The beautiful spectrum of red, orange and yellow autumn leaves known as koyo will be complemented by the green and gold of the visiting Wallabies when Australia plays in the Rugby World Cup hosted by Japan in 2019.
Kicking off on 20 September, games will be held in 12 venues stretching the length of Japan – including the popular destinations Osaka, Kobe, Kumamoto and the capital Tokyo – until the final is played on 2 November 2019.
Australian rugby fans following their home nation through the group stage will visit four cities that highlight the unique culture, history and landscape of Japan.
Following the Wallaby trail, travellers will begin in Sapporo, the most northern of the host cities to watch Australia against Fiji on 21 September. Often used as a hub from which to reach the snow in the Hokkaido mountains and hot springs, the city also boasts a thriving food and beer scene.
Australia’s first match will coincide with the Sapporo Autumn Fest, which offers the chance to sample craft beers, and fresh local delicacies. As the birthplace of the miso ramen, visitors can also expect to try Japan’s most authentic ramen, which is best sampled along with a bottle of Japan’s oldest beer from the local Sapporo brewery.
Travelling Wallaby fans will be impressed by the Sapporo Dome, the venue for Australia’s match against Fiji. Usually an indoor venue for baseball, the stadium is famous for its innovative retractable playing surface, which allows a grass pitch to slide in and out of the stadium as needed for rugby games.
Eight days later, the Australian team and its supporters will be in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, for the group’s big matchup against Wales on 29 September. Unlike anywhere else in the world, Tokyo is a feast for the senses.
With so much to see and do, travellers can enjoy the contrast between the city’s ultramodern metropolis and its hidden temples and serene parks. All aspects of Japanese life and popular culture are within easy reach, including music, art, shopping and fashion, futuristic technology, unrivalled dining experiences and Tokyo’s world-famous nightlife including traditional theatres, jazz lounges, nightclubs and iconic karaoke bars.
The most southerly point of the tour so far, the coastal city of Oita will be Australia’s third host city during the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It is here, at the 40,000 seater Oita Bank Dome stadium, that the Wallabies will take on Uruguay on 5 October.
This area has more ‘onsen’ (hot springs) than anywhere else in Japan, and travellers will find a number of scenic natural hot springs nestled within the grand Kuju mountain range. Some of these are rich in minerals and contain surface iron and sulphur ions which are thought to have healing properties, perfect for rugby fans needing some relaxation away from the drama on the pitch.
The final group match will be held in Shizuoka on 11 October against Georgia. Here, the Wallabies will play in the shadow of one of Japan’s greatest natural landmarks and UNESCO world heritage site, Mount Fuji.
The stunning Mount Fuji can be seen from several different locations in the region, but travellers may well opt for a view of Japan’s highest peak from Suruga Bay – often named the most beautiful bay in the world.
This area is also known as the green tea capital of Japan. Travellers can enjoy the region’s lush green tea plantations from the old steam locomotive which still operates on the Oigawa Railway, or experience a quintessentially Japanese tea ceremony prepared by a tea master besides a beautiful Japanese garden.
Tea isn’t the only refreshments on offer, of course, and Australian rugby fans might enjoy visiting sake breweries that use Mount Fuji’s clear groundwater to produce various sake blends. The Fuji Takasago Sake Brewery has been making sake for 200 years and offers visitors brewery tours and tasting sessions.
After the group stages, the quarter finals will be played in Oita and Tokyo, before the semi-finals and the final itself are hosted in Yokohama on 2 November 2019.
As Japan readies itself to host rugby’s biggest tournament, a dedicated website has been created to help Australian visitors plan their travels. The resource, visitjapan2019.com, offers rugby fans suggested itineraries to help plot their visit to the tournament’s 12 host cities and includes information about local restaurants, places to stay, things to see and do.