This autumn 48 Rugby World Cup games will be played on Japanese shores. That’s a lot of rugby, so I’m going to make the relatively safe assumption that you’ve not got tickets for them all. If you’re a fellow Tokyoite (or plan to be here during the six-week showcase) you may be wondering what are your best options to catch the games in the absence of having tickets.
I’ve compiled a list of bars which I think will serve as great alternative locations to watch the match, enjoy some good draft beer and hopefully recreate some of that in-the-stadium atmosphere.
The British pub chain HUB really needs no introduction at this stage. For many expats, becoming well-acquainted with your local HUB is part of the initiation process of moving to Tokyo. It’s a British-style pub that remains one of the best locales in the city for watching international sport. More importantly, they are plentiful enough that you’re never too far away from one. Plus, their selection of draft beer, pub food and salty snacks has yet to let me down.
HUB is one of the few chains of establishments that seem to understand the preparations necessary for hosting World Cup fans. An integral part of the World Rugby Organising Committee’s responsibilities is educating host-cities and the relevant public house proprietors on what to expect come the autumn. On this front, I have been informed by World Rugby that HUB is both beginning preparations nice and early, and “very excited” about the prospect of the tournament. Sitting on that deep chasm of a gold mine, who wouldn’t be?
Man in The Moon: Shimbashi
Like almost every other major metropolis on the planet, Tokyo is awash in a sea of “Irish” pubs. The inverted commas do indeed imply that most of these are a far cry from the caliber of watering holes that are oh so plentiful in the Emerald Isle.
Hailing from Belfast – a place that certainly has no shortage of traditional pubs – I can be a little pernickety about my Irish bars in foreign lands. Some lack the character, others lack that nostalgic pub smell (an improbably alluring miasma of beer, sweat and smith’s bacon fries), in some the Guinness tastes different – or just downright watery – and there are host of other minor scruples that I am only too quick to voice.
But I digress. One thing that has to be said for Man in the Moon is that it certainly gets its aesthetic right – they even have at least one Irish bartender! And the pints of Guinness are not to shabby either. Nice creamy heads, rich and full flavor, served in a proper pint glass. Can’t complain on that front. Most importantly it’s in a great central location to watch the rugby come the competition this autumn.
The bar contains three large screens, with a decent vantage point for at least one of them regardless of your location in the bar. The atmosphere in here has the potential to get pretty raucous, especially for the Ireland games, in spite of the nation’s poor recent form.
Hobgoblin and Legends Sports Bar: Roppongi and Shibuya
Run by the same owners, Hobgoblin (locations in Roppongi and Shibuya) and Legends Sports Bar (Roppongi) pride themselves on being Tokyo’s resident sports bars. If there is such a thing as an out and out rugby bar in Tokyo then the Roppongi branch of Hobgoblin may be it.
Here they have five large TV screens, and a bar/restaurant area that can seat around 180 patrons. Fans frequently flock here for international annual tournaments like the Rugby Championship and the Six Nations. Expect the World Cup to be no different. The beers on tap include three varieties of Hobgoblin along with several other classic drafts and ciders from the British Isles and some tasty local brews too. The Shibuya branch is just a microcosm of its Roppongi-based counterpart.
In Legends Sports Bar, Roppongi, sports events take precedence over everything else. The beer selection isn’t too shabby – Guinness, Heineken and selected ales on tap – but the real draw is its eight large TV screens and the outdoor seating terrace, which can accommodate up to 100 guests. If we’re fortunate enough to get a few autumn rays this October, these seats could be a very hot commodity during the World Cup. The owners have assured me that they will show each and every game in all three of their establishments. In a nation that doesn’t have the same pub culture as many of us expats are used to, this is not quite as common as you may think.
FooTNiK is a small bar in Ebisu that gets its eponym from the sport that it generally focuses on showing – football (soccer). They will however be showing the 2019 Rugby World Cup. On striking up a conversation with bar manager, he hinted to me that opening times would be negotiable if there is enough interest in the earliest kick offs. They do typically open at 15:00, which will be fine for the majority of games.
They’ve got a good variety of beer on tap, including Kilkenny Red Irish ale, which is a personal favorite of yours truly. On top of that you don’t have to worry about missing a second of the match, quite literally. There are three large TVs in the bar, a pull-down projector screen for main events and built-in screens on the urinals in the men’s toilets. It’s a very nice touch indeed.