Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan – The Rugby World Cup 2019will be hosted in Japan, beginning of September. This is the first time in the history of the Rugby World Cup that the tournament will be held in an Asian country, and thus is a monumental moment for the sporting word and for Japan. This is also a great way to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics happening the following year.
The Rugby World Cup will see thousands from all around the world flocking into the country during the competition, which falls across the three autumn months, to support their countrymen and, for some, witness history.
It may be the first time ever that some people are visiting Japan, and so we thought a quick introduction to all of the host cities of Japan, plus some tips on what to enjoy there when not at the football field, is necessitated. Visitors will most likely be focused on the World Cup, but that doesn’t mean that during downtime, you can’t enjoy a few of the wonders of Japan.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #1 – Sapporo
Visiting the capital of Hokkaido, the island north of Honshu (Japan’s main island) is quite an experience. Whilst most foreign visitors only visit this region during winter for the epic snowfalls and ski mountains, the city actually has quite a lot to offer, from gastronomical delights to unique art exhibitions all within easy travel distance to the city centre. If you’re keen to do some exploring whilst in between games, we recommend the following:
Nijo Market – If you’re a fan of fresh produce and seafood, look no further than Nijo Market. It’s a public food market that spans just one city block, so you can do it within an hour. There’s also some unique seafood displays on show so it’s quite an adventure for the kids. They’re open super early in the mornings so you can knock this out during breakfast and explore other areas around the city. Our recommendation? The fresh seafood bowls over rice (‘don’).
Hours: 7:00am – 5:00pm
Moerenuma Park – One of the most stunning parks you’ll see in Japan, Moerenuma exceeds all expectations of an artistic representation of modern meets nature. It’s located on the outskirts of Sapporo, and you can go from walking stunning tree-lined paths that seem to go on for miles, to an artificial mountain called Mount Moere, built so that visitors can reach a peak which oversees the entirety of the park and surrounding areas. The highlight though, has to be Hidamari, the huge glass pyramid building hosting a gallery space, resting area, basic facilities, and an atrium.
Hours: 7:00am – 10:00pm
Sapporo Beer Museum – This is a fun and interesting museum that offers a look into the history of Sapporo Beer, a brand that’s been brewing since 1877. Entry is free to the public, and it’s also kid friendly. The tour is split into different areas which highlight various parts of its history, but you can go at your own pace and there is English translation. At the end of the tour, you can purchase some beers for tasting for a small fee. There are also non-alcoholic drinks. Located onsite are a variety of restaurants selling Sapporo’s specialty, ‘Jingisukan’, which is grilled mutton. A great way to end the day!
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm (Closed Mondays)
If you’re after more information on what this great city has to offer, check out our detailed article here: Sapporo Hokkaido.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #2 – Kamaishi
Kamaishi is a relatively small, unsuspecting village located in Iwate, one of the prefectures making up the northern Tohoku region. However, they’re known as the leaders of Japan in producing iron, and have plenty to show for it. They were struck by a devastating tsunami in 2011, but have since held their heads high and recovered, with some of their construction efforts going to the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, which will act as a ground for the Rugby World Cup.
Iron and Steel Museum – As this place is often referred to as the birthplace of iron in Japan, it goes without saying that they’ve built a museum as an exhibition to show just how far they’ve come to hold that title. One of its major features is a model of a huge blast furnace, and visitors can learn about mining and the production process behind it. There’s an observation deck that boasts views of Sanriku Coast.
Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (Closed Tuesdays)
Sun Fish Kamaishi – Being a coastal city has its advantages, and one of them is, of course, fresh seafood. Located right next to the station, this fish market opens up early in the morning and caters for people of all taste palettes. If you’re traveling with kids and fresh seafood is not their cup of tea, head upstairs for variety of restaurants that serve all sorts of delicious Japanese seafood dishes.
