Rugby and Japan: The Unspoken Relationship

Introduction

It may be surprising for a lot of people to hear that Japan has the fourth largest number of rugby players in the world with 125,000 players and over 3,600 clubs. It also has a century long history in Japan. This unspoken relationship arguably has the longest history after the British Isles and Australia.

Rugby History in Japan

So, how and when did rugby come to Japan? The English brought rugby to Japan at the end of isolationism in 1858. They established the first team called the “Yokohama Foot Ball Club.” The Rugby School, and other public schools’ alumni put together this team.

1874 Rugby Match in Yokohama

Furthermore, Keio University is first Japanese university to be introduced to rugby in 1899. An English professor teaching at Keio introduced the university to the sport. This started the spread of rugby throughout university students and universities.

1924 Keio University Rugby Team

Brave Blossoms Japan Rugby National Team

@kyodonews

The “Brave Blossoms” is the nickname for the Japanese rugby national team. This year, their uniforms features a samurai helmet motif. The jersey is red and white, the colors of the Japanese flag, with V-shaped stripes. It also consists of upside down Vs, that represent the V-shaped crest attached to the front of the kabuto helmet on the back of the jersey. In the emblem of the jersey there are three cherry blossoms and golden lines that symbolize the sunrise over Mt. Fuji.

Japan Rugby World Cup 2019

But how good are Japan at rugby? Will they be good in the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan? The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan from September 20th to November 2nd. It will be the first World Cup that will be held in Asia. Japan is #10 in the Men’s World Rankings as of September 2nd 2019. But Japan has never been past the pool stage in the World Cup. However, in the last 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, they had a decent run. They had 3 wins against, South Africa, United States, and Samoa. Japan also has a women’s rugby union national team and they are 16th in the Women’s World Rankings.

Recently, Jamie Joseph was appointed in 2016, who is a former All Blacks player, to help them prepare and perform in the World Cup. Other notable players that’ll be on the team are, Hitoshi Ono, and Ayumu Goromaru who are both record holders in Japan. Records for 98 matches, and Japanese points record holder with 708 points in 57 selections, respectively. Additionally, Hooker Shota Horie and half-opener and center Harumichi Tatekawa are other notable players that are on the team. Japan will be going into the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup as as underdog looking to prove themselves with the momentum they gained after their 2015 World Cup performance.