Catching the thrills and spills of the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Japan, with its population of 127 million, is set to go down in history in 2019 as the first Asian country to ever host the most coveted quadrennial tournament in the world of rugby: the Rugby World Cup. Following the country’s exceptional performance in the 2015 world cup in England, immortalized by its stunning win against rugby powerhouse South Africa, Japan will be back in the spotlight as the host of 48 games to be played in 12 different venues from the city of Sapporo in the north to the municipality of Kumamoto in the south. With 600,000 of the 1.8 million tickets having been earmarked for international sale, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which will be held from September 20 to November 2, could well be the toughest challenge for the Land of the Rising Sun before the world gathers on Japanese soil for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

There is, however, absolutely nothing to fear, as Japan, besides being home to some of the world’s finest stadiums, boasts an eclectic mix of lively sports bars and public-viewing spots called fanzones equipped with mega screens and refreshments galore for all the rugby fanatics out there. Also, thanks to World Rugby, 31 of the 48 matches, including the opening game between Japan and Russia on September 20, will be on free-to-air broadcast, enabling fans to enjoy both the opening and the final — plus many matches in between — from the comfort of home.

Witnessing the action at a stadium

During the six-week spectacular showcase of international rugby’s most prestigious event, the whole of mainland Japan will be engulfed in Rugby World Cup fervor. Tokyo, in particular, is set to be at the center of all the action and euphoria. Ajinomoto or Tokyo Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 49,970 and is located on the outskirts of Tokyo in the city of Chofu, will host eight matches, including the opening ceremony and the tournament opener between Japan and Russia. Domestic and overseas rugby aficionados alike will get to witness history being made in the knock-out stage, as Tokyo Stadium will play host to two quarter-finals and the third-place playoff.

But it will be the International Stadium in Yokohama where fans from countries participating in this year’s Rugby World Cup will see the birth of the 2019 world rugby champion. With a seating capacity of over 72,000, the International Stadium will see the tournament reach its climax as it serves as the battleground for two semi-finals and the final itself.

Sapporo Dome, which was a venue for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and has a seating capacity of 41,000, will have fans on the edge of their seats as it will host two matches, including the much-awaited face-off between Australia and Fiji on September 21. Last but certainly not least, Oita prefecture, touted as the dark horse among the tournament venues, will see its 40,000-seat Oita Stadium host five matches, including two quarter-finals.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Japan at Brighton Community Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Brighton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Watching matches live on TV at home

With Nippon TV, NHK and J SPORTS having been appointed as broadcasters of all 48 matches, this year’s Rugby World Cup is widely expected to set a record for the number of domestic viewers. Rugby fans who have not been able to get their hands on the much sought-after tickets will be relieved to know that 31 matches, including the much-anticipated opening match between Japan and Russia on September 20 and the final on November 2 — not to mention all of Japan’s matches — will be on free-to-air broadcasts.

ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND – SEPTEMBER 10: Fiji fans enjoy the atmosphere as their team scores six tries during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool D match between Fiji and Namibia at Rotorua International Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Rotorua, New Zealand. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Cheering for your team at sports bars and fanzones

If you are a local or backpacker planning your Japan trip to coincide with the Rugby World Cup, you may be wondering where you could go to catch a glimpse of the action without splurging on a ticket or two. Tokyo, being chock-a-block full of sports bars and numerous lively watering-holes, is fully ready to welcome all the thirsty rugby fans out there.  If you are one of those fans who doesn’t want to get cooped up in a pub for several hours straight and wants to get some hands-on rugby experience, you will be thrilled to know that public-viewing spots, known as fanzones, have been set up in each of the 12 cities hosting this year’s Rugby World Cup. Locals and foreign visitors alike can access these fanzones for free, while being able to watch live matches on mega screens and enjoy mini rugby games, as well as refreshments. With a host of events being lined up and amenities built for this year’s Rugby World Cup, there will surely be no shortage of excitement to be felt on this exhilarating, adrenalin-boosting six-week showcase in the Land of the Rising Sun!

RWC Match Viewing Places


Shibuya: 03-5459-3555

Shinagawa: 03-5798-2755

Ueno: 03-5807-9655

Harajuku: 03-5774-6855

Ikebukuro: 03-5957-2355

Tokyo Dome (Suidobashi): 03-5803-4151

Gotanda: 03-5719-6306

Odaiba: 03-5520-1020

Yokohama: 045-290-4755

P.C.A. Pub Cardinal

Akasaka: 03-5545-7767

Marunouchi: 03-5222-1251


Akasaka: 03-3560-4141

Outback Steakhouse

Shibuya: 03-5459-7751

Roppongi: 03-5413-4870

Shinagawa Konan: 03-6718-2761


Ginza: 03-3289-7080

barBAR Tokyo Marunouchi

Tokyo: 03-3216-0581

The Aldgate


Rocco’s New York Style Pizza Oji

Oji: 03-3906-9710


GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Grant Gilchrist of Scotland wins a lineout during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Scotland and Japan at Kingsholm Stadium on September 23, 2015 in Gloucester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Steve Bardens – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Story by Brian Yap