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Rugby in Japan: Blossoming of the Brave Blossoms

American football on a bed of pink blossoms with trees in the background.

As rugby fans, you might wonder how the sport thrives in a country more renowned for sumo and baseball. Japan’s love for rugby blossomed as early as 1866, standing out as Asia’s pioneering nation in embracing the game.

This blog post will journey through the Brave Blossoms’ rise, revealing how they captured hearts and transformed Japanese sports culture. Dive into an unfolding story of resilience and triumph on the rugby field!

Key Takeaways

  • Japan Rugby Football Union was established in 1926, pioneering rugby’s growth in Asia and leading to structured competitions and talent nurturing across the nation.
  • The Brave Blossoms’ rise features key players like Shota Horie and Michael Leitch, as well as influential coaches such as Eddie Jones and Jamie Joseph.
  • Notable performances include a historic win against Scotland at the Rugby World Cup 2019, marking Japan as the first Asian team to defeat a tier one rugby nation.
  • Hosting the Rugby World Cup 2019 has left a significant legacy for Japanese rugby, boosting interest and participation while showcasing Japan’s capability to organise major international events successfully.
  • With ongoing development of young talents and infrastructure investment coupled with plans to host future global competitions, Japanese rugby is set for continued success on both national and international stages.

The History of Rugby in Japan

The Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) was established in 1926, marking the official start of rugby in Japan. The early international matches showcased the team’s progress and challenges as they gained experience on the world stage.

Establishment of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU)

In 1926, rugby enthusiasts in Japan took a significant step by founding the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU). This pivotal move solidified rugby’s presence within the nation and set the stage for future growth.

With an organised body at its helm, Japanese rugby began to flourish, creating structured competitions and nurturing talent across the country.

The JRFU quickly established itself as a driving force behind rugby’s expansion in Asia. By laying down robust foundations, it ensured that players had access to high-quality training and competitive fixtures.

This commitment sparked increased interest in the sport, which led to more schools and universities integrating rugby into their athletic programmes. Initiatives like these have been fundamental in carving out a revered space for rugby within Japan’s rich sporting culture.

Early international matches

After establishing the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU), the Japanese national rugby team embarked on its early international matches, setting the stage for their future successes.

In 1932, Japan played its first test match against Canada in Tokyo and emerged victorious with a score of 9-8. This triumph marked an important milestone in Japan’s rugby history and laid the foundation for their rise in the sport.

Subsequently, throughout the 20th century, Japan continued to participate in international tournaments, steadily building their reputation as a competitive and resilient team. The early international matches not only provided valuable experience but also ignited a passion for rugby within the country.

Progress and challenges

Following early international matches, the progress of rugby in Japan has been remarkable. However, several challenges have also presented themselves along the way. The establishment of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) marked a significant step forward for the sport in the country and has played a pivotal role in its growth.

Early international matches helped to put Japanese rugby on the map but were accompanied by hurdles such as lack of resources and limited exposure. Despite these obstacles, Japan’s national team continued to make strides and gain recognition on the world stage.

The Rise of the Brave Blossoms

The Rise of the Brave Blossoms is marked by key players and coaches who have made significant impact in their notable victories and performances, which has captured the attention of the Japanese public.

Key players and coaches

Japan’s Brave Blossoms have seen the rise of exceptional players and coaches who have contributed to their success:

  1. Shota Horie – As a skilled hooker, Horie’s leadership on the field has been pivotal for the team in various competitions.
  2. Michael Leitch – The captain of the Brave Blossoms, Leitch’s strong leadership and performance have been crucial in guiding the team to victory.
  3. Eddie Jones – Former head coach of the national team, Jones was instrumental in implementing strategic changes that brought significant improvement to the team’s performance on the international stage.
  4. Ayumu Goromaru – Known for his remarkable kicking ability, Goromaru has left a lasting impact with his exceptional skills in key matches.
  5. Jamie Joseph – Currently serving as head coach, Joseph has played a vital role in shaping the team’s strategies and cultivating a winning mindset among the players.
  6. Kenki Fukuoka – With his outstanding speed and agility on the field, Fukuoka has emerged as one of Japan’s standout players, making significant contributions to key victories.
  7. Yutaka Nagare – As a talented scrum-half, Nagare’s quick decision-making and precise passing have been essential in driving the team forward during intense matches.

Notable victories and performances

Following the success under key players and coaches, Japan’s Brave Blossoms have made a significant impact with their notable victories and performances:

  1. Beat Scotland in Rugby World Cup 2019, marking Japan as the first Asian nation to defeat a tier one rugby nation.
  2. Secured an impressive win against tournament debutants Chile in the Rugby World Cup 2023, showcasing their continued growth and prowess on the international stage.
  3. Challenged England, the Webb Ellis Cup winners in 2003, during a compelling match in the Rugby World Cup 2023, capturing attention and praise for their resilient performance.
  4. Received widespread support and acclaim from fans and experts for bringing excitement and energy to the sport, elevating Japan’s status in global rugby.

