With the Rugby World Cup just around the corner, we decided to put together a mini travel guide for the sports fan tours heading over to Japan in the next few weeks.
For many sports tour participants, this is a bucket-list trip as it is the first time that the event is being held in Asia. As the tour organizer, it is up to you to put together an amazing itinerary for your group to explore a bit of Japan while enjoying the games.
Here are some ideas for things to see and do in and around a number of the cities hosting RWC matches.
Things To Do In Japan During The Rugby World Cup
The northernmost host of RWC matches and first destination where we consider things to do in Japan is Sapporo. It is a place to feast the eyes and feed the senses, boasting some of the best ramen and beer (with a view) that the Land of the Rising Sun has on offer.
You can almost expect your tour group to experience a brief moment of deja-vu after seeing the Sapporo TV Tower – it has been modeled on the Eiffel Tower. Just like the famous Parisian icon, it has an observation deck which provides views over the city.
For a taste of Japanese beer, stop in at the Sapporo Beer Museum. Get a guided tour to find out about the popular brew, and then enjoy relaxing with the group in the adjoining Beer Garden.
No doubt the avid ramen fans in your group will want to sample the finest that the birthplace of miso ramen has to offer. Take them to Ganso Ramen Yokocho – a street lined with seventeen ramen restaurants, each with their own taste and specialty.
To be honest, if you didn’t take your sports fan tour group any further than the city hosting the opening match, we wouldn’t be surprised. It is also close enough to access three other World Cup venues, making it an ideal base.
Not only is Tokyo an interesting mix of modern and traditional, skyscrapers and temples, but it is also home to more Michelin stars than any other city in the world.
For those wanting to get in touch with the spiritual side of the city, make a stop at Sensō-ji Temple. The structure is ancient Buddhist architecture, and Japan’s second-largest pagoda is located in the complex.
If Michelin stars aren’t quite up your street, the Tsukiji and Toyosu Market may just be. Go on a self-guided tour with your group around the world’s largest fish market. The sushi and seafood lovers are sure to be impressed.
Yokohama and Tokyo are very close together, so they provide an ideal base point from where to explore in and around both cities if you can’t find accommodation in one.
Yokohama was one of the first ports that Japan opened to foreign trade in 1859. As a result, it is a vibrant multicultural city. It is home to Japan’s largest Chinatown with over 150 years of history, and there are some preserved Western Residences in the Yamate district.
For ancient buildings of Japanese origin, head to the Sankeien Garden which contains historical houses and beautiful pagoda’s set among lotus ponds. The idyllic garden setting makes you feel like you are outside of the city in a bygone era.
Not to be missed is the beautiful Shizuoka Prefecture, a place of intense colors. Shizuoka City has striking views of Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest volcano/peak, and if you are able to move around outside of the city, there are more beautiful places to visit.
Activity ideas for your sports fan tour group could include going to see the silky 20m high Shiraito Falls which is fed by spring water from the volcano. Or perhaps a visit to the Sumatakyo Gorge with its iconic wooden suspension bridge and crystal-blue waters.
If it is green you are after, Imamiya and Obuchi Sasaba Tea Plantations offer great photo opportunities that include Mount Fuji in the background. However, they are both on private land, so don’t go in any further than the designated photo points.
Should you wish to go tea picking, have a factory tour, or taste the tea in Japanese dishes, take your group to Green-pia in Makinohara instead.
If Kobe is on your list of places to visit during the Rugby World Cup, you are in for a treat. The scenic harbor city is set against the backdrop of the Rokko Mountains, overlooking Osaka Bay.
To keep everyone fueled between rugby games, why not try out some famed Kobe beef? Once the group is energized, take a stroll through Chinatown or hike or ride the cable car up Mount Rokko. Neighboring Mount Maya, which can also be hiked or accessed via cable car, is said to have one of the Three Best Night Views of Japan!
For more height-defying activities, book a Bridge World Tour on the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge to go up 289m onto a viewing platform which looks across the bay. The bridge is an amazing feat of engineering, and from the platform, you will see it stretch out below you across the 4km long Akashi Strait.
It was in the process of being built when the devastating earthquake of 1995 occurred. A shift in the ground meant the two towers were further apart, and measurements had to be recalculated before construction could continue.
Oita is located on Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu, along with two other match hosting rugby stadiums. Compared to the bright city lights of Tokyo, Oita is surrounded by majestic mountains, stunning countryside, several volcanoes, and many hot springs!
A short drive from Oita City is Beppu, famous for its therapeutic thermal hot spring baths (onsen). The mineral-rich waters are said to be soothing on the body and able to cure many ailments. So, if winding down after watching the game sounds like a good idea, your group can choose to soak in any of the sand, mud or steam baths found in the Spa.
Additionally, you can also walk around the extremely hot Beppu Hells (Jigoku Meguri), which are colorful steam ponds just for viewing.
Speaking of which, if your group is ready to do some hiking, the top of nearby Mount Yufu provides spectacular views over the idyllic town of Yufuin at its foot as well as across the Bay of Beppu. It is about two hours to get up, and the round trip can take up to five hours altogether.
While we haven’t touched on all twelve of the hosting Rugby World Cup cities, we have spanned from North to South to provide you with some ideas of things to do in Japan with your tour group. With so many options to suit all sorts of travelers, we are sure you are in for a life-changing trip.
Sayonara and happy travels!