Attending live games, Japan, Passions, Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup, The History of Japanese Rugby, Top League, Travel, TRAVELLING JAPAN, University Rugby

Rugby in Japan?

The rugby world knows little about Japanese rugby and how popular the sport is in the land of the rising sun. When you think about rugby, Japan doesn’t necessarily come to mind. However, contrary to this bias, the host nation of this year’s 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC) has a rich rugby history. This years RWC is being played in Asia for the first time, which is very exciting for world rugby. In this post I explore the origins of rugby in Japan as well as the rugby structures present in the country.

Host Country/ContinentYear
New Zealand & Australia1987
Europe1991
South Africa1995
Wales 1999
Australia 2003
France 2007
New Zealand 2011
England 2015
Japan2019
France 2023

Figure 1: showing host nations and years of rugby world cups.

Created by Joshua Parsons.

The history of rugby in Japan

Rugby was first played in Japan in 1866, when the first Rugby Club in Japan was founded called the Yokohama Foot Ball Club. Rugby was played in Japan before big rugby playing nations such as France, New Zealand and South Africa. The only other places with a longer history are Australia and The British Isles. The Yokohama Foot Ball Club was the first ever Asian rugby club. The establishment of Yokohama Foot Ball Club came about due to over a thousand British troops who were stationed in the area. Many had played Rugby at school in England. The large number of troops made it easy to play as back in those days 40 players were needed to play a game. This was the foundation of rugby in Japan and is also the untold history of how the game started in the land of the rising son.

Scene of a rugby game in Japan.
Source: Harper’s 1874, Illustrator unknown

The father of Japanese rugby

The Japanese began playing rugby at Keio University in 1899. Ginnosuke Tanaka and Edward Bramwell Clarke introduced the great game to the men of classes they taught at the University. The University played their first official game in 1901 against expatriates of the Yokohama County Athletics  team. The team established fixtures against other clubs and soon the sport grew in Universities. This lead to the first inter-university game being played between Doshisha and Waseda Universities in 1923. The early 1920’s saw rugby grow rapidly in Japan, having over 60 000 players and 1 500 clubs. Tanaka is now remembered as ‘the father of Japanese rugby’. The birth of rugby in the land of the rising son led to the first ever Japanese tour in 1930. The national team traveled to Canada and had great success winning 6 games and losing 1. The ‘Brave Blossoms’ have participated in every RWC since its inception in 1987.

A picture of Ginnosuke Tanaka
Source: Wikimedia Commons

How popular is rugby in Japan today?

Japan is the fourth biggest rugby playing nation in the world with a population of 122 872 rugby players as well as having 3 631 official clubs. The national side nicknamed The Cherry Blossoms or The Brave Blossoms are ranked 11th in world rugby. Although rugby is only the 5th most popular sport in Japan they have a competitive domestic league called Top League. Top League draws players from many strong rugby nations. There are well known players such as Daniel Carter and Matt Giteau who have had stints playing in Japan.

Vlog by The Imbiber published on YouTube

University rugby in Japan

Rugby is popular at Universities around Japan, which participate in The All-Japan University Rugby Football Championship. The championship kicked off in 1964 and currently there are currently 16 universities competing. The most successful University in the competition is Waseda University who have won 15 Championships. The final is usually well attended having close 40 000 spectators as of 2005. The University rugby culture in Japan is very competitive. University teams often play against professional teams, however there is a gulf in class between the two levels.

Video published by World Rugby on YouTube

Why will the RWC be special?

Japan is an exciting new frontier for world rugby fans as all the world cups to date have been hosted by top tier nations of rugby. This new frontier could open a new dimension and will help grow the game in Asia. The expansion of rugby into this new realm, which most orthodox rugby supporters know very little about is one of general excitement. A ticket to Japan will be a prized possession come 20 September 2019.

about me, Attending live games, Passions, Rugby, Travel, Uncategorized

Joshua Parsons #MrRhodesRugby

My name is Joshua Parsons I am currently in my fourth year of studies in Digital Media at Rhodes University. I have been playing rugby since I could walk and over the years I have developed a deep passion for the game. This passion led me to try out for the rugby team at University, and whilst in my third year I was given the opportunity to lead the Rhodes University 1st XV Rugby Side, which I have now done for two consecutive seasons. Through this blog, I have decided to combine my passion for rugby and content creation.

