GAME ON! Japan Ready For The World

Japan is the first Asian country to host a Rugby World Cup. They are the first Non-Tier One country to host the RWC.
14 Sep 2019 15:43
GAME ON! Japan Ready For The World
Pacific Islands senior journalists group in Japan. From left: Fiji Sun Managing Editor Business Maraia Vula, Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 organising committee chief executive officer Akira Shimazu, Barney Orere (Papua New Guinea Post-Courier), Bernadette Carreon (Pacific Note Palau), and Allen Waitara (Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation) on September 11, 2019.

Sport can be competition. Sport can be diplomacy. Sport can be tourism. Sport can be business.

In Japan right now, all of these are coming together as the Land of the Rising Sun embraces two of the greatest global sporting events. All within a year.

First, this coming week the Rugby World Cup starts across Japan.

Then, in less than a year from now the Tokyo Olympics open.

Are the Japanese prepared? Yes, they are.

This reporter was amongst a team of four senior Pacific journalists in Tokyo last weekend when the pow­erful Typhoon Faxai headed for a direct hit on the capital city.

We saw how the Japanese are pre­pared.

Our hosts quickly “evacuated” our group early on a speeding bul­let train to another part of Hon­shu, Japan’s largest island.

A couple of days later we re­turned to Tokyo.

What would it be like? No prob­lem. There were no signs of ty­phoon damage. The Japanese are resilient, prepared, very commit­ted and extra efficient.

Years of careful preparations kicked in. And quickly the Japa­nese people were out in big num­bers to give joyous warm welcomes to the arriving teams, including our own Flying Fijians.

The hardworking Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 organising com­mittee chief executive officer Aki­ra Shimazu in an interview with the Fiji Sun explained they are ready and looking forward to the opening ceremony in Tokyo.

Last minute preparation

There is none of the last-minute preparation drama and rush that sometimes marks other major sporting events around the world.

Japan as a nation is ready. The first match kicks off on Friday, September 20 between Japan and Russia while the second match between Australia and Fiji will be on Saturday at Sapporo Dome, Sap­poro.

The eyes of the sporting world will be on Japan. Japan is ready for the games, and all the sporting di­plomacy and sporting tourism they will bring.

Years of preparation

Mr Shimazu told me: “In 2009, it was decided that the RWC will be held in Japan.

“So it’s been 10 years of prepara­tion for us, close to six years since I was assigned as chief executive officer CEO of the organising com­mittee.

“In the years of preparations we have selected the venue or stadi­ums and camps, staff as well. We have 300 full-time staff working with us.

“When I started and was assigned as CEO we had less then 10 staff.”

One advantage Japan has is its existing impressive sporting in­frastructure. Twelve stadiums are ready for the crowds from around the world to arrive and the referees to blow their whistles for kick off.

Mr Shimazu said: “Only one new stadium was built, in Kamaishi City.

“The remaining venues we basi­cally did a little of renovation or some overlaying work but basi­cally we are using the existing sta­diums.”

He said Kamaishi is significant and well knowm because of the March 11, 2011 great east Japan earthquake together with the tsu­nami washing out the city.

“Kamaishi is also a famous city with a strong rugby team,” he said.

New stadium

Holding World Cup games in the new stadium there means a lot to both rugby lovers and all the peo­ple of Japan.

“The Flying Fijians have already arrived on September 6. They are a good team.

“In parallel to the RWC the mili­tary rugby tournament teams from the Pacific. Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, are here to participate in the Inter­national Defence Rugby Competi­tion in Tokyo.

“Two days ago I attended the wel­come reception for that tourna­ment.”


In terms of challenges, he said trying to live up to the standards set in the recent past by hosts like England and New Zealand was a priority so that they can deliver an international competition.

“We are going to be the first Asian country to host RWC. We are the First Non-Tier One country to host the RWC.

“In the sense there is a lot of ex­pectations from Asia and Pacific Island nations as we are the first to host the Rugby World Cup.

“In summer this year we held some of the Pacific Nations Cup games here and that has also helped us prepare well.

“Theme in 2015 in England was home of rugby because England regards itself as the home of rugby.

“Theme of the September 20 opening match is Rugby for Tomor­row. That is because we are using RWC as the trigger we would like to penetrate and widen the horizon of how we can spread rugby.

“We want to not only spread the rugby culture in Japan but to also in other Asian nations.

“That is the common target that World Rug­by and 2019 organising committee has.


“One of the initiatives of the programme is to invite 170 young rugby players from 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries to come over on Septem­ber 20 to receive some training together also with the opportunity to watch the matches.

“This was done with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.”


He said there would be no problems with the planning during the RWC.

“We have a good railroad network around Japan.

“There are bullet train, with high speed train, also local train and then also to fill any gaps there is the airport domestic flights available.

“We are calling on all spectators to not come by car but to use public transportation.

“Also, access from the nearby station to nearby stadium, we are planning to have shuttle buses with cooperation with local cities.

“By doing so ensure the smooth access of the spectators from the station to the stadi­ums.

“In order to realise this we also did test runs of our transportation scheme during the two PNC test matches held in September.

“So we will believe that we will have a very smooth and logistics transportation system, for the tournament.”

So there you have it. Everything is set to go smoothly. Let the rugby games begin. Japan is ready.


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