Impact on the Japanese public

The success of the Brave Blossoms has ignited a surge of interest and support for rugby across Japan. As the team made history by achieving significant victories in international tournaments, including defeating Scotland in the Rugby World Cup 2019, Japanese public interest in rugby has grown rapidly.

The captivating performances of the national team have inspired fans, especially young athletes aspiring to pursue rugby as a career. With growing publicity and recognition for their achievements on the global stage, the Brave Blossoms have become cultural icons in Japan, influencing an increase in participation and viewership for rugby matches nationwide.

The triumphant performances of the Brave Blossoms continue to elevate rugby’s profile among sports enthusiasts throughout Japan. Their accomplishments have contributed to making rugby more accessible and popular among diverse communities within the country.

The impact extends beyond mere fandom, with local clubs reporting increased membership and heightened enthusiasm from supporters attending matches at all levels – from grassroots youth games to professional league fixtures.

Hosting the Rugby World Cup 2019

Japan’s meticulous preparations and successful execution of the Rugby World Cup 2019, both on and off the field, have left a lasting legacy for Japanese rugby. If you want to know more about this monumental event, keep reading!

Preparations and infrastructure

The Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan saw extensive preparations and infrastructure enhancements.

  1. Stadiums were renovated and new ones built to meet international standards, ensuring a world-class experience for players and fans.
  2. Transport networks were improved, providing efficient access to match venues across the country.
  3. Dedicated training facilities were set up to accommodate the teams’ needs during the tournament.
  4. State-of-the-art technology was integrated into match venues, enhancing the viewing experience for spectators and improving game analysis for teams.
  5. The hospitality sector was bolstered with accommodation options and entertainment facilities to cater to the influx of rugby fans from around the world.
  6. Security measures were heightened to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants and attendees throughout the event.

Success on and off the field

The Brave Blossoms made history in 2019 by defeating Scotland, becoming the first Asian nation to do so in the Rugby World Cup. This victory brought widespread attention and praise, solidifying their status as a rising force in international rugby.

With notable victories under their belt, such as their debut triumph against Chile in the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the Brave Blossoms have showcased their potential on the global stage.

Their success has not only energised rugby fans but has also garnered support for Japanese rugby at home and abroad.

The impact of Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup 2019 went beyond just on-field achievements. The tournament’s success drew attention to Japan’s growing prowess in organising major sporting events and contributed to promoting rugby globally.

Legacy for Japanese rugby

The Brave Blossoms’ success has left a lasting legacy for Japanese rugby, inspiring a new generation of players and fans. Their historic victories in the Rugby World Cup have boosted interest in the sport across the country, leading to increased participation at all levels and growing support for the national team.

The impact of their achievements is evident in the continued development of rugby infrastructure, with more schools and clubs embracing the game. The Brave Blossoms have become an emblem of determination and skill, leaving an indelible mark on Japanese rugby.

Japan’s rise on the international stage has set a new standard for Asian rugby teams worldwide. With increasing support from fans both at home and abroad, there are high hopes for Japan’s future in global competitions like the Rugby World Cup.

Japan’s Rugby Culture

Japanese rugby culture is deeply rooted in tradition and rituals, with high school and university rugby playing a significant role in developing future stars. The professional league also continues to grow, showcasing the country’s love for the sport.

Traditions and rituals

The traditions and rituals of rugby in Japan are deeply rooted in the sport’s history and cultural significance. They play a crucial role in shaping the identity of Japanese rugby.

  1. Cherry Blossoms: The emblem of Japan’s Brave Blossom rugby team features three cherry blossoms in full bloom, symbolising the nation’s rich heritage and unity.
  2. Respect for Opponents: Before and after matches, players from both teams bow to each other as a sign of respect, emphasising the importance of sportsmanship in Japanese rugby culture.
  3. Pre-match Ceremonies: Teams perform traditional rituals before kick-off, such as the Sipi Tau (war dance) by the Brave Blossoms or the Haka by visiting teams, showcasing their pride and strength.
  4. Emphasis on Discipline: Japanese rugby places a strong focus on discipline, with players expected to show humility and dedication on and off the field.
  5. Community Involvement: Rugby clubs often engage with local communities through charity events, coaching clinics, and school visits to promote grassroots participation and passion for the sport.
  6. Sake Sharing: It is customary for players to share sake (traditional Japanese rice wine) with opposition after games as a gesture of goodwill and camaraderie.
  7. Training Rituals: Players follow strict training routines focused on teamwork, endurance, and skill development that reflect their commitment to excellence.
  8. Team Chants: Each team has unique chants that they perform before matches; these chants help build team spirit and motivation.
  9. Enduring Honour Codes: Rugby culture upholds values like courage, loyalty, perseverance, humility which are reflected in every aspect of play.