Hours: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Host City #3 – Kumagaya
As one of the biggest cities in Saitama, Kumagaya enjoys an annual influx of domestic tourists but has yet to break into the scene for international travelers. However, with the upcoming Rugby World Cup being hosted at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, the city might finally get the attention it deserves. Whilst famous places like Shibuya and Dontonburi are in the spotlight for their intense atmosphere and stunning visual display, Kumagaya is the opposite, drawing crowds for its natural scenic landscape, annual floral display, and water views.
Nagatoro River – This is the number one spot for people to visit in Kumagaya. This natural beauty is breathtaking throughout the year, and to truly experience it, you can hop on a boat to go rafting through the the tree-lined rapids and enjoy stunning views of the Iwadatami Rocks which are featured in the river. The boats are fashioned to look like old Japanese transporters, the boatmen are skilled and will spin unique tales whilst they maneuver you through the waters; all in all, it’s a fun, relaxing experience for people of all ages.
For more information, head here.
Kinchakuda – This place absolutely goes off during the flower viewing season, which happens to coincide with the duration of the Rugby World Cup – how lucky! During the months of September – October, the manjushage and higanbana (spider lily) bloom across an entire field in the park, creating quite a gorgeous spectacle. It draws crowds from all over Japan to come and bask in the beautiful red sea of flowers, something that is not a common sight. However, you will need to note that the flowers bloom across 5-6 days only, thus if this is something you want to witness, you will need to plan accordingly.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #4 – Tokyo
Tokyo is the city that needs no introduction. As the capital of Japan, it’s arguably the most popular destination in the country, serving as a major transport hub as well as first destination that most tourists tend to visit when coming to Japan for the first and/or fifth time. There’s an endless supply of activities to do in this city, so it may be overwhelming to try and find side activities to do whilst there for the Rugby World Cup, but we’ve managed to condense a few of the absolute top activities to do whilst there, and we’ve also attached a link to a more thorough run-through of Tokyo if you do have a bit of time and would love to explore this amazing city more.
Shibuya – As one of the busiest cities in Tokyo, Shibuya leaves nothing for the imagination, with tons of places to explore. To truly experience it, you will need at least a few hours and plenty of stomach space. Shibuya is home to some of the best eateries in Tokyo, and caters for people of all budgets as well (Genki Sushi Oubei, Ichiran Ramen, Hakushu for Kobe Beef). The cafe scene at Shibuya are also top-notch, with dessert heavyweights Eggs ‘n Things and Gram dominating the scene, along with a massive cluster of other smaller but equally impressive pancake parlours. Not only that, but it’s also home to one of the Don Quijote Megastores, a beast of a supermarket where you will be able to find souvenirs for everyone back at home as well as enough snacks to fill up an entire suitcase. Shopping in Shibuya isn’t too shabby either, with multiple shopping centres all within close vicinity of each other. Lastly, Shibuya is home to the famous crossing, and you cannot leave the city without running smack bang into the middle during the green man signal to get an epic picture.
MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM
A recent entrant into the ‘must-do’ list in Tokyo, this digital art museum has taken the world by storm with its incredible display of technology and creative visuals. On any given day of the year, you will see massive lines outside the exhibition, full of young and old people eager to experience this unique art display. We highly, highly recommend booking tickets to visit this museum on your days off, because they do tend to sell-out, and we can imagine the rush of the rugby crowd means that people will be looking at getting tickets quite early!
More info here: Digital Art Museum Tokyo
Hours: 10:00am – 9:00pm (Closed Tuesdays)
This was barely the tip of the iceberg, so head on over to this blog post and read more about what this amazing city as to offer: 20 Thing To Do In Tokyo.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #5 – Yokohama
Yokohama is the great city that lies west of Tokyo. It’s only 30-minutes away by train, but it’s a major harbor town that demands an entire day of exploration due to the sheer number of activities it has to offer. It’s stunning during the day with the ferris wheel and high-rise buildings and the water views in the distance, but at night, the city comes to life with bridges and walkways lit with bright colourful lights, and said ferris wheel becomes a standard feature in everyone’s photos.
