Sports

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Written by: Santiago Brignole Araujo

Published: October 14th, 2019

The rugby world cup has finally arrived in Japan. This event is one of the largest world sporting events and the prelude to the Olympic games scheduled to be held in Tokyo in 2020. Thanks to rugby, many foreigners are making better connections with Japanese people through a common passion for sports. So why is it so important for Japan to have this event held here? Let’s find out.

Between September 20 and November 2, 2019, Japan is hosting one of the most important sporting events on the globe: the Rugby World Cup. Much to anyone’s surprise, this sport has a long history in the land of sumo and baseball. We will introduce you to the history of this rugby, the reasons why Japan was chosen to carry out such an event and how already rugby is changing the way students and foreigners see Japan.

Rugby in Japan

Rugby is a sport of British origin, which is said to have been invented in 1823 by a student named William Webb Ellis (today the world cup bears his name), from Rugby School. The legend says that the game was born when Ellis cheated on the rudimentary football they were playing and took the ball with his hands. In 1871 the Rugby Football Union was founded. A year later in 1872, annual matches between Cambridge and Oxford began. Rugby was up and running as an official sport. The one question that was asked when Japan was announced to host the next rugby world cup was: "What does rugby have to do with Japan?"The answer is quite a lot. Japan was introduced to rugby after Commodore Perry and other foreign sailors opened Japan’s ports to the world. Rugby was always recognized as a chivalrous sport, characterized by its nobility, courtesy and kindness towards the rival. It was for this reason that many Japanese people identified with Rugby, as its values are similar to that of Japanese society, taking into account the ancient teachings of Bushido or samurai code. After making its break in Japan, rugby was strongly promoted by two prestigious Japanese universities, Keio and Waseda, both of which continuously battled against strong foreign teams. However, over the years, Japan could not maintain a strong team. Part of which was due to its location in Asia, an area where rugby is not a main sport.

Why Japan?

Rugby’s popularity is growing internationally. More and more people love and practice this sport, which places a special emphasis on the group and brotherhood. Japan, with its history of rugby and similar cultural values, has been chosen to be the platform that expands rugby into Asia. This stands as a great test for the country that will host the 2020 Olympic games. In less than a year, thousands of people will be headed to Tokyo, so Japan must be prepared to receive its visitors.

Real voices from the fans

Micaela Colavita, from Argentina, is working towards a master's degree in geophysics at Tohoku University in Sendai. She came to Tokyo exclusively to watch the match between Argentina and France. When we asked her why she traveled so far just to see rugby, Micaela replied: "Rugby, besides being a very interesting game, requires a lot of teamwork and personal effort. It shows that the individual is important but as part of the team. Probably more so than other sports.”Rugby has always stood out for its chivalrous conduct and focus on the respect that other sports often neglect. Micaela loves this aspect of rugby. "I have been going to rugby games for many years. I admire the respect for the rivalry and the fellowship that this game generates. And I feel that for Japan, being able to experience such an event up close is a wonderful opportunity to open itself more to the world"

Carlos Zavarce, from Venezuela, is studying for his master's degree in legal and political studies at the University of Tohoku. Carlos tells us that these events will help to re-introduce Japan to the world and reinvent its image. "I believe that the rugby world cup is a great opportunity for Japan to promote itself as an open nation, and it’s also a great opportunity for us as foreigners to connect with Japanese people--in this case over a passion for rugby. "

World cup's venues, information and fan-zones

The 2019 World Cup will be held at 12 venues around the country, the most prominent being: • Tokyo: Ajinomoto Stadium, with 49,970 seats. • Yokohama: Yokohama International Stadium, with 72,327 seats. •Sapporo: Sapporo Dome, with 41,410 seats. • Shizuoka: Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa, with 50,889 seats. Each of the venues has different fan-zones. In these facilities, fans will be able to watch the games on giant screens and enjoy food trucks and other activities. These fan zones offer the chance to interact with people of different nationalities and cultures, bringing people together within a worldwide fan base. For more information about the world cup venues, you can visit the official site here at This year’s World Cup will feature 20 teams divided into 4 groups of 5. The first two winners of each group will qualify for the quarterfinals. Both semifinals and the final match will be played at Yokohama International Stadium, on October 26th, 27th, and November 2nd respectively. As the host of the World Cup, Japan will have the pleasure of hosting some of the world’s strongest teams. This includes England, Ireland, Wales and France, from the Northern Hemisphere, and New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina from the southern hemisphere. So get out there, make some new friends, and cheer on your favorite team. Click here to keep updated with the latest live scores.

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