High school and university rugby

After understanding the traditions and rituals of rugby in Japan, it’s important to explore the vibrant culture of high school and university rugby. Here are some key points:

  1. High school rugby is immensely popular in Japan, with a strong emphasis on teamwork, discipline, and respect for opponents.
  2. The All – Japan High School Rugby Football Tournament, commonly known as the “National High School Rugby Championship,” is one of the most prestigious events in the country’s sporting calendar.
  3. University rugby holds a significant place in Japan’s sports landscape, with universities competing fiercely for titles and recognition.
  4. Japanese universities have contributed significantly to the development of players who later represent the national team, showing the crucial role university rugby plays in shaping future talent.
  5. The Kansai University Rugby Football League and Tokyo Big6 Rugby League are prominent university-level tournaments that showcase top-tier talent and generate widespread interest among fans.
  6. Both high school and university rugby have become integral to nurturing talent and sustaining Japan’s growing prowess on the international stage.
  7. The strong tradition of high school and university rugby has been instrumental in shaping the Brave Blossoms’ success and fostering a deep-rooted passion for the sport across all levels in Japan.

Professional league

The professional rugby league in Japan has seen significant growth in recent years. With the rise of the Brave Blossoms, there has been a surge in interest and participation at the professional level.

Top players from around the world have joined Japanese teams, adding to the competitive nature of the league and enhancing its global appeal. The establishment of a professional league has not only provided local talent with more opportunities but also elevated the standard of play, making it an exciting prospect for both players and fans alike.

Japan’s professional rugby league fixtures draw large crowds as enthusiasts come out to support their favorite teams and players on match days. The popularity of these fixtures continues to grow as rugby gains momentum across Japan, reflecting how deeply ingrained this sport has become in the country’s sporting culture.

The Future of Rugby in Japan

Building on the success of the Brave Blossoms, Japan aims to elevate its rugby game by developing more young talents and investing in infrastructure. With plans for hosting the Rugby World Cup again and a growing interest and support for the sport, the future looks promising for Japanese rugby.

Building on the success of the Brave Blossoms

The Brave Blossoms are continuing to make waves in the world of rugby, capturing the hearts of fans and gaining international recognition. Their impressive performances have drawn attention not only to Japanese rugby but also to the potential for growth and success in other emerging nations.

As a result, interest in Japan’s rugby fixtures and tournaments has surged, further solidifying the Brave Blossoms’ impact on the global stage.

Receiving praise from experts and supporters alike, the team’s ongoing success is driving an increase in popularity for rugby in Japan. With their determined spirit and skillful play, they are inspiring a new generation of players while cementing their position as a formidable force on the international scene.

Plans for hosting the Rugby World Cup again

Japan has expressed its interest in hosting the Rugby World Cup once again. The Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) aims to build on the success of the 2019 tournament and continue growing rugby’s popularity in the country.

With advanced infrastructure, a passionate fan base, and the experience of hosting a successful event previously, Japan is eager to showcase its capability as a top-tier host for future Rugby World Cups.

The JRFU’s commitment to developing rugby in Japan aligns with their vision of becoming a dominant force within international rugby. Plans for hosting the Rugby World Cup again reflect Japan’s ambition to solidify its position as an influential nation in global rugby tournaments, further enhancing the sport’s standing within Japanese culture and society.

Growing interest and support.

Plans for hosting the Rugby World Cup again have sparked a surge of enthusiasm and backing for rugby in Japan. The Brave Blossoms’ remarkable performances, including historic wins at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, have led to a growing interest and support from fans across the nation.

The team’s success has captivated rugby enthusiasts as they continue to demonstrate their skill and determination on the international stage. Notably, the Brave Blossoms’ captivating style of play and outstanding achievements have played a pivotal role in popularising rugby within Japan, elevating its status as an increasingly popular sport among both players and spectators alike.


Japanese rugby has a rich history, and the Brave Blossoms have truly made their mark on the international stage. With influential players and remarkable achievements, Japan’s national team has captured the world’s attention.

The legacy of hosting the Rugby World Cup 2019 will continue to reverberate through Japanese rugby, sparking even more interest and support for the sport in years to come.


1. Who are the Brave Blossoms in Japan?

The Brave Blossoms are Japan’s national rugby team, known for their skilled rugby players and strong performances on the field.

2. What position does the rugby team captain play?

The rugby team captain can play any position, but often they are a flyhalf because it’s a key role that leads the game strategy during Japan rugby fixtures.

3. How has rugby become more popular in Japan?

Rugby has grown in popularity due to impressive wins by the Brave Blossoms and increased exposure through tournaments and local clubs engaging with communities.

4. When can I watch the Brave Blossoms play next?

You can check out the upcoming Japan rugby fixtures online or through sports news to find out when you can see them in action again.

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