Champion of Tokyo’s Sports Bar Scene
By Julian Ryall
With no fewer than eight large-screen televisions dotted throughout the bar—including one conveniently in the gents’ toilets—and access to hundreds of sports channels showing games from around the world, Legends Sports Bar is ready for anything.
The bar has become a landmark in Tokyo’s Roppongi district since it opened in 2004—and it has earned a reputation as the place where professional sportsmen and women come to watch games when they are in Japan.
“We can show eight different sports at the same time and we have always been big on rugby and baseball coverage since we opened,” said Mark Spencer, founding owner of the bar.
To underline his point, the screens in the bar are presently showing the latest leg of the Tour de France, a rugby league game being played in Australia, a J-League soccer match, and an Aussie rules game. The following week, the bar planned to screen live the finals of Wimbledon and the Cricket World Cup, along with the British Grand Prix.
“This place is famous, and we have a great position, so we have had the All Blacks players come in here for a drink, and the Welsh team comes by when they are here for a game. We regularly have baseball players and Formula One drivers coming in—and it’s nice for customers to be able to rub elbows with sportsmen that they’ll later be cheering on,” said Spencer.
In true sports bar tradition, the walls of Legends are covered in sporting memorabilia. A signed Argentina soccer shirt is alongside a Brazilian strip signed by Pele. A framed England cricket shirt signed by the 2005 team hangs next to Takuma Sato’s Formula One all-in-one driving suit. A glass-fronted cabinet displays dozens of baseballs signed by some of the biggest names in the game, including Randy Bass, Boomer Wells, Tuffy Rhodes, and Bobby Valentine.
Elsewhere, a selection of signed baseball bats is in a rack on the wall, beside an ice hockey stick. Signed golf balls are in another case on the counter—alongside the cigar selection—and the bar boasts an impressive collection of bobblehead baseball dolls.
“I think it’s great that Japan is attracting one of the biggest sporting events in the world and raising the profile of sports like rugby here,” said Spencer, although he points out that Japan is in a “tricky group” in Rugby World Cup 2019 and will need to put in a good performance in their first game, against Russia on September 20, if they are to progress.
Ben Fraser, an Australian who works in the financial sector and has been in Japan since 1994, says the atmosphere in a bar like Legends is all-important to the experience.
“For Japanese people who maybe don’t know much about rugby, this will be the perfect place to watch some of the World Cup games,” he said. “And for anyone who can’t get tickets, being here will be the next best thing because the atmosphere will be electric.
“I was here in 2002, when Japan co-hosted the football World Cup and I am sure there will be just as much excitement and enthusiasm as there was across the country then,” he said.
|Name||Legends Sports Bar|
|Address||1F, Aoba Roppongi Building, 3-16-33 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo|
|Location||About 6-minute walk from Roppongi Station (Hibiya and Toei Oedo Lines)|