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Sunday 17 March 2019

Kyoto calls to sports fans

Late least year I had the good fortune to spend some time in Kyoto, the ancient capital and cultural heart of Japan. 

My time in the City of Shrines was fleeting, but I was hugely impressed with the vibrancy of the city and way both new and old had combined. 

The Rugby World Cup 2019 will be held in Japan for the first time and while no matches are planned in Kyoto, the city is still a must-visit, luring travellers with a deep-rooted history and connection with rugby.

Several World Cup games will be played in Kobe City, just a short train ride away. 
First introduced by an English educator, Edward Bramwell Clarke, who taught the game to students of Keio University in Tokyo in 1899, rugby quickly gained popularity and, in 1969, the commemorative stone monument, Dai-isshuu-no-chi(“The location of the First Kick”) was donated to Kyoto's Shimogamo-jinja Shrine near the Tadasu-no-mori Forest, where the Kyoto rugby team used to practice. 

Since then, the shrine has become a place of worship associated with rugby.
Kyoto's connection with the sport on the international scene was further deepened when it played host to the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw in May 2017. This was the first time a pool draw for the Rugby World Cup took place outside of the UK and Ireland.

Other sporting highlights in Kyoto include:the wooden Budo Center (above), which is the historical home for judo, kendo (Japanese fencing), karate, sumo, kyudo (Japanese archery) and naginata (long-handled sword). 

Originally called Butoku-den, and established in 1899, the oldest martial arts building in Japan, the Budo Center is not only used for competitions but also as a daily sports training site by Kyoto citizens.

Kyoto also hosts an annual international marathon and is home to a J2 League team, the magnificently named Kyoto Purple Sanga.  
For more information, visit

Qantas flies direct between Sydney and Osaka Kansai three times a week with economy return fares starting from $1156 per person. Kyoto is a short train ride from Kansai Osaka Airport.

The writer was a guest of Kansai Gastronomy Tourism Promotion Council and associated companies, including Keihan Holdings and JR West. Pick up the Osaka-Kansai Gourmet Food Map when you arrive for some helpful regional itineraries.

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