Given the rip-roaring success in 2019 Rugby World Cup ticket sales – over 80% of all tickets sold to fans from more than 170 countries – many eager supporters across the nation and beyond have unfortunately missed out on those coveted pieces of barcoded paper. In light of that, an alternate location to watch the games – preferably somewhere with a bouncing atmosphere; a generously-sized screen; thousands of fellow spectators; that is replete with food vendors, alcoholic variety, rugby-themed activities and the relevant amenities – is a key component of the tournament’s festivities.
Enter the Rugby World Cup FanZones.
FanZones are huge, ad hoc screening areas – 16 in all – that will be divvied up amongst the 12 host cities, with each city from Sapporo down to Oita containing at least one. Entry to all FanZones is free of charge and no prior match ticket purchases are necessary. In attempt to meet prospective demand, the more populated (and sought after) cities – Sapporo, Tokyo, Shizuoka and Osaka – will have two fully kitted out FanZones in their respective metropolitan areas. Each location will be capable of hosting thousands of fans, but for the marquee games, it is possible that venues could reach maximum capacity, especially in Tokyo.
Watch, Eat, Drink, Play
The Rugby World Cup Organising Committee will look to build upon the success of the FanZones organized across England during the 2015 World Cup, by implementing the latest technology available for showing the games on gigantic LED screens, boosted by equally impressive sound systems.
But what’s watching live sport if you don’t have scrumptious food and tasty local punch to wash it down? Though each FanZone will have its own distinct regional flavor, so to speak, they will all follow a relatively similar blueprint. Local and international food vendors will be generously spread across each arena’s open-plan space, including beer bars, high ball vendors, wine sellers and stalls selling decidedly more traditional Japanese liquor. A smorgasbord of Japanese cuisine and omiyage from the local prefecture will of course join in on the party too.
The World Cup Organising Committee would maintain that ensuring FanZones are family-friendly is one of their primary focuses. As such, not only will there be plenty of food and drink available to keep the children satiated, but you can also expect rugby-themed attractions, games and official merchandise stores.
“From the stadia to the fan-zones and across the host cities, we are looking forward to a unique festival atmosphere as the world’s best players bid to win rugby’s greatest prize – the Webb Ellis Cup.” World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont, at the official Rugby World Cup ‘100 Days To Go’ event.
In his speech, Beaumont also mentioned the Japanese concepts of omotenashi (referring to Japan’s infallible adherence to top-notch customer service) and omatsuri (meaning “festival”). These two words combined capture the essence of what is to be expected at the FanZones in Japan: fully equipped, expertly catered, sporting celebrations that will run every matchday from the opening exchanges on September 20 through the final on November 2.
The carnivalesque atmosphere will offer fans a pseudo-stadium experience with an aim at inclusivity regardless of national allegiances or previous rugby experience. During the competition you could argue that nowhere else in Japan will provide as good an opportunity to mingle with fans of all stripes while – hopefully – watching top-level rugby at its very finest.
Spreading the Gospel
In the build-up to the World Cup there has been an emphasis on spreading excitement for rugby within Japan and across the globe. Before arriving in Japan for the 100 Days To Go tour, the Webb Ellis Trophy made its first ever trip to Chile. While touring India, an unprecedented 17,000 children turned out to see the symbolic cup in the flesh on a single day. The Impact Beyond 2019 initiative has attracted 1.16 million new participants across Asia to the sport.
The FanZones are a natural, in situ extension of this project aimed at growing interest in rugby globally. As well as a wall to wall international party, they are designed to be an experiential rugby education.
So, if you want to enjoy rugby at the highest level in a stadium-like setting, sink a few beers in the thousand autumn sunshine, or simply become a little better acquainted with the sport, then the Rugby World Cup FanZones might just be what you’re looking for. If previous FanZone experiences are anything to go by – and if we’re fortunate enough to swerve the seasonal typhoons – we should be in for an absolute treat.
Japan FanZone Locations
• Sapporo Odori Park, Sapporo City
• Sapporo Station South Plaza, Sapporo City
• Kamaishi Civic Hall, Kamaishi City
• Community Space, Kumagaya City
• Tokyo Sports Square, Tokyo Metropolitan
• Chofu Station Square & Chofu City Green Hall, Tokyo Metropolitan
• Rinko Park, Yokohama City
• Sumpu Castle Park, Shizuoka City
• Soramo & Entetsu Hall, Shizuoka City
• Sky Hall Toyota, Toyota City
• Tennoji Park, Osaka City
• Hanazono Central Park Baseball Stadium, Osaka City
• Meriken Park, Kobe City
• JR Hakata Station Square, Fukuoka City
• Hanagata Square & Symbol Promenade, Kumamoto City
• Oita Ikoi no Michi Square, Oita City