Kanagawa Prefecture, just south of Tokyo, is where history saw the transition of Japan from an isolated island nation to a member of the world community.

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“Minato Mirai is the representative sightseeing spot of Yokohama”

And when it comes to Japan and the international community, Yokohama City can justifiably lay claim to the title of “Japan’s Portal to the World.” Although there were other restricted ports used by the early Dutch and Chinese traders (most notably Dejima in Nagasaki), it was the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy in Kanagawa and his negotiation of the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 that truly expanded Japan’s exposure to the rest of the world. Today, that small and sleepy fishing hamlet where Perry laid anchor is now Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city and the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture.

Visitors to Kanagawa will discover a wonderfully diverse range of scenic, historical and modern points of interest. Kanagawa ranks among the most popular destinations in Japan for natural attractions such as hot springs (Hakone, Yugawara), mountains (spectacular views of Mt. Fuji in addition to peaks within the prefecture) and beaches (Enoshima, one of Japan’s top surfing spots). Its close proximity to Tokyo has resulted in a sophisticated transportation infrastructure that seamlessly links the two for commuters and tourists alike; whether you are based in Yokohama or Tokyo, you are assured of convenient access to both.

To take a look at Kanagawa and Yokohama from the perspective of rugby, it is essential to return to the history of the area as Japan opened to Western nations in the mid-19th century. At the time, Yokohama became the key port facility closest to the capital of Edo (the former name for Tokyo) for the American, British, French, Dutch and Russian legations that were allowed to settle by treaty. A vital part of this initial influx of foreigners were the military garrisons that were stationed to protect the residents and maintain order in the foreign enclave. The rise in foreign residents saw growth in facilities, services and activities that catered especially for the newcomers, who looked to build a town that would meet European standards of society, culture and daily life.

As the first port with a large international population, Yokohama helped introduce many ideas never seen before in Japan. The first beer brewed in the country, the first daily newspaper, the first railway, even the first ice cream all originated in Yokohama. And it was not solely Western European influences; the spurt in Chinese residents led to the establishment of one of the largest Chinatown communities in the world.

In those early days of the settlement (from the 1860s), the search for recreational activities, a large number of young military men needing an outlet for pent-up energy, and perhaps not a small bit of homesickness all contributed to the establishment of groups and clubs in a number of sports – horse racing, rugby and cricket were among the most popular. The Yokohama Foot Ball Club, the Yokohama Cricket Club, the Yokohama Athletic Club, and the Yokohama Baseball Club were thus established, and rugby fans should note the role played by Yokohama Cricket Club co-founder George Hamilton, a Rugby School alumnus and a longtime captain of that club’s rugby team. All these clubs used the fine ground and facilities created by the cricket club in what is now Yokohama Park.

Of particular interest to the global rugby family is the current holder of these clubs’ proud legacy, the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club (YC&AC).  The YC&AC was the result of the amalgamation of several of these clubs to streamline management, first consolidated as the Yokohama Cricket & Athletic Club in 1884. The club’s historian Mike Galbraith has found mentions in period newspapers that the Yokohama Foot Ball Club, one of the original clubs that merged into YC&AC, was established in 1866. This would make the club, and by extension rugby’s Yokohama history, not just the oldest in Asia, but also among the oldest in the world.

The YC&AC is still a vital part of the rugby community in Japan, hosting many matches and events at their grounds and clubhouse. It provides a living link to rugby’s start and current popularity in Japan, and like Kanagawa and the city of Yokohama, it promises to be a worthy and enthusiastic host for the many fans expected to visit Japan during the Rugby World Cup 2019.

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“The Yokohama Landmark Tower and the Minato Mirai 21 district”

Yokohama has many popular tourist attractions, including the Motomachi and Yamate districts, where visitors can enjoy shopping in a cosmopolitan atmosphere, the Yokohama Landmark Tower, which affords spectacular views of Mt. Fuji (a World Heritage Site), and the Minato Mirai 21 district, with its extensive shopping malls. 

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“Fireworks festival in Yokohama”

A wide variety of special events are held in Yokohama throughout the year, attracting large numbers of both domestic and international visitors to the city.

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“Yokohama Yamatenishi Western-style buildings”

Chinatown, one of the largest in East Asia, is packed with a cluster of more than 600 restaurants and souvenir shops. In Motomachi/Yamate, an attractive area with an exotic feel, visitors enjoy shopping streets. Minato Mirai is the representative sightseeing spot of Yokohama. Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is composed of Aquamuseum, shopping malls, a hotel, a marina, etc.

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Venue – International Stadium Yokohama
http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/venues/international-stadium-yokohama

For additional information on Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama City and its attractions, please see this link:

Tokyo Day Trip - Kanagawa Travel Info -
https://trip.pref.kanagawa.jp/

Japan National Tourism Organization
https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/kanagawa/

Yokohama Official Visitors Guide
http://www.yokohamajapan.com