Captain's Run Japan

Guide For Rugby Fans

The Best of Japan Fall

AICHI / NAGOYA FOOD IDEAL RUGBY-FRIENDLY FARE

 

Ask Nagoya residents about the pride of their city, and you’ll likely hear something along the lines of the following from university student Kei Takahashi, “Nagoya Castle and Nagoya meshi,” said Takahashi as he waited for a bus after a night out in the Fushimi district of Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture. “But not necessarily in that order.”

Nagoya meshi is a name for the historic city’s distinct food culture, which is a prominent feature of lively Fushimi’s plethora of eateries and bars.

Nagoya — like Aichi in general — is renowned as being something of a gastronomic anomaly, eschewing the soy sauce and other conventional food seasonings of rivals such as Tokyo and Osaka in favor of fermented ingredients, most prominently miso, and other fare with tantalizingly bold flavors, all sublimely matched with a glass of something cold.

Almost the entire gamut of Nagoya’s delights can be sampled at Sekai no Yamachan, which is best known for its uber-peppery fried chicken wings. Modestly named maboroshi no tebasaki or “legendary chicken wings,” they first hit the scene when the founder, who is known as Yamachan, opened a 13-seat eatery in 1981 — a far cry from the 36 outlets in Aichi today.

The Fushimi branch offers seating for 138 diners and its menu includes mouthwatering miso tonkatsu and miso kushikatsu, both variations on pork cutlets (the latter on skewers) doused in a dense, pungent red miso called hatcho miso, which has been produced in Aichi for over 600 years. Meanwhile, doteni is a sizzling combination of pork offal, daikon and red miso that can be found on pretty much all izakaya (Japanese pub) menus in Nagoya.

A short walk away is the unique Negiya Heikichi, whose key ingredient is alliums – from charcoal-grilled naganegi (Japanese leek) to succulent onion tempura. The friendly izakaya also offers a naganegi shabu-shabu (hot pot dish) and miso-based nabe hotpots, including goei nabe, featuring five types of allium, and the delectably spicy jigoku nabe (hell’s hotpot).

The wide use of Japanese signage can make finding somewhere to dine a challenge, though a new English-language map aims to bridge that gap by pointing overseas visitors to Fushimi’s best eateries and watering holes.

Aichi is one of the 12 venues for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which will be held throughout Japan between Sept. 20 and Nov. 2. On match day and the preceding night city guides will be on hand around the Fushimi entertainment area, which is close to many of the city’s hotels and easily accessible to and from the stadium by train.

The map shows two of Fushimi’s most accommodating and lively bars, both of which will be showing live broadcasts of all world cup games.

Shooters Sports Bar and Grill is run by a team of English-speaking staff and offers authentic Western food, craft ales and 18 flat-screen monitors. Hub, meanwhile, advertises itself as a British pub, offering a variety of drinks — including draft ales — and food, from British staples such as fish and chips and roast beef to international standards, including pizza and nachos.

For more information about Aichi tourist attractions, visit https://www.aichi-now.jp/en/omotenashi .

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Hub, a British pub, offers a variety of drinks.
ROB GILHOOLY

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Shooters Sports
Bar and Grill is run
by a team of Englishspeaking
staff and offers
authentic Western food.
ROB GILHOOLY

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Maboroshi no
tebasaki (legendary
chicken wings) and miso
kushikatsu, a skewered
pork cutlet.
ROB GILHOOLY

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TOCHIGI / AGE-OLD SIGHTS OFFER GLIMPSES OF THE PAST

 

Among the numerous attractions in Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko Toshogu shrine (https://www.toshogu.jp/english/) is surely at the top of the list. Built in 1617 to enshrine the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu, as a demigod, the glamor of this UNESCO World Heritage site was fully revived in 2017 with the completion of a massive restoration. Nearby, visitors can also time travel to the Edo Era by hiking the 37-kilometer Nikko Suginamiki Kaido, a path lined with soaring cedar trees that were planted in 1625.

Up in the Oku-Nikko mountain area, the shimmering blue of Lake Chuzenji, surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful red and gold autumn leaves, is joined by the hidden water flow of the dynamic Kegon Falls.

Another delight in the region is the Kanuma Autumn Festival (https://visitkanuma.jp), which is included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Jostling down the town streets for two days in October are 27 elaborately hand-carved wooden floats, many of which are centuries old.

