With hundreds of top-tier players, 20 international teams, six weeks of action and 12 stadiums across the country, the 2019 Rugby World Cup is shaping up to be one of the biggest and best in recent years.
It’s the first time the event has been held outside of a traditional rugby union homeland, like the UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or France. This gives fans a great opportunity to experience their favourite sport in a unique destination, and thankfully, Japan is bursting with exciting things to do and see.
If you’re visiting for the rugby, here’s a quick guide to Japan to help you get the most from your trip.
From visa requirements to packing tips, we cover a few essential things to know about travelling to Japan.
Q: Do I need a visa for Japan?
A: : According to the Embassy of Japan in New Zealand, Kiwis don’t need a visa to enter Japan if they’re visiting for less than 90 days as a tourist. For specific rules on visa requirements, please view the latest entry information on the Embassy of Japan in New Zealand website.
Q: What should I pack?
A: It will be autumn in Japan during the event, which is generally comfortable with low humidity and cooler air. However, September is also in the country’s typhoon season, when storm events can bring torrential rain and damaging winds.
In Tokyo, you’ll be comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt in the day, with pants and a light sweater for early mornings and evenings. Further north in Hokkaido, where matches will be played in the Sapporo stadium, you can expect a little more chill in the air than Tokyo and Osaka. Remember to check the weather before you leave and pack accordingly!
Q: Is it easy to navigate the airport?
A: Japan is renowned for its efficiency, which will be clear as soon as you land in either Tokyo or Osaka. Signs are frequent and directions are clear, and most will include English text. If needed, you can pick up some Japanese currency, a local SIM card and a Japan Rail Pass at the airports.
Navigating a foreign country can be daunting, especially if English isn’t your first language. Here are a few common questions and answers to help you get around Japan.
Q: Is it easy to catch the train in Japan?
A: The Japanese rail network is famously efficient, and is a popular way for tourists to explore. There are five categories of trains in Japan:
- 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
You can buy train tickets at ticket machines in stations, which have an option to select an English display. If you plan to use them frequently, a Japan Rail Pass can be a simple and cost-effective alternative to individual tickets. These are only available to foreign tourists.
Q: Are there taxis in Japan?
A: Yes, taxis are common in the cities. However, busy traffic can make even short trips quite expensive.
Q: Is it hard to find your way around?
A: Chances are you’ve never been to a bigger city than Tokyo. With over 9.3 million people, the sprawling mass of buildings and bodies can be intimidating to navigate. Wherever you are in Japan, it’s a good idea to rely on apps like Google Maps to help you on your way, which can be downloaded and saved offline to your phone, so you can still use it if you don’t have access to Wi-Fi or data.
Q: Any other tips for when I’m out and about?
A: Foreign visitors are required to carry their passports with them at all times when in public. If you’re concerned about the safety of your passport, a photocopy will suffice.
Nobody wants to offend people when they travel overseas, which is why it’s always great to research local etiquette before you leave. Here’s a crash course in local customs so you can be on your best behaviour:
- Try not to leave excessive food uneaten when dining out; it’s considered disrespectful.
- When paying for things, place your cash in the small metal tray on the counter instead of handing it to the cashier.
- Surrender your seat on public transport if somebody needs it more (e.g. the elderly or pregnant).
- Walking while eating is considered rude.
- Tipping is not common practice.
- If visiting an onsen (a hot spring used for bathing), note that tattoos are not accepted, nudity is usually required, your towel must never enter the water and you must never submerge your head underwater.
While you might be visiting for the rugby action, it’d be a shame to miss exploring everything else Japan has to offer, like its natural wonders, incredible cuisine and historical sites. Here are some key attractions for each of the 12 cities hosting the Cup:
- 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
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