Japan: The ultimate Rugby World Cup visitors' guide
Whether you’re making it a group getaway with family or friends, travelling for work with clients or flying solo, this year’s Rugby World Cup is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent history.
Over the next six weeks, thousands of fans of the 20 competing teams are descending on Japan, which is hosting the hallowed tournament for the first time in its 32-year history.
Kiwis heading to Japan could be forgiven for thinking taking out insurance for their trip isn’t necessary, says Southern Cross Travel Insurance CEO Chris White.
“Japan has a very low crime rate and minimal risk of luggage mishaps thanks to reliable airport-to-hotel baggage delivery services, or takkyubin,” says White, “while accommodation brokers such as Airbnb are subject to stringent controls.
“The value of travel insurance is in knowing you’re covered if the unexpected does happen — it means you’re freed up to just enjoy the adventure, check out the live action and support the boys in black.”
To help Kiwi fans heading over, Southern Cross Travel Insurance has put together these handy tips to ensure travellers get the most out of their trip.
Mild autumn temperatures will make this year’s competition even more enjoyable so be sure to pack plenty of short-sleeved rugby jerseys. In October, morning temperatures tend to be around 14ºC to 18ºC and afternoon temperatures range from 19ºC to 23ºC. If travelling to Sapporo stadium, or other venues in the country’s north, pack some warmer clothes and check the weather forecasts as it is often cooler.
New Zealand citizens don’t need visas to enter Japan as tourists, but you may need to show evidence of a return ticket, accommodation and sufficient funds in your bank account. Foreign visitors are also required to carry their passports or a photocopy at all times.
Japan is renowned for its efficiency and once you leave the airport in Osaka or Tokyo you shouldn’t have any trouble navigating to your first game. The Japanese railway system is world-famous for being well organised and efficient, so don’t bother with taxis, as trains are a much faster and more economical way of getting around. Rail passes can be purchased at the airport.
When you first enter a train station, the queues and screens can be a bit daunting at first, but learn these differences in each line and you’ll find the system is simple and efficient:
- Local (kakueki-teisha): regular trains stopping at every station on the line
- Rapid (kaisoku): rapid trains that skip some stations on the line
- Express (kyuko): faster trains that stop at even fewer stations on the line
- Limited express (tokkyu): faster trains that stop only at major stations
- Super express (shinkansen): The famous bullet trains which use separate tracks and platforms, operating between major towns and cities (these are only operated by Japan Railways)
If you’re looking to dive into a sea of foreign cuisine and culture, then Japan is one of the best places to start. There are plenty of bars and restaurants off the beaten track, often in bizarre locations. Ask a local or research online to seek out these local gems to ensure a great experience at an affordable price.
It’s likely you’ve tried Japanese food even if you’ve never travelled to Japan. While Westerners may be familiar with sushi and teriyaki, it’s the robot cabarets, vending machine waiters and catch-your-own seafood restaurants that give Japanese dining an entirely different dimension.
When it comes to sweet treats, Japan has it all. Delicious dessert options ranging from traditional Japanese sweets, known as ‘wagashi’ to bespoke soft-serve ice creams in flavours such as wasabi, matcha and yuzu.
There are four main types of dining styles, ranging from casual (izakaya) and family restaurants (shokudo), to the more formal and expensive (kaiseki ryori):
- Sushi restaurants: If dining in a high-quality sushi establishment, your best bet is to try the seasonal, freshly-caught fish. When ordering, it’s acceptable to say “omakase,” which translates to “I leave it to you.” This gives the chef free reign to serve you the best regional produce of the day.
- Izakaya (pub food): All you can drink and all you can eat are popular formats for Izakaya restaurants. The dishes are often light and meant for sharing and themed cosplay (dressing up as a character) venues are becoming increasingly popular. Spotting an izakaya can be as easy as identifying the symbolic red paper lanterns hanging above them
- Shokudo (casual family restaurants): Shokudo restaurants are typically small, independently owned and economical. Traditional noodle dishes like udon, ramen and soba are served alongside simple rice and seafood meals.
- Kaiseki ryori (fine dining): Kaiseki ryori is comparable to fine dining in the West. Expensive, exquisitely-constructed meals are served as part of a set menu that includes the best of delectable Japanese cuisine. You can expect to pay above 15,000 yen (around NZ$220) for a kaiseki dinner experience, however if you are looking for a slightly for affordable option, lunch menus are typically cheaper.
Cheering and raucous behaviour are, of course, encouraged when watching the rugby, but watch your manners outside the stadium:
Try not to leave excessive food uneaten when dining out, and don’t walk while eating, as both are considered disrespectful.
Surrender your seat on public transport for the elderly or pregnant.
When paying, put your cash in the small metal tray and remember tipping is not common practice.
You might be visiting for the rugby but it would be a shame to miss exploring everything else Japan has to offer, like its natural wonders, incredible cuisine and historical sites:
- Sapporo: Famous for its beer, mountains and skiing through winter
- Kamaishi: Visit the scenic Mt. Goyo and Sanriku Fukko National Park
- Kumagaya: Musashi Kyuro National Park and Sakura Tsutsumi for gorgeous greenery
- Tokyo: Shibuya, Takeshita Street, Tokyo Skytree and Senso-ji
- Yokohama: Chinatown, Sankeien Garden and the Red Brick Warehouse shopping district
- Ogasayama: Kakegawa Kachoen amusement park and Hattasan Son-ei-ji Temple
- Aichi Prefecture: Nagoya Castle and Atsuta Jingu shrine
- Osaka: Osaka Castle and Universal Studios
- Kobe: Arima Onsen and Mount Rokko for breathtaking autumn scenery
- Fukuoka: Ohori Park and Fukuoka Castle
- Kumamoto: Suizen-ji Joju-en gardens and the Kumamoto Castle
- Oita Prefecture: The Umi Jigoku hot springs and geysers, and Kinrin Lake.