Cup Noodles Museum – This is one of the most fun and aesthetic museums you’ll ever go to. Kids and adults will jointly enjoy this museum due to its easy-to-navigate layout, colorful and interesting layout of displays, and yet informative nature when necessary. One of the stand-out features is the display of different types of instant ramen from when it was conceptualized until today – very impressive. The highlight though, has to be creating your own instant ramen flavor noodles – you get to pick your own soup base, toppings, and even decorate the outside of the cup to take home! It’s a super fun activity for everyone.
Hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm (Closed Tuesdays)
This is the largest Chinatown in Japan, and whilst it may seem odd to visit a country like Japan just to visit a Chinatown, this one’s definitely worth it. It’s home to hundreds of small businesses, ranging from yum cha restaurants, seafood restaurants, steam bun restaurants, small Asian groceries, massage parlours, desserts cafes, and much more. Some of the best nikumans (Chinese steam buns with ground pork, beef, and/or other ingredients) can be found at this Chinatown, as is some of the best tasting fried dumplings, dim sim, and Chinese-style ramen. If you’re one with a big appetite and a bigger appreciation for delicious food, stopping by here is a must.
Hours: They vary between shop to shop but typically 7:00am – 11:00pm
Red Brick Warehouse – For those who are after a short but sweet shopping experience, the Red Brick Warehouse is just what you’re after. Set in a vintage style warehouse right in the middle of the city, here, you’ll find cute small boutique stores alongside major international brands, as well as a smattering of hipster cafes selling wonderful coffee and cakes.
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Host City #6 – Shizuoka
Nature buffs, consider exploring Shizuoka during your time off. Located between a long and stunning Pacific coastline and the Southern Japanese alps, this area is full of exciting activities involving lots of mountains and waters. It would be especially gorgeous during the September period, as the weather would be just cooling down enough for you to enjoy the great outdoors without getting burnt in the sun nor becoming a dripping puddle of mess in the heat. It’s all about the sun in the sky in Shizuoka, features of Japan that often don’t get enough rapt.
Shiraito Falls – Japan is a country full of beautiful natural waterfalls. Whilst the top ranking ones cannot be covered in one go in this article, Shiraito Falls definitely deserves a mention. As one of the grander waterfalls, it’s special element comes not just from its stunning beauty, but also from the fact that the fall here is fed by Mount Fuji’s spring water.
Sumatakyo Gorge – This stunning natural beauty has become more and more popular in recent years due to its boom on social media platform Instagram. The wooden suspension bridge makes the perfect backdrop with the azure blue waters beneath and bright green and orange leaves framing the image. The hike to and from there is not strenuous at all, and therefore a great activity to do with those young and old, or those who simply want to go on a romantic walk.
Down for more nature activities? Head here to read more: Shizuoka Japan.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #7 – Toyota
In case you’re wondering, yes, the humble city of Toyota is home to the manufacturing base of global household name Toyota, one of the largest car companies in the world. This is probably one of the things you’re going to want to know more about this city. Given that it’s quite industrial in nature, don’t expect large shopping centres and food precinct; rather, this unpretentious city offers a ‘what you see is what you get’ experience, and so it’s best to head there with no assumptions, and just enjoy the landscapes as they are.
Toyota Kaikan Museum – This place is basically a showcase of all of Toyota’s latest products and shows a thorough and quite interesting review of the history of Toyoto. It’s not, however, just for revheads; even those not in the slightest bit interested in automobiles will find certain aspects of this museum interesting. There’s a massive showroom where anyone can climb into the latest vehicles and see a demo of the new dashboards and displays.
