Big in Japan: A survival guide for Rugby World Cup visitors

Don’t eat while walking, do travel outside the host cities and remember to keep it clean

Can you go a week without a spud? How much is a beer going to cost? Do I have to use chopsticks? What’s it like for vegans? How am I going to cope with the language barrier?

Such are a few of the concerns for those lucky enough to be travelling. Here, Irish expatriates, such as Ruth Rowntree-Kai, originally from Kingscourt, Co Cavan, who has been living in Kumamoto since 2008, offers helps.

“Bring sturdy slip-on shoes, at many smaller bars and restaurants you have to change shoes when you enter – and then again at the toilet,” says the English-language teacher.

Compared with other countries Japan is a largely cash-based society and although it is “slowly getting to grips with credit card culture”, she advises tourists to carry cash.


Visitors must experience the local food. “Sushi and ramen are well-known worldwide. But have you heard of shabu-shabu, yakiniku, oknonomiyaki, takoyaki, tonkatsu? You can find your crubeen fix and all – ask for tonsoku.”

Equally, tourists should find time away from the stadiums to experience Japan’s rich culture and beautiful landscapes: “Explore more! Japanese cities are so built up. If you’re lucky to have time to head to the hills, for a day trip or overnighter, then certainly do. Nikko, Kibune, Fushimi Inari, Miyajima, Sakurajima – you’re sure to find some stunning sights,” she adds.

Game plan

Ireland's four pool games will be held in different stadiums across Japan. The team's first match against Scotland on September 22nd is in Yokohama, a 50-minute train journey from Tokyo.

The next game against host country Japan is on September 28th and will be played in Shizuoka, a 60-90-minute train journey from the capital, depending on the service taken.

Kobe, which is about three hours away from Tokyo, will host Ireland v Russia on October 3rd. The final group game against Samoa will be held in Fukuoka on October 12th, some six hours by train from Tokyo.

Japan’s high-speed bullet trains are known as the Shinkansen. Tourists can purchase a JR rail pass for €264 for seven days, €392 for 14 days and €500 for 21 days.

Tipperary-born university lecturer Mark Donnellan, who has lived in the Kansai region since 2003, says the JR pass will allow fans to fit in some sightseeing between matches.

He says: “The trains are fantastic, and if you can’t figure out the ticket machines, then the staff are very helpful.”

“In regards to eating out, in urban areas fans should have no big problem as many places have pictures or English menus. However, it might be a bit more difficult in rural areas” he said.

Be respectful

Tom O'Neill, a pub owner from Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, has lived in Osaka since 1991. He advises Irish fans to be respectful of the local people and the Japanese system.

“Japan is a fantastic, safe county but there are many rules which are necessary for it to run in an efficient way.”

"Japan is really clean and people are proud of this fact. Make sure you take your rubbish with you after the games. There is a very famous video on YouTube about Japanese fans cleaning up a stadium after a soccer World Cup game in Russia," he said.

Cliona White, an English teacher from Wexford, has been living in Tokyo for the past seven months.

She says culture shock is a big thing, especially from Irish to Japanese culture, and suggests a few cultural faux pas to avoid.

“Don’t eat and walk! If you buy a snack to eat, please eat it where you bought it or go and sit down and eat. It’s considered really rude here to eat and walk.”

“Don’t talk on the phone on the train. It’s considered really rude to do this, as people in Japan often see the train as a place for sleep. If you have to use the phone, it’s better to make a call when you exit or if it’s really important, you should talk as quietly as possible,” she said.

In Tokyo she recommends going to the Asakusa shrine and visiting Shibuya and Shinjuku.

"To view Tokyo from above, I recommend going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It's free and you can get a great panorama of Tokyo."

All you can eat

Dáithí O’Donoghue, a researcher and English teacher from Shannon, Co Clare, has lived in Ibaraki since 2004.

“Look out for ‘Tabe’ or ‘Nomi-Hodai’ deals: these are time-limited, all-you- can-eat or all-you-can-drink deals. They’re great but not to be abused, as the consequences can be severe.”

"Japan has been gearing up for the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics for years, and the level of survival English among staff that tourists are likely to encounter should be sufficient," he says. "Visitors should speak slowly and avoid colloquialisms." You will not be expected to understand all local customs. Just show a willingness to try.