28 Feb

Discover Japan – Rugby meets the East, an ANA mini guide

It is a little-known fact that Japan is home to the largest number of rugby teams in the world and the national team, fondly known as the Brave Blossoms, achieved success in the 2015 World Cup. Now, the 2019 Rugby World Cup is returning to the East for the first time in over 20 years. 

This is just one of the reasons Japan made it into ABTA’s Travel Trends top 12 destinations to watch in 2019 as well as the Japanese Grand Prix, which is being held in Suzuka. Get in touch with an ABTA travel company to help you plan your travel arrangements, specialists will be able to offer tailored packages including valid match day tickets.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup takes place between September and November using 12 of Japan’s world-class stadiums. We’ve picked some tournament highlights including the final, and the travel essentials you need to know when visiting the host cities. 

The map below shows you the travel time from Tokyo to each host city to help you plan.

A big thank you to ANA’s ‘We Are Japan’ website for their help in writing this blog.

ANA's map of Japan and connections between Rugby World Cup stadiums


1.    Yokohama
Host to the final, Japan’s second largest city sits on the coast just 20 minutes from Tokyo via Japan’s high-speed, super-efficient bullet trains. This seaside city boasts stunning spaces along its waterfront, including the Minato Mirai harbour district’s cosmopolitan streets, museums, and futuristic design.  

Stadium: International Stadium Yokohama
Highlight: The Final – 2 November

2.    Tokyo
Tokyo surely needs no introduction. As one of the most lively, buzzy, fascinating cities on earth with famously infectious energy, the city has made quite a name for itself as a bucket list destination. 

To discover the true culture of Tokyo, walk the streets of Tomigaya, shop in Japanese craft stores, or try a delicious great value bowl of ramen or some of the many world-class, Michelin starred restaurants in the city. For those that want to delve deeper into the city’s historic culture, take a trip to the Shitamachi area – the prime spot to get a taste of old town Tokyo dating back to the iconic Edo period. 

If all that wasn’t enough and there’s so much more to see and do in Tokyo, the World Cup kicks off here hosting rugby fans from around the world at the opening ceremony on 20 September. 

Stadium: Tokyo Stadium
Highlight: Opening Ceremony – 20 September

3.    Osaka
Often overlooked by travellers with their sights set on Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto, Osaka’s charming lifestyle is finally starting to achieve the recognition it deserves. As Japan’s third largest city, Osaka has it all: bustling commercial areas, chilled out streets, the famous sights of Osaka Castle, and one of the oldest rugby stadiums in Japan – all just a bullet train or short flight from Tokyo.

Stadium: Hanazono Rugby Stadium
Highlight: USA v Tonga – 13 October 

4.    Sapporo
The most northern city to host the rugby this year, you’ll find Sapporo surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery. These natural surroundings shape Sapporo’s laid-back attitude and outdoorsy spirit, and after the excitement of a match, guests can sit back and enjoy the city’s many beer gardens. It’s no surprise Sapporo is home to Japan’s leading brewer!

Stadium: Sapporo Dome
Highlight: England v Tonga – 22 September

5.    Fukuoka

Most visitors to Japan hit the streets of Tokyo, tour the temples of Kyoto and stop there. But for those willing to travel a little further, Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, and in particular its biggest city, Fukuoka, is well worth journeying the extra miles.  
Surrounded by sea and mountains, and with its World Cup stadium nestled in green forest, Fukuoka is laid-back and welcoming, with a wealth of attractions for foodies and cultural tourists alike.

Stadium: Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium
Highlight: Italy v Canada – 26 September 

6.    Kobe

Another destination of Japan’s coast, Kobe sits on a hillside overlooking the sea of Osaka Bay. Accessible by both train and plane, getting to Kobe for the rugby couldn't be easier – and with the city’s stunning streets coming alive after dark, it’s no surprise that Kobe’s Misaki Stadium was the first to host matches after sundown. 

Stadium: Kobe Misaki Stadium
Highlight: England vs. USA – 26 September

7.    And Beyond
Whether it's the breath-taking hiking trails of Shizuoka, the Samurai battlefields of Aichi, the castle of Kumamoto, the onsen of Oita, or more – discover Japan for yourself as the nation welcomes rugby back to its home, in the East. 

Find out more about Japan in ABTA’s Travel Trends report 2019: abta.com/traveltrends2019