Address: 〒471-0826 Aichi, Toyota, Toyotachō
Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm (Closed Sundays)
Toyota city is actually close to Nagoya so feel free to check out what to do in Nagoya here: Things to do in Nagoya Japan.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #8 – Osaka
Osaka is the ultimate foodie’s destination in Japan. Be prepared to go up a few waistline sizes because if you’re simply visiting Osaka city as a side activity, then you’ve got a lot to get through. From Namba to Umeda, down to Dontonburi River, the city is absolutely jam-packed with places to eat. We’re tempted to say that the 5-star culinary restaurants are world-class here, and whilst they 100% are (don’t get us wrong), it’s the street food scene that really sets Osaka on another level.
Dontonburi – Many people refer to Dontonburi as the heart of Osaka, and it’s hard not to see why. It’s known for it’s mazes of street food vendors, gaudy neon lights, variety of entertainment, and gorgeous river which runs through the middle. Much like Shibuya and Shinjuku, the entire atmosphere at Dontonburi is quintessentially ‘Japanese’, so whilst we can recommend that you visit the Don Quijote there, have a drink or ten at the Bar Moon Walk bar, divulge in numerous Creo Yu takoyaki balls, and much more, you’ll simply just have to see for yourself what an amazing place it is – you’ll need a few hours at least.
Universal Studios Osaka – For those traveling with kids, who want to have a break from the rugby and need a place where the young ones can pretty much entertain themselves, Universal Studios is the way to go. We recommend booking tickets early and getting there when it opens to spend an entire day walking around, taking photos with the characters, lining up for all the rides, trying all the unique foods sold only in Universal Studios.
Hours: 8:30am-9:30am – 7:00pm-9:00pm
Read up more about Osaka’s extensive list of activities here: Things to do in Osaka Japan.
Host City #9 – Kobe
The word Kobe is now synonymous with the word beef, and why wouldn’t it be? Kobe, a quaint city just a train ride away from Osaka, is famous for its juicy marbled beef cuts after all. Due to its supreme taste and texture, people travel far and wide to witness first hand just how buttery and melt-in-your-mouth it can be, and no one has ever been disappointed. You can find Kobe beef restaurants at every corner of the city, but in saying that, the city has far more to offer than just ‘gyu’; it’s actually got a harbourside shopping precinct that rivals Yokohama’s.
Eat Kobe Beef – We highly recommend booking a restaurant to try some Kobe beef whilst in Kobe. For those on a budget, head to the restaurants during lunch time, they usually have some pretty sweet deals that are a fraction of the price during dinner, but no less delicious. The famous Kobegyu Steakland Kobe has a few branches around the city, and its lunch meal is spectacular for only 3,000yen. However, if you’re after the premium deal, there are plenty of restaurants that will appease your palette, including Kobe Beef Steak Restaurant Royal Mouriya, Ishida Kobe Beef Steak, and Sosaku Yakiniku Kobe Gyu-no-Takumi.
This place is a shopping precinct similar to Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse, but right up against the water. It’s got all the major shopping global shopping brands as well as a smatter of boutique shops that you can spend an entire day at, and additional dessert cafes and lots of Japanese restaurants to choose from. There are often live performances around this centre as well.
Hours: 10:00am – 9:00pm
If you’re interested in learning more about Kobe, read up about it here: What to do in Kobe Japan.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #10 – Fukuoka
Fukuoka is one of the furthermost western cities in Japan, and is Kyushu’s largest city. Those who travel there will notice that there is a distinct slow-down of pace compared to the eastern cities of Japan, and this is one of the best things about Fukuoka – it’s a bustling city full of life, and yet you don’t feel the need to rush through to knock things off your list. Its also has great weather throughout the year, a great food culture (try eating at a yatai, food stall, on the street), and all in all a great vibe.
Another great shopping complex in Japan, Canal City is home to a number of specialty shops as well as restaurants. It also hosts a very unique ‘Ramen Museum’, where, in a food court-like manner, you will be able to witness a collection of ramen restaurants in one area all serving different type of ramen from around the country. It’s wonderful to learn about the differences in texture, taste, broth, toppings, and so on, of the various prefectures, from Sapporo down to Fukuoka (Hakata-style).
