Sapporo has played host to such international sports events as the 1972 Winter Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup 2002, as well as being the home city to professional baseball and soccer teams. This history of hosting many major sports events is a strong platform for Rugby World Cup 2019 to showcase the special appeal of rugby to an even broader audience in Japan and overseas at the northernmost venue.
Kamaishi has long been known for steelmaking, being the site of Japan’s oldest steelworks. This also is the city’s connection to rugby, as the factory-sponsored team grew to become one of the top amateur teams in Japan. Although Kamaishi was devastated by the great earthquake of 11 March, 2011, the city has made great strides in its recovery. The city and its residents look to host Rugby World Cup 2019 as a way to thank all those who helped in this recovery effort, in Japan and around the world.
Kumagaya is a suburb outside Tokyo known for its many historical and cultural attractions. The city has also promoted sports locally, with rugby receiving particular recognition – Kumagaya is even called Japanese rugby’s ‘hallowed ground of the east’ and is host to the spring all-Japan high school rugby championship. This long-standing, strong local popularity and support of rugby across all ages makes it a fitting host for Rugby World Cup 2019.
Since the 1964 Olympic Games, the nation’s capital has played host to many international sporting events. Sports are a vital part of the lifestyle of the city’s 13 million residents, who partake as players, fans and event supporters. As Tokyo and its citizens gear up for its second hosting of the Olympic Games in 2020, Rugby World Cup 2019 will be a key element of their sports lifestyle. Rugby fans around the world can expect fixtures at this venue, including the opening and final matches, to be staged as only Tokyo can, commensurate with its scale as a global metropolis and cultural centre.
Yokohama’s long international connections go back to when its port was opened to the United States, the Netherlands, Russia, England and France in 1859. Beginning with these countries, the international influences shaping Yokohama’s culture have created a truly unique and enjoyable city. It was the link to England that resulted in the origin of rugby in Japan. British soldiers stationed in Yokohama began playing rugby for amusement, leading to the founding of the Yokohama Football Club in 1866. A match took place here in 1873 between garrisons, England versus a Scotland-Ireland combined team. Yokohama’s international sports events since have grown in scale and sophistication, including the final of the FIFA World Cup 2002. Yokohama is confident that it will present Rugby World Cup 2019 with a fitting stage for many passionate fans.
As a tourist destination, Shizuoka is known for its scenery (it is one of the two prefectures straddled by the iconic Mount Fuji), tea orchards and hot springs resorts. For Japanese sports fans, Shizuoka is known for producing star athletes in such sports as soccer, tennis, baseball, basketball and rugby. The Shizuoka Rugby Club was founded in 1929 and is active to this day, joined by four other rugby clubs (including one for players age 40 and older). The Japan Rugby Top League is also popular here, and tag rugby is on the curriculum for many elementary school students in the prefecture.
Not surprisingly, Toyota is called the “City of Automobiles” stemming from one of the world’s top car manufacturers having its headquarters here. Located at the geographic centre of Japan, Aichi Prefecture and Toyota can also lay fair claim to being the centre of Japanese rugby. The club team affiliated with that automaker has won a number of national championships over the years and enjoys wide popularity. The venue, designed exclusively for field ball sports, is the largest of its type in Japan and has hosted professional soccer league games and matches at the FIFA World Cup 2002. In rugby, the venue is a stage for some Top League and international matches. Local residents and officials are experienced in supporting large international sports events, and will be a great asset in staging a successful Rugby World Cup 2019.
The third-largest city in the Osaka region, Higashi Osaka is home to many smaller manufacturing companies with highly skilled craftsmen and artisans, to the extent that it is dubbed the ‘Craftwork City’. Another thing Higashi Osaka is renowned for is rugby. Its venue, Hanazono, is the site for the winter all-Japan high school championship. Hanazono in fact was the first stadium in Japan to be built especially for rugby, in 1929. The venue and the many historic matches and fan support have led Higashi Osaka to be called ‘Rugby City’.
With mountains on one side and the sea on the other, Kobe is a favorite of foreign visitors and residents alike. No stranger to major international sports events, Kobe has hosted such diverse events as the 1985 Summer Universiade to the FIFA World Cup 2002. The city looks to Rugby World Cup 2019 as its latest opportunity to deliver a top-class tournament to a global audience. Furthermore, this is also a way to tell the world about Kobe’s full recovery after a disastrous earthquake, and to bring its residents closer with rugby and its traditions as the common theme. Rugby already has a solid base in Kobe and it is home to one of Japan’s most venerated clubs.
Widely known as a gourmet paradise, Fukuoka boasts a wide variety of local specialties. A Fukuoka specialty in a different area is rugby, with the city being the centre of the sport for Japan’s southernmost main island, Kyushu. Rugby in Kyushu got its start when a group of alumni from Keio University in Tokyo working for the same electric utility were transferred to Fukuoka. The team they formed, the Kyushu Rugby Club, led to the wide popularity of the sport. As an indication of rugby’s popularity in Fukuoka, the city actually leads the nation with a proportionately higher number of registered players, compared to cities with much larger populations.
Oita and its venue are no strangers to major international sports events, having hosted matches for FIFA World Cup 2002 and creating an internationally covered human interest story featuring the Cameroon national team and the village that hosted their camp. The strong bonds that developed between the village and Cameroon expanded to include the entire prefecture. Oita’s rugby players are recognised for their accomplishments from their youth at the all-Japan high school rugby championship and later at the industrial league level. The prefecture welcomes many overseas visitors with its numerous famous hot springs resorts and other sights; it looks to feature Rugby World Cup 2019 as its latest attraction to the world.
Kumamoto is home to some of Japan’s most exquisite scenery and national parks. In addition to natural beauty, Kumamoto has such renowned man-made attractions as the 400-year-old Kumamoto Castle, one of the largest in Japan. In the Japan rugby community, several top players have come from Kumamoto. Rugby World Cup 2019 represents a special chance for the Kumamoto rugby community to encourage greater participation and further expand the popularity of the sport throughout the prefecture.