Tokyo night view
INDOMITABLE SPIRIT
Travel Japan to see the country’s enduring culture and inspiring rugby stadiums.

TOKYO

Visitors to Japan for 2019’s rugby extravaganza have the enviable experience of being able to sample the delights of 12 varied host cities as they travel from stadium to stadium, seeing the country’s unique spirit through the lens of its regional cultures.

Starting in Tokyo, you’ll have the chance to witness how the city fuses the old and the new—one of its defining and most charming characteristics. Consider staying near the match venue in the Chofu district, which offers easy access by rail to central Tokyo, with Shinjuku station in the heart of around 25 minutes away on the Keio line.

Orient yourself to the venue by taking an hour-long guided tour of Tokyo Stadium, which will host the city’s rugby events. The stadium in Tokyo has a natural grass pitch, seats nearly 50,000 people, and makes extensive use of solar power for eco-friendly operations.

Then explore your surroundings: Chofu is home to some beautiful places to sample Tokyo’s historical culture. Jindaiji Temple is a classic example of how the city can quickly transport you to another time. First built in the eighth century, by an ancient pond and surrounded by trees and old buildings, it’s enveloped in a sense of both serenity and history.

At nearby Inokashira Park, a favourite place for viewing coloured autumn leaves, you can enjoy a waterside stroll by the pond that is one of the sources of Tokyo’s Kanda River. Lined with reeds and overhanging branches, it’s is an idyllic location, and as the park is close to the stylish Kichijoji district, you’ll often see well-dressed teenagers taking romantic walks or out on the water in swan-shaped pedal boats.

KANAGAWA/YOKOHAMA

While you’re in the Tokyo area, make sure you also head to nearby Yokohama, the capital of Kanagawa prefecture, which is the birthplace of rugby in Japan. British military officers founded the Yokohama Football Club there in 1866.

It’s fitting, then, that the Yokohama match venue is Japan’s largest stadium, International Stadium Yokohama. With room for about 70,000 rugby fans, it boasts premium facilities including hybrid turf, newly upgraded seats, LED lighting and dynamic speaker systems.

For a taste of tradition while in Yokohama, try sukiyaki, a local specialty.

As an international trading port, Yokohama brought many innovations to Japan, rugby among them. Hot-pot-style dishes where you cook raw ingredients in a delicious pot of boiling soup at your table have long been a part of Japanese life, but it was in Yokohama that people first saw the conspicuous consumption of beef—by Western visitors—and incorporated it into their cuisine. At Yokohama Seryna Romanjaya, a famous sukiyaki restaurant, you can sample the dish at its best, made with the world renowned Kobe beef.

Tokyo Stadium

GETTING THERE

Major airports worldwide have multiple fl ights to Tokyo each day, and visitors can travel cost-effectively within Japan by buying a Japan Rail Pass in their home countries. The area around Tokyo Stadium is roughly 1.5h from Haneda Airport by train, while International Stadium Yokohama is around 1h by train from Shinjuku Station. Kamaishi is about 4.5h from Tokyo Station via the Tohoku Shinkansen and JR Kamaishi Line. To reach the Abukuma Caves, stop at Koriyama Station in Fukushima Prefecture and take the Ban-Etsuto Higashi line 45m to Kammata Station, followed by a short taxi ride.

FUKUSHIMA

Then set off through Fukushima towards host city Kamaishi, which is around 4.5 hours from Tokyo station by high-speed and local rail. Japan’s trains are arguably the world’s most pleasant to ride, making the trip a joy, and much of the journey is through Japan’s spectacular landscape, defined by the green of mountains, forests and fields.

On the way, you can change at Koriyama Station to reach Kammata Station and the Abukuma Limestone Caves, a complex approximately 3km long that is said to have the largest variety of stalactites in Asia. Limestone caves are a magical sight and the journey through them is an adventure in itself, with courses offering views of halls including the breathtaking Takine Palace, which is around 30m tall, and the evocative Lunar World, where dramatic lighting mimics the progress of daylight from sunrise to sunset.

Abukuma Limestone Caves, Fukushima
Kamaishi Daikannon, Iwate

IWATE/KAMAISHI

When you reach Kamaishi, orient yourself to the area and its culture at the Kamaishi Daikannon. This 48.5m-high statue stands to pray for the safety of the sea and all who travel on it, including local fishermen. The area around the majestic figure grants visitors equally epic views of the ocean and the Iwate coast.

The match venue itself, Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, is part of an area where the earthquake of 2011 devastated nearby coastal settlements. It sits amid an unforgettable vista of hills, open sky, and groves of straight-trunked trees towering behind the stands. Matches there will be a poignant reminder of the resilience of the Japanese spirit, and a fitting counterpart to the determination of the sportsmen competing there for victory.