Among the scatter of hot spring resorts, especially notable are Kinugawa, Nasu and Shiobara, all renowned for their fine effects in attractive settings. For gourmets, tender and tasty Tochigi Wagyu Beef awaits, while huge juicy strawberries are a springtime treat. In the city of Utsunomiya, various night spots offer spectacular flair bartending shows by Japan’s top mixologists. For those looking for something to take home, Mashiko pottery pieces are ideal souvenirs. For further information on Tochigi, visit the following website: https://travel.tochigiji.or.jp .

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Yomeimon gate of Nikko Toshogu shrine
TOCHIGI PREFECTURE

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Kanuma Autumn Festival
TOCHIGI PREFECTURE

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SAKE / KAMPAI WITH SAKE TO WIN A TRIP TO JAPAN

 

Celebrating the international rugby matches, a social media campaign featuring Japanese sake is now being held. Called “Kampai Rugby x Sake,” people can enter this exciting campaign by posting some great scenes of raising a cup of sake for a kampai (toast) on a social networking service. The kampai could be before, during or after the rugby matches, whether in or outside Japan, and with or without yourself in the shots. The five people who earn the largest number of likes will each win a pair of free round-trip tickets to Japan. For further information on this campaign, visit the website at http://www.kampai2020.com/ .

Another sake-related event held during the rugby games is a pop-up sake bar, which will be open until Oct. 5 on the first floor of Restaurant Arashiyama, in front of the Katsura River, in Kyoto. At the bar, around 10 leading sake breweries will allow visitors to taste the finest daiginjō (highest grade sake) and sparkling sake. Visitors can have the rare opportunity of enjoying fine sake from many breweries while viewing the Katsura River in an airy, sunny setting. Also available at the venue will be limited versions of original sparkling sake bearing specially designed labels representing the 20 competing teams. For further information on this bar event in Arashiyama, visit the website at https://www.kampai2020.com/popup/ .

In another sake promotion, the same original sparkling sake will be on sale until Nov. 3 at Zen Karasuma Kyoto, a 150-year-old structure, which makes visitors feel as if they had time traveled. Visit the website https://www.kampai2020.com/popup/ for further information.

The events mentioned in this content are part of projects to promote export of sake and other rice products, in which JTB Corp. supports the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

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Zen Karasuma Kyoto
DAN ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN INSTITUTE CO., LTD.

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Customers can enjoy sparkling and daiginjō sake at a special pop-up sake bar in Kyoto's Arashiyama area.
RESTAURANT ARASHIYAMA

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Bottles with labels of 20 teams.

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PARKS / PARKS OFFER PRESERVED VILLAS, ENVIRONMENTS

 

Rich in nature, Japan stretches from subarctic to subtropical climate zones, with monsoons bringing four distinct seasons and ample precipitation.

To preserve the wealth of nature, the Ministry of the Environment has designated 34 national parks in Japan.

Nikko National Park straddles Tochigi, Gunma and Fukushima prefectures. Mainly mountainous, the area has distinct scenery that changes each season and is particularly known for its colorful autumn foliage. The park also has many historically significant structures such as Toshogu shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as the British Embassy Villa Memorial Park and Italian Embassy Villa Memorial Park. Visitors can enter both embassy villas for ¥300. The park’s proximity to Tokyo makes it a popular outing, taking about two hours by train or car.

The deep forests of Towada-Hachimantai National Park, which spreads across Aomori, Akita and Iwate prefectures, preserves many of the region’s flora and fauna and is home to rare animal species such as Japanese black salamanders and forest green tree frogs. A canoe tour of Lake Towada takes visitors to the cove of the National Park Special Protection Zone, which only canoes can reach. Lucky visitors may encounter Japanese serows, another rare animal breed. Onsen hot springs are also popular in the area.

Aso-Kuju National Park is known for one of the world’s largest caldera sitting at the base of Mount Aso, a site also popular for trekking. Covering parts of Kumamoto and Oita prefectures, abundant groundwater makes the area suitable for agriculture and has become a vast land for domesticated cows and horses. To get an aerial view of Mount Aso and the caldera, visitors can paraglide with a pilot.

For more information on national parks, visit the website https://www.japan.travel/national-parks/ .

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A canoe tour of Lake Towada in Towada-Hachimantai National Park
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT

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Paragliding in Aso-Kuju National Park
ASO NATURE LAND CO. LTD.

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NAGANO / NATURAL LOCALES HOLD REMNANTS OF THE PAST

 

Nagano, the host city for the 1998 Winter Olympics, can be reached in a mere 90 minutes from Tokyo by shinkansen. The station is the front door to the ethereal world above clouds, snow monkeys, ski slopes covered in spectacular powdered snow, Matsumoto Castle and numerous other historical and natural sights.

