Four years will go fast. Really fast. Japan is a sports loving country. Distance running is more or less an obsession and people run in what Westerners would consider a racing flat. Although currently struggling, both football (the type with a round ball) and baseball (also a round ball) remain hugely popular with television audiences. But in four years time there will be a Rugby World Cup in Japan and the stadia have now been announced. From Hokkaido to Kyushu, twelve cities will host one of the world's great tournaments.
The original plans for an "Asian RWC" with matches held in Hong Kong and Singapore have been quietly scaled back and the the twelve venues are now spread across three of the four main islands of Japan. The new National Stadium is set to host both opening and final games and with a bit of luck will actually be built by then. The National Rugby Stadium, Chichibu, is less than ten minutes walk from the main stadium and misses out completely which is a shame as it really needs a good wash and a lick of paint.
Ask an average person on the streets of Tokyo what is happening in 2019 and they will tell you it's preparation time for the 2020 Olympics. The world's second highest viewership event remains a hidden mystery at the moment. Rugby is seen as a sport for grandfathers to take grandchildren here. Stands are rarely full though college games can attract significant crowds as students cheer on their teams. But there is work to do to make the Rugby World Cup the success it should be. Japan will rally round, schools will fill seats in the regions and The Brave Blossoms will play the games of their lives. And then their will be a mascot. With a bit of luck it'll be a touch less scary than the Olympic one too...
|"Tsunny" the Olympic's proposed slightly scary and mildly unpronounceable mascot