Rugby World Cup 2019: What to do in Japan

People walking in Shibuya  shopping district.
Photo credit: Getty

Of course your main priority in Japan during the World Cup is going to be watching the rugby, but that doesn't mean you can't also get your fill of shopping and cultural events too.

Whether it be eating and drinking yourself into oblivion, or taking a more refined approach and exploring the myriad of cultural gems on offer, Japan has something for everyone. 

The All Blacks will be playing matches in Yokohama, Oita City, Tokyo and Toyota City, giving you the perfect chance to experience a variety of places around Japan.

Here's some of our top tips to make the most of those cities.

Yokohama
 

Japan's second-largest city, Yokohama has a population of more than 3 million.

Although considered a city in its own right - and of course it is - there is no true divide between Yokohama and Tokyo, it's really just one mass of urban sprawl. 

But just because it is located so close to Tokyo doesn't mean you should overlook it for its bigger, more bustling neighbour - Yokohama has plenty worth seeing in its own right.

The famous sites

Rugby World Cup 2019: What to do in Japan
Photo credit: Getty

Chinatown

Yokohama is perhaps most famous for its Chinatown - the biggest in Japan. 

Chinatown (Yokohama Chukagai) is located in the heart of Yokohama and boasts around 600 shops and restaurants.

The town was established in 1859 and was originally home to many Chinese traders who settled in the city.

If you want to give Japanese food a break for a day, but still make the most of being in Asia, this is your chance to sample food from a variety of regions in China.

Also check out the Kanteibyo shrine, dedicated to a famous general from a well-known Chinese historical novel.

Minato Mirai 21

Minato Mirai 21 is located right on the water downtown (close to Chinatown) and provides a host of things to do. 

Containing a shopping centre, amusement park, hot spring baths and museum, it's a great place to get some shopping done or dig into some high-quality restaurants.

Off the beaten path

KAMAKURA, KANAGAWA PROVINVCE, JAPAN - 2017/07/03: The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amitabha Buddha at the Kotoku-in Temple. The statue commonly known as Kamakura Daibutsu that was designated a National Treasure by the Japanese government. Approximately 11.3 meters tall and weighs approximately 121 tons. Built began in 1252 in the Kamakura period according to temple records. (Photo by Satoshi Takahashi/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

Kamakura

If you want to take the opportunity to head a little further afield, then a trip to Kamakura - formerly the capital of Japan - is a perfect day trip.

Less than an hour away by train, Kamakura's most famous site is the Great Buddha (Kamakura Daibutsu), a bronze statue of Amida Buddha dating back to 1252.

The city is also located on the coast, so it's worth leaving time to go for a walk around the city and pay a visit to the beach. 

Cup Noodle Museum

If you are into more niche tourism consider checking out the city's Cup Noodle Museum (because, yes, that exists). 

This interactive museum teaches visitors about the father of instant ramen, Momofuku Ando, and is, strangely, focussed on creative thinking.

According to its website, by visiting the museum, "You will gather the knowledge that inspires invention and discovery and the find the creativity within you by seeing, touching, playing, eating and having fun." Hmmm.

There is also a ramen museum if you want to make a day of noodle-related activities.

A night out

If you are heading for some drinks, don't miss Noge Tabemono Yokocho.

Noge Alley has loads of traditional style bars that are popular with locals and tourists alike.

Oita
 

When it comes to Oita, there is only one word: onsen.

The pic of Japanese open air hot spa Onsen
Photo credit: Getty

Onsen

With so many hot springs to choose between it's hard to know which ones are best, but top picks include Myobanyu no Sato, Nagayu Onsen and Sujiyu Onsen.

If you are nursing a hangover after a hard night out, this could be just the place to recover. Just remember that if you have a prominent tattoo, you might have to give this activity a miss.

Oita Prefectural Art Museum

If you want a more cultural experience, considering checking out the Oita Prefectural Art Museum (OPAM). The building is designed by Shigeru Ban (who also designed the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch), so is not to be missed if you are an architecture fan.

It's located around 15 minutes' walk from Oita Station. 

Yufuin

A little further afield - around an hour from central Oita - is Yufuin.

This onsen town is surrounded by mountains and has an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, cafes and art museums. 

Tokyo
 

Like all great cities Tokyo offers pretty much anything you could imagine.

The main attractions include the Imperial Palace, Akihabara electronics district and the famous traffic crossing of Shibuya, among others.

The famous sites

Sensouji Nakmise market at Asakusa
Photo credit: Getty

Asakusa

If you want to experience a taste of the old Tokyo then the best place to go to is Asakusa.

The main attraction here is the Sensoji Buddhist temple, built in the seventh century, but the temple is surrounded by bustling shops and restaurants filled with souvenirs and traditional food.

If you really want to pretend you have slipped back in time you can also take a ride in a rickshaw.

Meiji Shrine/Yoyogi Park/Harajuku

If the weather is nice, grab some beer or chuhai from a convenience store and head to Yoyogi Park.

This is a great place to people watch and is right next to Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu), which is also a nice place to have a walk around.

When you have had enough of tradition, make sure to visit nearby Harajuku to see Tokyo's crazy fashion scene first-hand.

Off the beaten track

SHANGHAI, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 11: Visitors enjoy themselves at 'Forest of Lamps' in teamLab Borderless museum on September 11, 2019 in Shanghai, China. World's second teamLab Borderless museum will officially open in Nov in Shanghai. (Photo by Zhang Hengwei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

Team Lab Borderless

If you have the time, Team Lab Borderless is definitely worth a visit. 

Located in the Odaiba area, this is a digital art museum that needs to be seen to be believed. The art here is dynamic and constantly changing, containing stunning installations, light shows and more.

Queues for tickets on the day can be long, however, so it's best to buy them in advance online.

Mario Kart

For anyone who wants to see Tokyo from a unique perspective, then MariCAR is a must-do. 

Based on the Mario Kart game, this gives you the chance to dress up in a costume and go-kart your way around the city, passing Tokyo Tower, Roppongi and Shibuya.

If you are keen, just make sure you have an international driving licence.

A night out

Located near Shinjuku, Golden Gai is made up of a collection of narrow streets containing more than 200 small bars and restaurants. 

Formerly a black market, the restaurants here are often so small they can only fit a handful of people.

This place definitely has a charm of its own.  A word of warning though, some bars only accept regulars and not all restaurants have English menus.

Toyota City
 

It will come as no surprise that Toyota City is intricately linked with the car company of the same name.

In fact, the city was named Koromo until 1959, when it became Toyota City in honour of the giant automobile manufacture.

Car lovers can check out the Toyota Kaikan Museum to learn more about the famous Japanese company.

The museum showcases Toyota's latest offerings and also has a history of the company. 

It is also possible to take a tour of the Toyota plant (in English), but bookings must be made online in advance.

If you want to juxtapose the technology of Toyota with something a little more dated, try visiting Sanshu Asuke Yashiki.

This working open-air museum aims to keep alive almost-forgotten traditional Japanese handicrafts.

You can watch as skilled craftspeople demonstrate techniques of weaving and making items like paper umbrellas, before giving it a go yourself.

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