Grab your jerseys and your tickets, rugby fans. For the first time in its 32-year history, the Rugby World Cup is taking place in Asia. From first kick-off on September 20 to the finals on November 2, fans from around the world will travel to watch matches in game locations all over Japan, from Sapporo in the north to Kumamoto in the south.
Twenty rugby teams from across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa are competing for the championship over six weeks, with some of the most important matches of the international tournament being held in and around Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka.
Tokyo Stadium (Ajinomoto Stadium)
International Stadium Yokohama (Nissan Stadium)
Kumagaya Rugby Ground, Saitama
Only 30 minutes apart by public transit, Tokyo and Yokohama pack a punch as Japan’s two largest cities. Both offer an enormous amount to see and do when you aren’t watching your team compete, from Tokyo’s robot cabaret shows and Toyosu Fish Market (formerly known as the Tsukiji Fish Market) to Yokohama’s port history and Chinatown, Japan’s largest. To unwind after some intense spectating, relax on a Sumida River cruise in the capital or take an after-dark spin on the colorful Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris wheel in Yokohama.
Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka
Kobe City Misaki Park Stadium (Noevir Stadium Kobe)
Both Osaka and Kobe are well-known for their food and nightlife—in Osaka, Japan’s second city, it’s the lively street food stalls and sake bars that draw crowds, while in Kobe, some travelers plan their entire trip to this port city around the steakhouses serving up tender Kobe beef. Plus, if you visit one or both cities, it’s easy to also make it out to nearby Kyoto, which epitomizes traditional Japanese culture with regular geisha sightings. Osaka must-sees include the Tenjimbashisuji shopping district and the city’s symbol, Osaka Castle.
Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium (Level5 Stadium)
Waterfront Fukuoka sits in the north of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island. Its warm climate, lesser-known status, and walkable neighborhoods make the Fukuoka Prefecture capital an ideal spot to catch a rugby game and explore beyond Japan’s biggest cities. Visit the Hakata neighborhood for world-famous Hakata-style ramen, hit the beach, or head out to some hot springs. The high-speed Kyushu bullet train runs north to south, connecting Fukuoka with Kumamoto and Kagoshima.
No matter who wins the cup, you’ll want to make sure you make it to the stadium before game time. All of the host cities are well connected by air, and pre-booked private airport transfers are a convenient option for visitors to Tokyo and Osaka.
Insider tip: It’s also possible to avoid air travel, save money, and still maximize time with the Japan Rail Pass, which must be purchased prior to arrival in Japan. Passes are available to foreigners with 7-, 14-, and 21-day validity, meaning they’re perfect for both sightseeing and traveling between World Cup sites, no matter how long you’re in Japan for the tournament.