Joshua Parsons
Photograph by Paige Timmer

I was born in Johannesburg and lived there until my parents decided to move Hilton in KZN South Africa. Thinking back to my childhood now, I have very fond memories of playing rugby for hours with my younger brother in the garden, as well as playing on the morning frost with my friends at school. As a player and as a fan, nothing makes me feel more alive than a game of rugby. The game of rugby is special because it is a game that is unforgiving to those who have not prepared well, but very rewarding for those that have made the sacrifice and put in the hard work. This in itself becomes an important metaphor for life.

Nelson Mandela quote about sport.
Graphic created by Joshua Parsons
Photograph by lasanta.com.ec, July 5 2013

For as long as I can remember, sport has been a symbol of togetherness for my family and for the whole of South Africa. This is captured in the way that Nelson Mandela used the 1995 Rugby World Cup (RWC) to unite the South African nation helping people put their differences aside. In our country, which is one with a very difficult past for the majority of the population, this is truly inspirational. In my family, and I’m sure many others, major sporting events allow families to come together and celebrate around a braai. I still remember watching the 2007 World Cup Final with my whole family. After that day my dream was always to attend a rugby world cup in whatever capacity I could, be it as a fan or even now I think of attending as a media representative.

Springboks unite a nation: RWC 1995 final
Video by World Rugby

I remember sitting in the stands with my peers and being addressed by greats like Bobby Skinstad and having a close relationship with Dick Muir growing up. The presence of professional rugby players almost knocks me off my feet. It is a truly humbling experience to be in the presence of these greats. I love seeing how these men have devoted their lives to greatness and how they sacrifice so much to play the sport that they love. For me rugby players are the closest thing you can get to real life super hero’s.

My girlfriend and I watching South Africa play Australia at The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, 29 September 2018

In 2015 I had the pleasure of going to watch the World Cup semi-final game between the All Blacks and South Africa. This was something I had dreamed of for years and it was an unreal experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Not just the atmosphere, but also the way the game of rugby brought people from all corners of the globe together to unite. After that 80 minutes the All black supporters were friends and not enemies. Even though there was a rivalry between the two sets of fans there was also an amazing respect for one another.

My ticket to the RWC semi-final between South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham

This ticket is something I hold very dear to my heart and I have kept it ever since that day. This was one of the best experiences of my life and was probably one of the greatest games I have attended. The story behind the ticket is one of hope, because I was in the United Kingdom at the time of the world cup and I really wanted to go and support the Springboks as any passionate fan would. I decided on the day that I would take all the money I had and see if I could buy a ticket outside the stadium and attend the game. My plan B was that I would watch the game in a pub if I could not get a ticket. As soon as I got off the train there was a man who wanted to sell his ticket and it was my lucky day. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and my dream is to attend another World Cup in the near future.

Joshua Parsons leading FNB Rhodes out against CPUT, 18 March 2019 at Rhodes Great Field
Photographed by Mzwanele Sibanda

When I got to University I soon developed a passion for playing rugby. I started playing in the koshuis league, where I was noticed by the 1st XV coach who invited me to come and practice with the 1st side. I then started to feature regularly for the 1st team where I developed a real love for the game and a love for hard work and dedication. In my second year I was made captain of the Rhodes University 1st side that play in the FNB Varsity Shield. In 2019 I captained my team to their first ever victory in the Varsity Shield on national television. The highlights of this game can be seen in the video bellow.

FNB Rhodes vs FNB UFH, Varsity Shield, 21 February 2019
Video published by SuperSport

Through studying journalism and watching rugby I developed a passion for creating content and soon started my own YouTube channel called ParshallProductions. I comment on rugby and also post creative videos and vlogs. My passion is to one day turn this channel into my full time project. My other passions include getting up early, meditating, gym, water sports and many more. I hope that you as a reader enjoy this blog as much as I have enjoyed creating all the content on the blog and hopefully it will help you in some way pursue your passion.

Varsity Shield Rugby Highlights Joshua Parsons Rhodes University
Video by Joshua Parsons