The wood paneled walls of the Japan Rugby Football Union clubhouse are lined with four rows of plaques awarded by the Scottish Rugby Union, the Korea Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union, the Canadian Rugby Union and countless other international associations.

On this April afternoon at the clubhouse, Japan rugby union’s star full back Yuya Saito towers over youth members of the Shibuya International Rugby Club as they announce the launch of the Rugby Matsuri Project. Sponsored by the Japan Rugby Football Union and Japan Rugby 2019, the new program will see rugby-themed events take place across the country ahead of next fall’s Rugby World Cup tournament.

“Rugby is a special sport with clearly defined values, and the most important of those values is respect. Respect for the referee and the laws of the game of course, but above all, respect for each other, for teammates and opponents,” said Brian Christian, principal of The British School in Tokyo. “That’s why British School in Tokyo is so pleased and proud to be associated with Shibuya International Rugby Football Club and also the Rugby Matsuri Project.”

Through the Rugby Matsuri Project 2019 website, local governments, shopping districts, rugby organizations and the wider Japan community can apply to host rugby matches, summer festivals and other events directly related to rugby and international cultural exchange to help enliven the region and drive excitement in the months leading up to the Rugby World Cup.

Approved events will receive the official logo to be posted to event flyers, promotions, etc. to certify the event’s affiliation with the Rugby Matsuri Project 2019. The logo is comprised of a cherry blossom and a rugby ball in the center. Events are expected to include barbecues, parades, rugby matches and clinics and receptions with rugby teams and players.

Christian, who is also a coach with the Shibuya International Rugby Football Club, said the youth rugby club will play matches against teams from Sydney during the Rugby World Cup, and will host a party for friends from all over the world on the eve of the England-Argentina match.

“The launch of the matsuri project demonstrates the commitment of the Japan Rugby Football Union to the building of friendships across the world. The battle for the Webb Ellis Cup will undoubtedly be a fiercely competitive one, but I have every confidence that things will be very different off the pitch,” said Christian. “Fans from every part of the planet will come together in good-humored friendship to enjoy each other’s company, and perhaps even a beer or two.”

Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee CEO Akira Shimazu said the Rugby Matsuri Project, a first-of-its-kind event, will be a relaxing, fun experience for families, with cultural exchange playing an important role.

“I am delighted to officially launch this program, which will build excitement for the tournament and act as an excellent chance to promote Japanese culture to the world,” said Shimazu. “I would like to encourage everyone in Japan to take part in this rugby festival and to participate in the celebration of rugby.”

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