Rugby fans get ready. It's not long now before the Rugby World Cup (RWC) kicks off in Japan and if you're planning to see the scrums live in action, you’ll want to add these Japan adventures to your itinerary.
With a total of 48 matches scheduled over six weeks (September 20 to November 2, 2019), the ninth RWC begins with the host country taking on Russia at Tokyo Stadium. (A complete list of game times and locations can be found here).
The tournament will be held in a dozen venues across the country, including Japan’s food haven capital, Tokyo; the mountainous city of Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido; the cultural metropolis of Osaka; and Kobe, home to third century Shinto Shrines and its world-famous marbled beef. It’s an opportune occasion to explore Japan’s rich and colourful past, from its must-see highlights to trails that take you away from the crowds.
Cycle the Noto Coastline and through the Japanese Alps
Starting in Kanazawa – renowned for its tea ceremonies, regional handicrafts, Noh theatres and Kaga cooking experiences – there are plenty of ways to get your cultural fix before pedalling your way to the popular Chirihama Beach driveway.
Over seven days, our Noto Coastline and Highlands Cycle adventure will see you riding between rice fields towards the rugged coastline, passing small fishing villages, local shrines and fishermen at work along the way.
See the world’s longest bench (460.9m long) at Masuhogaura Beach, visit the Wajima Morning Market and try your decorative skills on a set of lacquer chopsticks. You’ll have the opportunity to stay in traditional ryokans and one of Japan’s best hot spring resorts, with an overnight experience in a beautifully preserved gassho-zukuri house (meaning "constructed like hands in prayer").
Sample the famous Hida beef in Takayama and learn about traditional salt works used 400 years ago, trying your hand at spraying seawater, which sounds easy but takes years to master.
As you follow beautiful coastlines, where many of the paths are on quiet back roads, each day offers a change of scenery – from a coastal landscape to a mountainous backdrop. For those nervous about steep climbs or the long journey by bike, e-bikes are available on this adventure. There's also a selection of high quality hybrid for a comfortable ride, or drop-bar road bikes for the more avid cyclist.
Dates: 11 Sep – 20 Sep 2019
Duration: 10 days (7 days cycling) | Grading: Moderate (5)
Games you can catch post-trip: You can still catch the RWC opening ceremony in Tokyo on September 20 by catching a four-hour train from Gifu, which is where the tour ends. Alternatively, travel to Osaka (approximately 2.5 hours by train from Gifu), where matches will be held in Higashi-Osaka (Hanazono Rugby Stadium) from September 22, and if you plan to stay longer, head to nearby Kobe (Kobe Misaki Stadium) for the September 26 game.
Combine an ancient pilgrimage hike with urban explorations
From the maze of Tokyo to a historic mountain-bound town in Kiso valley, and incorporating visits to the charming cities of Kyoto and lively Osaka, our most popular Japan itinerary offers a different way to see Japan.
On our Backroads of Japan tour, you’ll have opportunities to experience the tranquility of temple gardens, the wonder of Buddhist arts and architecture and its bohemian street culture.
Image: Felipe Romero Beltran
As well as discovering the melting pot of cultures and enjoying tantalising food, this active itinerary incorporates day walks along a historical pilgrimage trail towards the sacred peak of Omine in Nara. Enjoy a hike that delivers incredible views of Mt Fuji and its five lakes (weather permitting) and explore the legendary trade route which connected the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean.
Image: Felipe Romero Beltran
Be enthralled by the famous Geisha district of Gion in Kyoto, visit scared temples and shrines, and stay in traditional, family run inns – a definite high point of any trip to Japan.
Dates: 5 Sep – 19 Sep, 29 Sep – 13 Oct, 6 Oct – 20 Oct 2019
Duration: 15 days (6 days hiking) | Grading: Introductory (3)
Games you can catch pre or post-trip: The September trip ends in Osaka on September 19, perfectly timed to witness the opening ceremony and match on September 20 at Tokyo Stadium and/or the France v Argentina clash on September 21. If you plan to stay in Osaka, you can catch matches in Higashi-Osaka (Hanazono Rugby Stadium) from September 22, or you can travel to nearby Kobe (Kobe Misaki Stadium) for the September 26 game.
There are plenty of games scheduled to suit those travelling on the late September or early October trips too.
Explore Japan’s charming north
Apart from seeing the RWC games, exploring the rugged yet fascinating region of northern Japan in September and October is one of the best times to visit the region, especially if you want a truly off the beaten path experience.
On the 16-day Japan Northern Explorer trip, there is plenty of time to soak in the natural beauty, relax in natural hot springs, sample an amazing array of fresh local foods – such as Hokkaido’s specialty crab, and learn more about Japanese culture, history and heritage. And with autumn foliage (or koyo) in full swing, you’ll see vibrant waves of red and gold sweeping this stunning half of Japan.
Explore the seaside village of Kamakura – home to the famous Big Buddha and visit breathtaking Nikko with its quiet cedar forests, fascinating World Heritage shrines and temples and world-class hiking trails. Catch a ferry to one of Japan’s best-kept secret islands, Sado, home of the famous Taiko drummers and full of natural splendours and colourful history.
Cruise pine-covered islands in the stunning Matsushima Bay, visit the old castle town of Hirosaki with its culinary specialty of apple pies and “samurai coffee”, enjoy the lively atmosphere of the young city of Sapporo, and prepare a traditional Japanese dinner.
Get a taste of Japanese culture away from the crowds with its legendary hospitality and array of fresh local foods.
Dates: 5 Sep – 20 Sep, 5 Oct – 20 Oct 2019
Duration: 16 days | Grading: Adventure touring (2)
Games you can catch post-trip: Our Japan Northern Explorer trip in September ends in Tokyo, in time for you to make the RWC opening ceremony, as well as some of the tournament's early rounds.
For those touring in October, catch the Quarter Finals or the Bronze Final to top off your Japan holiday.
Your Rugby World Cup adventure starts here, view more Japan trips >