On a beautifully crisp, cool, and sunny afternoon on February 27th, I, along with several friends and family had the pleasure of watching the Sunwolves play in their first home game in Tokyo.
The Sunwolves are Japan’s first ever Super Rugby team and this is their inaugural season. And, while the cards are typically stacked against new franchise teams, the elements all conspired to make the day a memorable one for both fans and players.
Playing against the highly ranked Lions from South Africa the Sunwolves came into the match as big underdogs, given little chance of keeping the game close, let alone winning.
Nobody seemed to tell the fans though, as the 20,000 seat Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium was filled to capacity with a massive sea of red clad fans, and even few ginger topped oddballs.
With many fans in costumes, the mood was both festive and seriously supportive of the local team. Let’s be clear, this crowd was here to help launch Super Rugby in Japan and they fully expected a competitive match, believing a win could be had even up until the final closing seconds.
A close, competitive, and entertaining game is what we got. (for a complete review of the match please visit http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/02/399612.html). And in the end, even though the Sunwolves lost 13-26, the fans gave a loud appreciative applause to their new home team as recognition for a game well played.
My hat is off to both the Sunwolves organization for hosting a great home opener. Entry to the event, concessions, and free gifts were all handled without a hitch. The small venue open air Chichibunomiya Stadium is a great rugby venue with open and clear views from all areas in the stands.
If there was one area that could be improved, it would be opening up more exits so the fans could leave the venue more quickly. It took some people almost 30 minutes to get out of the stadium after the match ended.
As we made our way, slowly, out of the stadium, smiling faces and heads held high were seen everywhere. It’s as if everyone knew, a new era of rugby is starting in Japan.
If you’d like to watch a match in person the Sunwolves’ 2016 schedule can be found here.
Tickets range in price from JPY 1,000 for non-reserved standing to JPY 11,000 VIP Seating. This has to be one of the best sporting deals in town.
If you go, be sure to stock up all your favorite food and beverages before you enter the stadium. Unlike, most venues in the west, you are allowed to bring in your own food and even alcoholic drinks to Rugby matches in Japan.
Of course you can get food, soft drinks and beer in the stadium. You’ll just pay more and your choices will be limited.