How Did Rugby Become Popular In Japan?

In recent years, Japan has emerged as a surprising force in the world of rugby, capturing the attention of sports enthusiasts worldwide. The sport’s rise in popularity in the Land of the Rising Sun is a testament to the country’s passion, determination, and the enduring spirit of rugby. In this article, we explore the fascinating journey of how rugby arrived in Japan, its development over the years, and the current state of rugby in the country.

The Arrival of Rugby In Japan

Rugby’s introduction to Japan can be traced back to the late 19th century during the Meiji Era when Japan opened its doors to Western influence. In 1874, British naval officer Edward Bramwell Clarke introduced rugby to students at Tokyo’s Keio University, making it the birthplace of rugby in Japan. The sport quickly gained popularity among the university’s students, and from there, it began to spread to other educational institutions across the country.

The Development of Rugby in Japan

In the early 20th century, the sport of rugby continued to grow in Japan. In 1926, the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) was established, providing a framework for organizing the sport at a national level. The JRFU focused on developing domestic competitions, fostering the growth of club rugby, and nurturing talent through youth programs.

International Success Of Japan In Rugby

Japan’s breakthrough on the international rugby stage came during the 2015 Rugby World Cup held in England. The national team, known as the Brave Blossoms, stunned the rugby world with a historic victory over South Africa’s Springboks, one of the tournament’s favorites. This remarkable achievement not only brought global attention to Japanese rugby but also ignited a surge in interest and support for the sport within the country.

Host Nation for the Rugby World Cup

Building on the success of the Brave Blossoms in 2015, Japan had the honor of hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The tournament showcased the country’s passion for rugby and its commitment to delivering a memorable event. The Rugby World Cup in Japan was a resounding success, with packed stadiums, electrifying atmospheres, and a warm reception from the Japanese people.

Growing Popularity and Participation Of Rugby In Japan

Since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, rugby’s popularity in Japan has continued to soar. The tournament’s success acted as a catalyst for the sport’s growth, inspiring a new generation of players and fans. Rugby clubs at all levels, from school teams to professional leagues, have seen increased participation, with more individuals taking up the sport across the country. The JRFU has actively promoted rugby among schools and communities, further fueling its development.

Professional Rugby and the Top League Of Japanese Rugby

Japan’s Top League, a professional rugby competition, has played a pivotal role in raising the standard of the sport in the country. Established in 2003, the league features top domestic and international players competing for prestigious clubs. The league’s growth and the influx of foreign talent have brought a higher level of professionalism and skill to Japanese rugby, creating a more competitive environment.

Legacy of the Brave Blossoms

The success of the Brave Blossoms has had a lasting impact on rugby in Japan. The team’s performances on the global stage, including their impressive showing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, have garnered immense support and admiration from the Japanese people. The Brave Blossoms’ resilience, teamwork, and never-say-die attitude have become emblematic of Japanese rugby’s spirit and have inspired a nation.


Rugby’s journey in Japan is a testament to the sport’s ability to transcend cultural boundaries and capture the hearts of a nation. From its humble beginnings at Keio University to the Brave Blossoms’ triumphs on the world stage, rugby has carved its place in Japanese sports culture. With growing popularity, increased participation, and a professional league, the future of rugby in Japan shines bright, promising continued success and exciting developments in the years to come.


When did rugby first arrive in Japan?

Rugby was first introduced to Japan in 1874 by British naval officer Edward Bramwell Clarke, who taught the sport to students at Tokyo’s Keio University.

How popular is rugby in Japan?

Rugby has been steadily growing in popularity in Japan, especially after the country hosted the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The tournament’s success and the national team’s strong performances have generated increased interest and support for the sport. While rugby is still considered a niche sport compared to baseball and football, it has a dedicated following and is gaining more recognition nationwide.

Is rugby widely played throughout Japan?

Rugby is played throughout Japan, with participation extending from school-level clubs to community and professional teams. The sport is more popular in certain regions, such as Kanto (Tokyo and surrounding areas) and Kansai (Osaka and surrounding areas), where rugby has a long history and strong infrastructure. However, the growth of the sport has seen increased participation in other regions as well.

How successful is the Japanese national rugby team?

The Japanese national rugby team, known as the Brave Blossoms, has achieved significant success in recent years. They made history with a stunning upset victory over South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and followed it up with impressive performances in subsequent tournaments. The Brave Blossoms’ success has raised the profile of rugby in Japan and earned them respect on the international rugby stage.

Is there a professional rugby league in Japan?

Japan has a professional rugby league known as the Top League. Established in 2003, the Top League features top domestic and international players competing for various clubs. The league has been instrumental in raising the standard of rugby in Japan and has attracted foreign talent, contributing to the sport’s development.

Are there any rivalries in Japanese rugby?

There are several rivalries in Japanese rugby. The most notable is the longstanding rivalry between the universities of Waseda and Keio, which dates back to their early encounters in the sport. Matches between these two universities are highly anticipated and draw significant attention.

How has hosting the Rugby World Cup impacted rugby in Japan?

Hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup was a significant milestone for rugby in Japan. The tournament brought increased visibility and interest in the sport, both domestically and internationally. It showcased Japan’s ability to organize major sporting events and created a lasting legacy, inspiring more people to take up rugby and contributing to the sport’s growth in the country.

Are there any famous rugby players from Japan?

There are several famous rugby players from Japan who have made a significant impact on the sport. Some notable names include Ayumu Goromaru, who gained international recognition during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and Yu Tamura, a talented fly-half known for his precise kicking. These players, among others, have helped raise the profile of Japanese rugby and have become influential figures in the sport.

How is rugby promoted at the grassroots level in Japan?

Rugby is actively promoted at the grassroots level in Japan, with a focus on schools and community programs. The Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) conducts various initiatives to introduce and develop the sport, providing coaching resources, organizing youth tournaments, and supporting school rugby programs. These efforts aim to cultivate a strong foundation for rugby and encourage participation from a young age.

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