International Fans of Rugby World Cup Looks Back at the History of the Game in Japan

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With the commencement of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan last September 20, hundreds of thousands of sports enthusiasts and rugby fanatics have joined the hype as they witness the exciting rugby games during the course of the international sports event. A number of foreign spectators have even showed interest in the striking history of rugby in Japan.


Basically, the game of Rugby was introduced to the Land of the Rising Sun as early as the 1860’s when the British army sent an army to Yokohama in order to protect its subjects when they found out that samurai warriors in the area killed a British trader by slashing him to death. Some of those British troops happened to be rugby fans who introduced the game to some local Japanese to ease up the military tension.


Around 1866, more than forty of these early rugby participants founded the Yokohama Foot Ball Club which is considered to be among the world’s very first “Open” clubs. This means that all persons from different walks of life are welcomed to join and participate in the games, unlike rugby clubs which are connected with schools and universities that are exclusive to their students.


Since more and more Japanese across the country are interested to join or witness the rugby matches, the sport gained tremendous popularity across Japan. In fact, more than twenty thousand spectators attended rugby games in Japan in the early part of 1930’s. With this success, the Japan Rugby Football Union was formed and the national team of Japan played their first overseas rugby game in Canada in 1930.

The rugby games became even more popular when a Cambridge University alumnus, Edward Bramwell Clarke and the Japanese rugby player Ginnosuke Tanaka introduced the mechanics of the rugby game at Keio University in Tokyo. Since 1987, Japan has played in every Rugby World Cup.


Reference: Samurai, stuffings and stunners: the remarkable story of rugby in Japan


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