Nagano is perhaps most known among foreign visitors for the world-famous snow monkeys that can often be seen bathing in the hot springs of the Jigokudani (Valley of Hell) Wild Monkey Park (http://www.snowmonkeyresorts.com/smr/nagano-city/).

A must while staying in Nagano is a visit to Zenkoji temple. This national treasure is one of the largest wooden temples in Japan. While walking up the pilgrimage path leading to the temple, visitors should take some time to enjoy the Nakamise shopping street, which offers numerous souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes, as well as temple lodgings where guests can experience shōjin ryōri (Buddhist vegetarian cooking).

For those that enjoy walking among towering trees, a visit to Togakushi Shrine (http://www.go-nagano.net/tag/togakushi) is highly recommended. One can imagine a beautiful and majestic avenue of cedar trees full of history and shrines, as well as mysterious ninja that once roamed the area.

The city center provides visitors with numerous accommodation options, allowing them to spend a few days exploring this magnificent prefecture using the Nagano Pass (http://www.go-nagano.net/naganopass/en.php). After a long day of exploring the city and its nearby attractions, visitors should take advantage of a soak in one of the many natural hot springs.

For the website of Nagano Convention and Visitors Bureau, see http://en.nagano-cvb.or.jp .

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A ritual at Zenkoji temple
NAGANO PREFECTURE

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Snow monkeys bathe in a hot spring.
NAGANO PREFECTURE

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Togakushi Shrine
NAGANO PREFECTURE

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OITA / CONTRASTIVE ALLURE: UKIYO-E AND SWORDS

 

Oita Prefecture (https://www.discover-oita.com/) is hosting key Rugby World Cup matches, but also wants fans to experience Japan’s finest art and craftsmanship.

Exhibitions of woodblock prints, swords and other works are among attractions the Oita Prefectural Art Museum (http://www.opam.jp/page/information_en.html) in the city of Oita houses for the culturally curious.

“The Ukiyo-e Utagawa School — From Toyoharu to Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige” from Sept. 20 to Oct. 27 (https://www.opam.jp/en/exhibitions/detail/520) showcases a renowned line of print artists. Works range from scenes of daily life to a phantasmagoric skeleton and show how Western perspectives affected the genre.

Additionally, on Oct. 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors who pay ¥500 will be outfitted in kimono they can wear for 90 minutes.

“Japanese Aesthetics: Swords and Metalworks” (https://www.opam.jp/en/exhibitions/detail/527) showcases finely honed blades wielded by samurai. However, the artisans who created them also crafted ornaments including vases, incense holders and even a decorative, shape-shifting coiled snake.

Shinsaku Munakata, museum curator, explained that during the feudal Edo Period (1603 to 1868) demand for swords was high. “But with the coming of the Meiji Era (1868 to 1912) warriors disappeared, as did demand for swords,” he said; this forced craftsmen to apply their skills in new ways.

The museum, designed by renowned architect Shigeru Ban, boasts a spacious atrium perfect for displaying the Hita Gion Yamahoko, a towering traditional Oita shrine festival float from Oct. 1 to 23.

Other attractions, including traditional Oita crafts from Oct. 1 to 27 and “The Art of Wales Exhibition in Oita” from Sept. 27 to Oct. 27, round out the atrium displays.

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Swords, metalworks such as a shape-shifting coiled snake and ukiyo-e paintings on display at the Oita Prefectural Art Museum.  
OITA PREFECTURE

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YOKOHAMA / ENJOYING RUGBY, MORE IN THE CITY OF FIRSTS

 

As the city home to Japan’s first documented rugby club dating back to at least 1866 and many other landmark events, Yokohama takes pride in hosting Rugby World Cup 2019 matches.

This year’s semifinals and final are scheduled to take place at International Stadium Yokohama that can seat some 72,327 people. The venue is easily accessible from numerous locations that include the immediate Shin-Yokohama area, the central Yokohama district (around 17 minutes away by train) and Tokyo (about 18 minutes via shinkansen and roughly 40 minutes by local train).

For those who didn’t get tickets but are in the area, Rinko Park’s spacious lawn in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai area, as well as 11 other locales across the country, is set to transform into an official “fanzone” that is scheduled to broadcast 32 of the tournament’s 48 matches live on a 380-inch screen.

This international gathering space is designed to accommodate up to 10,000 people and is poignantly located adjacent to the waters of Yokohama Port, one of the first ports in the nation to open to the outside world in 1859 after over 200 years of isolation.