Hours: 10:00am – 9:00pm
Ohori Park – If you’re sick and tired of visiting city centres, then Ohori Park is the respite you need to visit. Conveniently located quite close to the city centre, it’s a peaceful yet beautiful park that has small pathway leading from the mainland into a small island in the middle, which is surrounded by water. Many people go on dates here, as the vibe is quite romantic; it’s also a great place to just relax, have a picnic, and take in the sunshine.
Keen to know more about Fukuoka and its main attractions? Read on here: Fukuoka Japan.
Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan #11 – Kumamoto
Kumamoto is a quaint, unassuming city located in the western Kyushu region. Its main attraction is the Kumamoto Castle, which is not one of, but the largest castle in all of Japan. It’s completeness, large grounds to cover, and tree-lined pathways meant that during all seasons it was a popular place to visit, especially amongst the domestic crowd, however, in 2016 it suffered some serious damage from an earthquake, and is still in recovery mode. In saying that, a plaza area in front of the main keep is scheduled to be opened from early October just for the Rugby World Cup festival-goers, so if you’re heading to Kumamoto, mark it in your calendar to visit this place.
Other attractions in Kumamoto include Suizenji-jojuen, a gorgeous historic Japanese garden set around a lake, the Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Centre, which is the perfect place for those into their arts and craft, ceramics, glassware, and wood carvings, and hiking Mount Kinpo, where the trek to the summit takes around an hour.
If you’re keen to learn more about this city, read more here: Kumamoto Japan.
Host City #12 – Oita
Oita is the hot springs central of Japan. If you’re all about soaking in hot baths, relaxing the muscles, peace and quiet and tranquility, then Oita is the ultimate destination for you. There are onsens all around Japan for you to experience, but the sheer amount of condensed hot springs in Beppu, Oita alone should be enough for you to dedicate a day just trialing the different variations. Oita, however, is not just about onsens. There are multiple other activities for the nature-lover, including exploring the small yet dynamic town of Yufuin, hiking the Yufuin mountain, visiting the volcanic Kuju mountains, and exploring the stone Buddhas at usuki.
Beppu – One of the main reasons why people travel to Oita is so that they can visit Beppu, the actual hot spring capital of Japan. Here, you can visit many different types of onsens to appease your sore muscles (including sand onsens and mud maths!). Some belong to ryokans but are happy for visitors to pay a small fee to use their onsens, whilst others are sole-operating onsens where you can book private rooms to use by the hour. You can also visit the Hells of Beppu, a tourist attraction dedicated to displaying various types of hot springs for viewing. Here, you can also participate in steam cooking, where you purchase ingredients from shops nearby and steam it over the steam produced by the hot springs.
More info about Beppu are available here: Beppu Japan.
Yufuin – The small hot spring town of Yufuin can be explored in just a few hours, but if you’re counting the hike up the mountain nearby, then that’s a full day of exploration for you. Unlike Beppu, Yufuin’s hot springs and ryokans are rather spread out, so you have to walk along the main roads to get to each one. However, this is a blessing in disguise, as it allows you to explore more of the city centre, which is full of delicious cafes and dessert stores, boutique clothing stores, food vendors, and museums to explore. Hiking mount Yufuin requires some manpower, so if you’re up for it, we recommend getting up early in the morning, smashing through the hike, and then heading into town for some well deserved ‘mabushi’ and a long hot soak in the bath.
Well, there you have it folks. A rather (relatively) condensed run-through of all the major cities that you will visit if you’re coming for the Rugby World Cup. Of course, we completely understand that you’ll be in Japan first and foremost to cheer on the football players, so please use this guide to fill in the gaps of your stay. Japan’s a country where you’ll be able to keep discovering more and more activities to go every time you return, so we urge you to make the most of it!