The Rugby World Cup is fast approaching, taking place across September and October in Japan, stretching from Sapporo in Hokkaido through Honshu and down to Kumamoto in Kyushu.
We are here with a travel guide on how to follow England to at least 4 of their venues.
England vs Tonga – Sapporo
Sunday 22nd September
England’s first game of the Rugby World Cup in Japan is against Pacific Islanders Tonga in Sapporo at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday 22nd September. The easiest way to travel here from the UK is to get a connecting flight via Tokyo, which takes around 1 hour 30 mins and is one of the busiest domestic routes in the country.
Sapporo is Japan’s northernmost prefecture, located on the island of Hokkaido. A bustling city famous for its beer and ramen, with claims that it serves up the best ramen in Japan. Be sure to check out Ramen Alley!
The stadium itself usually plays host to baseball and football matches. It was the first stadium in the world to install a retractable pitch, allowing baseball fixtures to be played on an artificial surface and football games (and now, rugby!) to be played on a grass pitch.
England vs USA – Kobe
Thursday 26th September
Next up, it’s England vs USA on Thursday 26th September in Kobe at the Kobe Misaki Stadium. It’s a long journey so hop on a flight rather than a train.
Kobe is famous for its marbled wagyu beef and you need to try it. There’s an abundance of teppanyaki-style restaurants serving up the local delicacy and, with high standards demanded everywhere in Japanese hospitality, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a nice meal!
It’s a port city and there is a lot to do around the port area, including going up the iconic red port tower. Compared to most other cities in Japan, it’s fairly cosmopolitan and you’ll find a lot more Italian and French restaurants here than in other parts of Japan.
Kobe Misaki Stadium is home to the J1 League side Vissel Kobe, for whom Andres Iniesta plays. It’s got a retractable roof and seats over 30,000.
England vs Argentina – Tokyo
Saturday 5th October
Finally, a chance to head to the capital! Use your JR pass and hop on a bullet train directly from Kobe to Tokyo. Ajinomoto Stadium is in West Tokyo so it would be sensible to stay in Shibuya or Shinjuku.
You will have plenty of time in Tokyo to explore. Check out this blog post on what to do and see in Tokyo.
There are so many districts in Tokyo worth exploring but one of the highlights is Shimokitazawa for hipster vibes and general quirkiness. It was actually declared as the coolest neighbourhood in the world by Vogue!
Head to Odaiba for some fun and to relax or play beach volleyball (yes, there’s a beach in Tokyo!), head to Ginza to find international designer shops and upmarket fine dining, and head to Roppongi if you want to mix with other foreigners at night – although it’s very much a love-hate place! If you want to mix with Japanese locals at night, head to one of the Hub British Pubs and you’ll find locals who want to practice their English on you.
England vs France – Yokohama
Saturday 12th October
Next up, Yokohama! Hop on one of the JR lines, with the option of the JR Tokaido Line, JR Yokosuka Line, JR Shonan Shinjuku Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line or the JR Tokaido Shinkansen to get there in less than 30 minutes.
Yokohama is often credited as the birthplace of rugby in Japan, with matches going back to the 1800s! The International Stadium Yokohama is a world class stadium, also playing host to the final, and is Japan’s biggest. Expect top quality atmospheres here.
Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city with a population of just over 3 million. Home to Japan’s biggest Chinatown, be mesmerised by nikuman, geppei and other tasty steamed treats. There’s also a Cup Noodles museum and a Ramen museum, as well as beer tours at Kirin Beer Factory.
Quarter Final: England vs Australia or Wales – Oita
Saturday 19th October or Sunday 20th October
It’s a fair distance from Yokohama to Oita, so it would be the perfect time to break up the journey slightly as there is a week between games. You could use your Japan Rail pass to stop off in Kyoto, Osaka or Hiroshima as they are all on the bullet train line on the way down to Kokura, where you’ll need to change to arrive in Oita.
Oita is on the island of Kyushu and is known throughout Japan for its hot springs. You have the option of enjoying the onsen available all over Oita, or heading to nearby Beppu for hot spring resorts and healthy meals. At night, all you’ll see is steam rising into the air, creating a really unique atmosphere.
Oita Stadium is also known as The Big Eye, as it resembles a winking eye, and has the largest retractable roof in Japan. It’s situated just outside the city within stunning parkland and holds 40,000 spectators. As it’s the biggest venue on Kyushu, expect lots of noise from the locals in all 5 games here.
Semi Final: England vs (maybe) New Zealand – Yokohama
Saturday 26th October or Sunday 27th October
Are we being ambitious? Semi-final? Why not!
Back to Yokohama for this one, so you can stop off wherever you didn’t stop off on your way down to Oita. Or, you could check out Nara and Himeji. Lots of options!
The stadium is well positioned so whether England lose or win the semi-final, against what will most likely be New Zealand, you won’t be too far from the next venue, which is either back here or in Tokyo.
Bronze Final – Tokyo
Friday 1st November
The game no-one wants to be involved in! It’s back to Tokyo if England lose the semis. But, it’s one of the most buzzing capital cities in the world so it’s not the worst thing in the world if you get to spend more time there…
Final – Yokohama
Saturday 2nd November
If England are to get here, they have to face off New Zealand in the semis, which may seem unlikely given current form. However, it could lead to an all-northern Hemisphere final between England and Ireland.
The final is back in Yokohama once more.