The fanzone will also hold rugby-themed activities for all ages to take part in. A cultural mishmash of food stalls will also be set up; each will churn out local favorites such as shūmai dumplings and inarizushi (deep-fried tofu stuffed with rice) alongside fare from competing countries.

For those in the mood to explore between matches, the classical Sankeien Garden makes for a picturesque way to experience late autumn’s stunning crimson and gold foliage in the city. It may be the wrong season for drinking under the cherry blossoms, but beer enthusiasts will be pleased to find Yokohama is home to over 50 establishments serving craft brews, befitting of the city where Japanese beer was born. (Visit https://www.yokohamajapan.com/things-to-do/T05.php for more information on Yokohama night life.)

The centrally located stadium and fanzone also give fans in search of a sit-down meal ample options. Be it in celebration or commiseration after a match, delicious food and drink are never too far away in both the Shin-Yokohama neighborhood and wider area.

The retro Akai Kutsu bus, painted a classic brick red and cream, is especially convenient when on the hunt for a bite to eat. The bus stops at several quintessential tourist spots across the city, the down-to-earth Noge neighborhood being one of them. This particular area has retained its Showa Era spunk of yesteryear and, come sundown, is a hub for multicultural dining options and affordable drinks. (See https://www.yokohamajapan.com/article/rugby/ for more tourism information.)

The renowned Chinatown is another unmissable stop on the line that packs some 620 shops and restaurants within 500 square meters. From mild and flavorful Cantonese dining to spicy Sichuan dishes, some of the Chinese restaurants will extend their hours to midnight during the World Cup.

For further information on all of the above, visit the “Rugby World Cup 2019 in Kanagawa-Yokohama” official homepage at https://rugby.city.yokohama.lg.jp/en .

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Sankeien Garden
YOKOHAMA CITY

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The Tavern Yokohama opened in 1985 as the first British pub in Yokohama.  
©THE TAVERN YOKOHAMA

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Conceptualization of the "Rinko Park Fanzone"
YOKOHAMA CITY

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TOKYO / ‘FANZONES’ CONTAIN AN ARRAY OF ATTRACTIONS

 

As the excitement for the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan builds, various preparations are being made to make the tournament more enjoyable and memorable for both event ticket holders and nonticket holders alike.

In Chofu, Tokyo, the indoor and outdoor Tama “fanzone,” comprised of four areas, will be filled by the roaring cheers of rugby fans at the nearby Tokyo Stadium during the 18 days from the date when the first match will take place.

In the spacious 34-by-79-meter Stage Area, a gigantic outdoor 250-inch LED screen will be installed to broadcast the matches. Various stage events will also be held in the area, including commentators looking back on the highlights of each match, concerts and cultural performances by local groups.

Visitors to the area can also fill their stomachs with delicious and reasonably priced Japanese food such as yakisoba (fried noodles) and udon (thick wheat noodles), as well as other dishes from around the world that include fish and chips and lasagna.

In the Indoor Hall Area, fans can watch the matches on an 8.9-by-5.2-meter screen, while in the Rugby Activities Area children to adults can receive brief rugby lessons from the sport’s top players.

The Culture Exchange Area allows visitors to try on kimono, learn about the countries competing in the World Cup and discover the Chofu neighborhood’s top tourist spots and local specialties. Of further note is the shuttle bus service that will run between Chofu Station and the stadium when the matches are played in the area.

A centrally located fanzone in Tokyo, meanwhile, is located on the first to third floors of Tokyo Sports Square. Here, all 48 matches played throughout the archipelago from Sept. 20 (Friday) to the finals on Nov. 2 (Saturday) can be enjoyed on a huge 10-by-3-meter high-resolution multivision screen. The screen is complemented by superb sound equipment to convey the live atmosphere of each game venue.

Tokyo Sports Square also offers alcoholic drinks and snacks from around the world on the first floor, as well as a carpeted second floor space for relaxing with family and friends. Visitors to this site can also learn more about traditional Japanese culture, find out about the World Cup participating countries, obtain information on nearby attractions and dining options, take photos and attend various stage events. The site is also the place to see uniforms worn by past star players on display or purchase official Rugby World Cup 2019 goods.

The Tama fanzone is located right in front of Chofu Station on the Keio Line, while the Tokyo fanzone is right in front of JR Yurakucho Station inside the Tokyo Sports Square. For further information and updates on fanzones in Tokyo, visit https://fanzonetokyo.jp/index_e.html .

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Rendering of the Tokyo "fanzone" in the Chofu district  TOKYO
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT

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Artist's concept of the Tokyo "fanzone" in the Yurakucho district  TOKYO
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT 

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