The 2019 Rugby World Cup takes place in Japan from 20 September to 2 November. It’s the first time the country has staged the tournament, which will be spread out over 12 stadiums on three different islands. Here’s our guide to the best things to see, do and eat near the stadiums.

Don’t have tickets yet? Check remaining availability on the RWC2019 website (requires registration).

An aerial view of the Sapporo Dome stadium in Sapporo. The stadium is perfectly circular with a sloping domed roof that covers the pitch. City buildings are visible around it.
The pebble-like Sapporo Dome stadium is quite a sight to behold © The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images

Sapporo Dome, Sapporo

Matches: Australia v Fiji; England v Tonga

Visit: Japan’s northernmost metropolis, Sapporo, was the host city for the 1972 Winter Olympics. The Ōkura-yama Ski Jump Stadium is still here (and sometimes used for practices and tournaments). Visitors can take a lift up to the top (at 133.6m) and imagine what it would be like to tear down the 33-degree incline. Don’t miss Sapporo’s specialty: miso ramen. Menya Saimi, a cosy, inconspicuous eatery in the south of the city, serves up our favourite. For nightlife, head to the city’s conveniently central entertainment district, Susukino.

Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Kamaishi

Matches: Fiji v Uruguay; Namibia v Canada

Visit: The stadium in Kamaishi was built as part of the recovery effort in northeast Japan, which was struck by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Rent a car to discover more of this beautiful coast with a visit to Jōdogahama, a beautiful beach in Miyako (to the north), or learn about its heartbreaking recent history at the RIAS Ark Museum of Art in Kesennuma (to the south).

The entrance to the Mitsumine-jinja Shinto shrine. A traditional Japanese stone archway stands with a statue of a wolf either side of it.
Take a moment for reflection at the hilltop Mitsumine-jinja Shinto shrine © katana0007 / Getty Images

Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Kumagaya

Matches: Russia v Samoa; Georgia v Uruguay; Argentina v USA

Visit: From Kumagaya you can travel into the mountains of Chichibu. Take the high-altitude Chichibu Tetsudō line all the way to Mitsumine-guchi. Here the forest-shrouded Mitsumine-jinja Shinto shrine stands on a 1100m-high summit, with elaborate wood-carving and views over the area. From here several hiking trails lead deeper into the mountains; maps are available at the Mitsumine Visitor Center.

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Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo

Matches: Japan v Russia (opening match); France v Argentina; Australia v Wales; England v Argentina; New Zealand v Namibia; QF2; QF4; Bronze Final

Visit: Tokyo Stadium is actually way out in the capital’s western 'burbs, where few travellers ever venture. Take the opportunity to visit the fantastic temple, Jindai-ji – said to have been founded 1300 years ago – and the adjacent Jindai-ji Botanical Gardens, a tranquil green space home to around 4500 species of trees and plants.

A pair of chopsticks lift a mouthful of noodles from a ramen bowl
Sample ramen varieties from across Japan at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum © Gary S. Chapman / Getty Images

International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama

Matches: New Zealand v South Africa; Ireland v Scotland; England v France; Japan v Scotland; SF1; SF2; Final

Visit: Japan’s largest stadium is located north of Yokohama proper, near the Shin-Yokohama shinkansen (bullet train station) – handy for taking off to other parts of Japan after the last ball of the tournament has been kicked (the climax of the competition will be staged here). But first stop in at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, where you can sample ramen styles from all over the country. Yokohama too often gets overshadowed by neighbouring Tokyo to the north, but it has a cool scene all of its own and is especially known for craft beer. Check out Bashamichi Taproom and Antenna America to get started.

Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Fukuroi

Matches: Japan v Ireland; South Africa v Italy; Scotland v Russia; Australia v Georgia

Visit: Shizuoka Prefecture is Mt Fuji country. To get up-close with the iconic stratovolcano, hop on the Tokaidō shinkansen (bullet train) at the nearest stop to the stadium in Kakegawa and take it two stops back (towards Tokyo) to Shin-Fuji Station. There’s a good view of Japan’s tallest mountain from the platform (though the surrounding scenery industrial). Buses (2¼ hours) run from here to the much more scenic Fuji Five Lakes region, where there are excellent Fuji views.

An aerial view of Hanazono Rugby Stadium at night with the pitch lit by floodlights
Hanazono Rugby Stadium at night © The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images

Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashi-Osaka

Matches: Italy v Namibia; Argentina v Tonga; Georgia v Fiji; USA v Tonga

Visit: Higashi-Osaka, home of Hanazono Rugby Stadium, is a manufacturing town, but it’s just a 20-minute train ride from Osaka's fun Namba district, one of the best (if not the best) spots to be after dark in Japan. Eat takoyaki (octopus dumplings) at Wanaka Honten, see the lights of Dōtombori and bar-hop in Amerkia-Mura.

City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota

Matches: Wales v Georgia; South Africa v Namibia; Japan v Samoa; New Zealand v Italy

Visit: Toyota is the city that Toyota (Japan’s leading car manufacturer) built. Book a tour in advance at the Toyota Kaikan Museum, to see inside one of the nearby plants.

A red cable car carriage travels along a wire near the city of Kōbe. Below people sit beside a green manicured garden and in the background the city skyline is visible.
Hop on the Nunobiki Ropeway for amazing views over Kōbe © Gaid Kornsilapa / Shutterstock

Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kōbe

Matches: England v USA; Scotland v Samoa; Ireland v Russia; South Africa v Canada

Visit: Kōbe is a compact, cosmopolitan city, and as a result the stadium is close to the city centre, making for a good atmosphere on match days. In the evening take the Nunobiki Ropeway up in the foothills behind the city for a view over the harbour. Then head to central Sannomiya, which is full of bars and izakaya (Japanese pub-eateries).

Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka

Matches: Italy v Canada; France v USA; Ireland v Samoa

Visit: Fukuoka, Kyūshū’s biggest city, is known for its ramen and street food stalls. Make a pilgrimage to the original Ippudō, the ramen chain that is Fukuoka’s most famous export, or spend an evening hanging out in the Nakasu district, where food stalls line the river.

An outdoor onsen in Kurokawa. Steam rises from the outdoor pool which is surrounded by boulders and lush greenery.
No trip to Japan is complete without a dip in an onsen, and Kurokawa's are divine © dryadphotos / Shutterstock

Kumamoto Stadium, Kumamoto

Matches: France v Tonga; Wales v Uruguay

Visit: The city of Kumamoto is a great springboard for exploring the highlights of Kyūshū’s central highlands. Rent a car and take off to visit active volcano, Aso-san, and the hot spring village, Kurokawa Onsen, or alternatively, stroll the nature trails around pretty Takachiho Gorge, where legend has it Japan's sun goddess brought light back to the world.

Oita Stadium, Oita

Matches: New Zealand v Canada; Australia v Uruguay; Wales v Fiji; QF1; QF3

Visit: Oita Stadium is just a short drive from Beppu, the town that can claim the most abundant natural hot spring in Japan. There are myriad options here, from classic soaking tubs to steam baths and sand baths. 

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