National | Regional voices: Chubu

Host cities prepare for 2019 Rugby World Cup with ball-shaped lanterns and manjū cakes

Chunichi Shimbun

Cities and prefectures hosting games in the 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC) to be held in Japan in fall 2019 are gearing up to promote the sports spectacle as the application deadline for priority ticket sales for their residents draws near.

Residents of Aichi Prefecture as well as other host sites have until Thursday to submit their applications for the ticket drawings.

One of the host cities in the prefecture, Toyota, is working hard to boost public awareness of the international sports event, which is just under a year and a half away.

In the Asuke district in the northern part of Toyota, a local tourism association is trying to combat low awareness by creating oval-shaped lanterns resembling rugby balls. Other host sites have also launched a range of novel promotional efforts, including adding rugby designs to the license plates of public vehicles. Asuke will host a match between Japan and the New Zealand national rugby team known as the All Blacks.

The district is also home to a tradition of lighting handmade lanterns called Tankororin at dusk each August. The lanterns are made by wrapping Japanese paper around bamboo baskets that are then placed on the floor to light pathways. The lanterns are typically cylindrical in shape, but Toshio Taguchi, head of the Asuke Tourist Association, came up with the idea of shaping them to resemble rugby balls and displaying them as if they were midway toward a goal post on a rugby field. He hopes to raise spirits in the community ahead of the game.

“I tried to come up with a way to use something that we are famous for in the PR,” the 71-year-old leader said. Eight lanterns were made, each approximately 30 centimeters long. Taguchi plans to place them in the city hall, at Toyota Stadium and in other places. Preparations are also underway to create a giant 2-meter-long Tankororin.

Meanwhile, Japanese confectionery shop Fugai, located in the same district, is working to create oval-shaped grilled manjū buns. The buns are filled with a sweet bean paste made using local matcha tea in hopes of evoking an image of rugby playing fields. The manjū will be available for purchase next month.

The city of Seki, Gifu Prefecture, one of the candidate cities to host campsites for national teams of different countries, is also making an effort to promote the global sports event, with 10 percent of approximately all 250 city vehicles now sporting the license plates bearing rugby designs. The plates have been created specially by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and are decorated with illustrations of rugby balls. Seki is home to Seki Shoko High School, which has made it to the National High School Rugby Tournament 37 times in its history. Because of this, many residents — from young children to adults — are familiar with the sport, with about 350 children from 14 of the city’s 19 elementary schools attending its elementary school tournament last November.

The elementary school team in the city, known as Seki rugby school, has taken part in the national tournament for two years in a row. Moreover, more girls in the city are playing rugby these days.

The competition to host team camp sites, where members of national teams will stay and train during the RWC, is also heating up. There are currently 76 candidate sites nationwide, with eight cities from the three prefectures in the Tokai region and Shiga Prefecture in the running.

Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, which became a candidate host for a team campsite after being recommended by a member of the RWC organizing committee, is home to the Honda Heat — a top- tier professional team that boasts a complete sports field and related facilities.

The city also hosted the campsite for Costa Rica during the 2002 FIFA World Cup jointly held with South Korea. “I believe that seeing the world’s top athletes in action can give children hopes and dreams,” said Takayuki Imamura, head of the national sports festival promotion division of the Suzuka Municipal Government. The hosts for the team campsites are due to be announced soon.

Meanwhile, host city residents will soon be able to enjoy the building excitement ahead of the Rugby World Cup as a draw will be held to allocate priority ticket sales. The draw will take place six months ahead of the general sales application, which starts Sept. 19. “(Residents) will have a higher chance of getting selected for popular matches, such as the one between Japan and the powerhouse All Blacks,” a Toyota city representative said.

Tickets for matches involving the Japanese team to be held in Toyota start at ¥10,000, while those with lesser-known teams, such as Wales versus Georgia, begin at ¥5,000.

The city hopes that the price difference will tempt people to attend more games.

The 2015 RWC in England, where the sport originated, saw a record-breaking 2.47 million tickets sold. However, since this will be the first time the tournament is held in Asia, the target is to sell at least 1.8 million tickets for the 48 matches.

Those wishing to enter the ticket draw must register on the official RWC website. Tickets will not be sold at stadium counters — a move aimed at preventing ticket resales. The method, however, has been unpopular with seniors and others who have faced difficulties using smartphones and computers to buy or register.

The RWC will be held from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2, 2019, in 12 cities, with 20 teams participating.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on March 31.

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