The Daniels Trip to Japan for the Rugby World Cup 2019
The idea for a trip started in 2018, as they often do, over a second bottle of wine following a lovely meal. I realised that the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019 was due to be played the next year in Japan. I love Rugby and my wife, Verena, loved the idea of visiting Japan for the art and culture. We started looking at how to do it. I signed up to receive the Package information from the Official Agency but when this arrived there were two major issues with the tours. 1) They were very very expensive and 2) They were heavily biased towards watching as many rugby games as possible with very little in the way of discovering anything about Japan.
I then thought of Andrew Rowden who had arranged holidays for some friends of ours. By now 2 friends said they would like to join us so I set Andrew the challenge of planning a visit to Japan to fit in with England’s four preliminary round matches. In a short while he provided us with an outline itinerary covering the match locations as well as some side trips during the lull between matches. This covered nearly 4 weeks and the price quoted was well below the standard package price with much more included.
We said yes to Andrew and he booked us in towards the end of 2018. After discussions about flights he arranged for the return flights to be Business Class with Cathay Pacific and all for not much more than BA Premium Economy flights.
A few weeks prior to departing Andrew met up with us to provide all the documentation for the trip as well as a detailed itinerary covering each day that included Hotels (and how to get to them), Travel on Plane and train (including departure and arrival times for all travel) and in addition a number of side trips and activities for us to do whilst at various locations.
The Itinerary pack proved to be invaluable and was very dog eared by the end of the trip. We managed to catch all the right trains and planes during the 3 and a half week trip. The hotels were of generally a fairly good standard although some rooms were a bit small. We had been well briefed, however, and used the luggage forwarding systems so we didn’t have to do much travelling carrying our full luggage with us.
What were the Highlights? Too many to say really. The Rugby games were good and had a great atmosphere as well as the right results! Kobe was a bustling city with many great restaurants to try out. It was very moving to spend some time in Hiroshima and understand the horror that was visited on that city in 1945. There were lighter moments, however and I really enjoyed watching the Ireland vs Japan game in a Bar and experiencing the delight of the normally reserved Japanese when their team was victorious. Kyoto was where we experienced the Tea Ceremony and understood some of the rituals that accompanied it. Tokyo is so vast and there are so many people travelling about you wonder where everyone is going. Experiencing Shinjuku station (actually I think there are about 5 stations in one location) on the way to the Rugby game was quite frightening, but again our trusty travel book got us through. Travelling on the Bullet trains was a very pleasant experience with great speed, comfort, cleanliness and above all timeliness. Some of the Temples we visited were amazing creations with spectacular architecture and decorations. At Hakone we stayed in a Japanese Honcan which gave us the typical Japanese way of sleeping and eating. I experienced food that I never would have ordered but trying it when it was put in front of you was often rewarding. A trip round the sightseeing route using train, cable car, ropeway and Pirate Ship that included fantastic views of Mount Fuji was a great day out. Yokohama was interesting as our visit timed to coincide with a Super Typhoon (and as it happened an earthquake at the same time!) this meant that the final game was cancelled but it was quite understandable.
The main thing we got wrong was our expectation of the weather! It was hot. Often 28 degrees during the day and still 20 degrees overnight. Consequently many of our thicker clothes spent the trip in our suitcases being transported around Japan. Also need to mention the Japanese people who were most willing and helpful wherever we went. You only had to stand looking confused looking at a map and someone would come to help you (even if they didn’t speak English!). In one case a man went out of his way to escort us to our hotel.
All in all this visit surpassed my expectation. All my worries about being stuck, lost in Japan were groundless because of the pre briefing and the superb Itinerary Booklet provided. Thank you Andrew Rowden who together with Inside Japan made this trip so memorable for all the right reasons.