Things to do in Tokyo During the Rugby World Cup 2019

By Sergio Calle Jiménez, A self-confessed sake fan who’s love for martial arts brought him all the way to Tokyo
Edited by Matthew Wears

The Japan Rugby World Cup 2019 begins at the end of September, marking the beginning of what could be a really interesting time for Japan, a country that doesn’t have all that much of a rugby background! Even so, we’re all very so excited to see what the Japan Rugby World Cup has in store for us, especially in the crazy capital Tokyo, a city that I have been lucky enough to call home for the last five years. I think there are endless things to do in Tokyo, so the problem might not be finding things to keep you entertained, but rather deciding which of the amazing things you actually want to see and do! Of course, because Tokyo is Japan's capital city, a good amount of the of the Rugby World Cup fixtures will be taking place here, meaning there’s going to be a ton of new people ready to enjoy the craziness of the city! It’s the perfect place to begin your Japan Rugby World Cup because you’ll get to see first-hand how the country’s ancient history has shaped its now hyper-futuristic society. You are definitely going to need some help if you really want to get the most out of your Japan Rugby World Cup trip, so read on for my ultimate Rugby World Cup itinerary.

Tips for the city

Tokyo is without doubt the beating heart of Japan, but visiting for a first timer can be a very daunting experience, that’s for sure! To begin your Tokyo Rugby World Cup, you’re going to want to know where the Tokyo Stadium is and how to get there. The easiest way would be to take the Keiō line train from Shinjuku station to Tobitakyu station and walk the short distance from there, or alternatively download the Japan Taxi app, which is similar to Uber but a just little bit cheaper! The stadium itself is called the Ajinomoto Stadium and will play a pretty fundamental role in the Japan Rugby World Cup, hosting both the opening ceremony and the third place final, as well as a load of amazing matches that are shaping up to be some of the most exciting in the entire competition!

Transport

If you’re arriving to Japan via plane, then you’ll most likely be flying into Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, the most popular airport in Japan with great links to the north and south, so you can easily reach both Sapporo and Fukuoka for the rest of you Japan Rugby World Cup games. Japan is pretty famous for its unbeatable train service, and honestly, I’d say this is the best option for getting around anywhere. I use Hyperdia, a timetable and route planner app that makes travelling around Tokyo so much easier, especially if you’ve never been to Japan before. The Tokyo weather is also going to be pretty changeable this time of year, so bring a mixture of clothes to prevent yourself from getting caught out. So, you’ve got your Japan Rugby World Cup tickets, you’ve booked your flights, all that’s left is to find out all the awesome things to do when you get here!

Discover the Akihabara area

Also known as Electric Town, this is the famous centre for Tokyo’s huge manga and cosplay scene, where young people dress up in all kinds of extravagant costumes inspired by their favourite anime and manga characters. I really don’t think anyone who visits for the Tokyo Rugby World Cup should miss this place. It’s such a culture shock to anything that we have in Europe or America, which makes it so interesting to me! As well as looking at all of the crazy costumes, you should pay a visit to a handful of the hundreds of electronic shops that give the district its name, all of which are illuminated in super vibrant fluorescent lights, making it look like an area of Japan's other neon-soaked city; Osaka. There are endless things to do in Tokyo when you’re in Akihabara, so make sure you dedicate a full day to truly explore this crazy and colourful area.

Relax in Hama Rikyou Gardens

Open space is pretty rare in Tokyo and I wouldn’t say it’s a place famous for its huge parks or gardens. Even so, standing right in the centre surrounded on all sides by futuristic skyscrapers is Hama Rikyou Gardens, a really beautiful landscaped space where I come if I need a break from city life. The gardens are one of my favourite things to do in Tokyo, I especially love going to the really picturesque teahouse that’s located on an island out in the water, it’s got really great views out over the parklands. The gardens can be reached easily by catching a train to either JR Shimbashi Station or Shiodome Station, or you can even take the Tokyo Water Bus, which is a pretty interesting way of getting around the city if you want to see it from a different perspective. Make Hama Rikyou part of your Rugby World Cup itinerary, you won’t regret it!

Get lost in Ameyoko Market

Tokyo has got a lot of really interesting markets, that’s for sure, but I don’t think anywhere is better than Ameyoko, a huge authentic shopping street that sells everything from clothes, gifts, electronics and even food. The market remains pretty much unchanged since its opening just after World War Two, so if you need that special souvenir to remember your Japan Rugby world Cup journey by that you just aren’t going to find anywhere else, then there’s probably no better place than Ameyoko. Other than shopping, the stalls in this area serve some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in the city, which is a serious statement when you’re talking about somewhere that takes it as seriously as Tokyo. It’s very easy to reach as well, just take a train to the Ueno Station and you’re pretty much there.

Barhop Ebisu Yokocho Street

For anyone looking for some really authentic things to do in Tokyo for the Japan Rugby World Cup, look no further than Ebisu Yokocho. Yokocho means alleyway, and in this one you’ll find pretty much every kind of food you could imagine, and it looks quite similar to what you might find in the beautiful Kyoto! The idea was to create a traditional Japanese space where independent restaurants could flourish, and because every tiny eatery is completely unique, it means you could come here time and time again and not eat the same food! The streets are best explored at night, where the neon lit alleyways give a taste of a Japan that is almost forgotten with the arrival of so many chain restaurants. Ebisu is one of my favourite places to come for food with friends, it’s always got such a buzz to it and I don’t think I could ever get bored of trying all of the amazing food.

Get city views at the Tokyo Metropolitan Building

Just a short walk from the iconic, must see Shinjuku crossing stands the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, a two-hundred and forty-meter-high tower with one of the best viewing platforms anywhere in the city. It’s so high that you can see as far as Mount Fuji if you’re lucky enough to get some good visibility, which during autumn is a pretty variable subject! Even so, on a normal day you should be able to see the Tokyo Tower, or even pick out the Ajinomoto Stadium amongst the ocean of buildings under your feet. The very best part about it is that it’s completely free to go up, so if that doesn’t make you want to visit nothing will! In 2016, the building was even illuminated in the colours of the Japan Rugby World Cup 2019 in preparation for the upcoming tournament.

Step back in time in the Golden Gai

In a city that is constantly moving and evolving, it’s sometimes a breath of fresh air to go somewhere that’s a bit more traditional in its ways, somewhere that gives you a glimpse at what life was like in post-war Japan. The Golden Gai district is exactly that, a narrow set of streets in central Shinjuku full of some of the quirkiest little sake bars anywhere in Tokyo, all of which are beautifully decorated in authentic Japanese styles. I really, really love sake (really), so take it from me that bar hopping this area is one of the best things to do in Tokyo for those of you who want to experience it in the most traditional of Japanese settings. Be warned though that some of the bars only accept regulars, but the best way to get around this is to learn a bit of Japanese and who knows, you might find yourself making some new friends!

Shop the Takeshita Dori

There’s definitely no shortage of amazing places to go shopping in Tokyo, so during your Japan Rugby World Cup journey, you have to visit some of unique districts such as the energetic Shimokitazawa or the crazy Takeshita Dori, both of which I’d recommend going if you have time. I personally prefer the Takeshita Dori area, purely because it’s got an endless amount of unique vintage clothing shops and independent boutiques, as well as some really cool restaurants and crepe stands that are a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. This is another place that’s very popular with manga and anime influenced teenagers, so make sure to bring your camera to catch some photos of the painstakingly elaborate costumes! Walking this small street is one of the most authentic things to do in Tokyo, it’s a place so weird and wonderful that it could only possibly be in Japan!

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