Rugby World Cup: What Ireland fans can expect in Japan
Irish Ambassador offers advice on how best to ensure your trip is a smooth one
The Minato Mirai business district in Yokohama, one of the host cities of the upcoming Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images
What can Irish fans expect when they come to Japan for the Rugby World Cup? The first thing that will strike them is that it may all look familiar. Japan looms large in the world, not just as an economy, but as a culture.
Most everyone has some sense of Japan, from images of Tokyo and Mount Fuji, to traditional architecture and gardens. Many will have seen a Japanese movie, eaten a Japanese meal, or seen a Japanese print. Many, if not most, people own something from Japan, be it the car in the driveway or the watch on their wrist. Japanese components and technology may be invisible to the consumer, but they are pervasive in many of the electronic goods that we use daily.
What will enrich the fans’ experience is the unexpected. Japan is a formal and courteous society, yet a friendly and welcoming one. Japan loves novelty, but there is a deep respect for ancient traditions and ways.
The opportunity of the World Cup is what might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience Japan in all its richness, to savour its culture and to experience its assault on the senses.
The uniqueness of Japan’s society and culture, of its environment, infrastructure and its traditions will be fully on view to those Irish who travel here this autumn.
However, precisely because of that wonderful contrast between the familiar and the alien, I would strongly recommend that all fans read the advice in this supplement and on our website dfa.ie/rugbyworldcup. This will prepare you for the social norms that Japanese people expect, and the sensitivities that can arise between our culture and theirs.
Irish fans rightly have a reputation as respectful and friendly visitors, but a word of caution is required. Ireland is less well-known in Japan, especially compared with those countries closer to home or with large Irish diasporas. So don’t be surprised if the Japanese you encounter may be unfamiliar with Ireland, or if you are the first Irish person they have ever met. We in Team Ireland think of every fan as an ambassador for Ireland and ask you to behave as such when you pull on the green jersey.
The tournament presents a unique opportunity to raise Ireland’s profile in Japan. There is a long history of Japanese investment in Ireland, going back to the 1970s, and Japan is still the largest source of foreign direct investment into Ireland from Asia, but enhanced visibility for Ireland through the tournament will greatly advance the objectives of the Embassy and the state agencies to promote Ireland as a great place to invest in, trade with, to study and to visit.
The context is propitious. Two-way trade between us is already €11 billion annually, and Japan is our 11th-largest trading partner globally. Enterprise Ireland-supported companies have seen their aggregate exports to Japan grow in value by some 14 per cent per annum over the past four years. Ireland will be working hard in the coming years to realise the opportunities presented by the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, which accounts for 30 per cent of global trade.
Our hope is that the inevitable surge in mutual interest between Ireland and Japan in 2019 will not be a spike, but a platform on which to forge deeper and closer relations. The new, state-of-the-art Ireland House which is being developed in Tokyo is a testament to our ambition and commitment to being a stable, reliable and long-term partner for Japan. The building will showcase – in the third-largest economy in the world – the best of Irish design, technology and sustainable construction.
The new Ireland House will provide the Embassy, Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Bord Bia and Tourism Ireland with a tremendous new facility to promote Ireland’s interests, and it will also fulfil many functions of a cultural centre, with a performance, exhibition and conference space.
The Rugby World Cup coincides with the formal enthronement on October 22nd of His Imperial Highness Emperor Naruhito as the 126th Emperor of Japan. The enthronement will commence a new era in Japan, known as “Reiwa”, or beautiful harmony.
Team Ireland and I are greatly looking forward to welcoming Irish fans to Japan and working with them to realise the “Reiwa” in our relationship with this fascinating, exciting and welcoming country.
There are two places in Japan which I would like to highlight to Irish visitors.
First, the beautiful and historic city of Matsue is located not far from Hiroshima in western Japan. Matsue is where the great Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn, raised in Rathmines, first settled in Japan. He married the daughter of a local samurai and became for a decade and a half, from 1890 to 1904, the foremost worldwide interpreter of Japanese culture and sagas into English.
His works have been on the equivalent of the Leaving Certificate in Japan for a century. He is a household name here. Matsue celebrates its Irish heritage and hosts a magnificent Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum with many Irish connections. It is overseen by Bon Koizumi, the writer’s great-grandson and his wife, Shoko. Both are true friends of Ireland. Matsue is easily reached by air.
Secondly, on Monday, October 14th – a public holiday in Japan – at the country’s top racecourse, Tokyo Fuchu, the feature race will be the annual, €850,000 Ireland Trophy Fuchu Stakes (G2). It will be a special Irish Day out at the races, where the Japan Racing Association celebrate its ties with Ireland’s thoroughbred industry.
Dos and Don’ts
Remember that the best help is often close at hand. If you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator or hotel. You can contact the police at 110 and fire and ambulance services at 119, and ask for English-language assistance. Consular advice and assistance is available from the Embassy of Ireland and we strongly recommend you check our Rugby World Cup travel advice online before you travel: www.dfa.ie/rugbyworldcup. The Embassy will also be operating a dedicated emergency assistance hotline number for the duration of the tournament: +81 (0)3 3263 8508. We also encourage Irish citizens to download TravelWise, the travel assistance and advice app from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance in advance of your trip. Note that you may be expected to pay the costs of treatment received in Japan before claiming back from your insurance company.
Ensure your passport is up to date before you travel, and to carry it with you at all times as this is a requirement as a visitor in Japan. If your passport is lost or stolen, inform the Embassy, report this at a police station and ensure you receive a police report.
Familiarise yourself with sources of information on natural disasters which can occur in Japan. The Safety Tips app from the Japanese Tourism Agency is a useful source of real-time updates and provides excellent information on emergency preparedness: https://www.jnto.go.jp/safety-tips/eng/app.html Always remember to follow the advice of local authorities in any emergency situation that may occur.
Bear in mind that many smaller shops and restaurants will only take cash. Check with your financial institution whether your cards will be able to access cash while in Japan.
Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices in Japan, as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.
Don’t break the law in Japan. Penalties for minor offences can be far stricter than in Ireland. It should be noted in particular that Japan maintains a zero tolerance approach to illegal drug use with severe consequences for any violations.
Don’t act in a loud and boisterous manner. Such behaviour is not as accepted in Japan as it is elsewhere. Public displays of affection are less common than in Ireland.
Don’t bring in prohibited medications into Japan and be aware that there are restrictions on bringing certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines into Japan, including types of allergy and sinus medication. Consult with the Japanese embassy in Dublin or check online information from the Japanese ministry of health, labour and welfare for more information: www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/health-medical/pharmaceuticals/01.html
Don’t forget to take sensible precautions and maintain vigilance. Japan is one of the safest countries in the world but that does not mean there is no risk. Do not accompany street touts to bars and clubs and be particularly wary in entertainment districts of major cities such as Kabukicho and Roppongi in Tokyowhere incidences of drink-spiking, extortion and robbery against tourists have been reported.
Don’t offer tips. Tipping is not customary in Japan.
Paul Kavanagh is Ireland’s Ambassador to Japan