- Newly-built stadium opens with symbolic match between Kamaishi Seawaves Rugby Football Club and Japanese Top League side Yamaha Júbilo
- The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium is the only newly-built facility of the 12 Rugby World Cup venues
- Venue with 16,000 capacity to play host to two Rugby World Cup matches
- Local community rallies around rugby following the devastation caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami
The newly-built Rugby World Cup 2019 venue Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate Prefecture opened today with a memorial match between the local Kamaishi Seawaves Rugby Football Club and Top League side Yamaha Júbilo.
The match was the culmination of a weekend of rugby-themed events marking the beginning of a new chapter in the remarkable story of Kamaishi, a city for which rugby plays such an important role – in its history, present and its future.
The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and the tsunami that followed brought considerable devastation and loss of life to Kamaishi and the surrounding area. A bustling port town on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Kamaishi bore the full force of the tsunami as it came ashore in the north east of Japan. Throughout the area, 30 per cent of homes were either damaged or destroyed, 60 per cent of businesses were completely inundated, and 98 per cent of the local fishing fleet was wiped out.
Players from the local rugby team, while initially focused on supporting the relief and recovery effort, were encouraged by the people of Kamaishi to return to the rugby pitch as quickly as possible to begin training for the upcoming season. Being a town so closely tied to its rugby team, rugby was recognised as an important way of helping to bring a sense of normal life back to the people of the city during a time of incredible hardship.
On 5 June, 2011, less than three months after the earthquake and tsunami, Kamaishi welcomed Yamaha Júbilo for the first match of the season. It was therefore highly symbolic and with a great sense of pride that the people of Kamaishi and the Seawaves Rugby Football Club welcomed Yamaha Júbilo back for this special memorial match to mark the opening of the new stadium.
Kamaishi has a long and successful rugby history. The previous local team, Nippon Steel won seven consecutive national championships between 1979 and 1985, earning them the nickname, ‘The Northern Iron Men’.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The opening of the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium marks a very special moment on the journey to Rugby World Cup 2019. The stadium stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people of Kamaishi and will act as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come, providing an important legacy for the future of this region of Japan that has rugby at its heart.
“Rugby World Cup will bring four top international teams, thousands of fans and the attention of the world to the region next year and promises to be one of the highlights of the event. World Rugby will continue to work closely with the organising committee and the Iwate Prefecture to ensure that the venue is a success, both for the Rugby World Cup, and for the future of the region.”
Built on the former site of the local Elementary and Junior High Schools, construction of the stadium began in April 2017. The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium is the only newly-built facility of the 12 Rugby World Cup venues. It has a permanent capacity for 6,000 spectators, however during next year’s tournament 10,000 additional temporary seats will be added, bringing the total capacity of the stadium to 16,000 for the two Rugby World Cup fixtures.
The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium will host Fiji versus Uruguay in Pool D on 25 September, 2019, followed by the Pool B match on 13 October between Namibia, who secured their place at Rugby World Cup 2019 yesterday, and the winner of the repechage tournament, which will take place in November in Marseille, France.
Tekenori Noda, Mayor of Kamaishi City, said: “Today has been an incredible day for Kamaishi. To have played the opening match in this beautiful stadium, completed with the support and vision of so many people, is a dream come true. Thank you to our friends from Yamaha Júbilo who have once again shown their commitment and solidarity with the people of Kamaishi. We now look forward to welcoming people from across the world to Kamaishi during Rugby World Cup 2019 and beyond.”
Akira Shimazu, Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee President and CEO, said: “Congratulations to the people of Kamaishi in taking this important step forward with the opening of this wonderful rugby stadium. Kamaishi will be one of the great stories of Rugby World Cup 2019 and I am delighted that the tournament will help to bring this inspiring story of survival, resilience and reconstruction to the world.”
Rugby World Cup 2019 will be the first time the tournament will be held in Asia. More than 400,000 foreign visitors are anticipated to travel to Japan to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.
With 48 matches played across 12 host cities stretching from the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern island of Kyushu, visiting fans will get to experience the amazing regional diversity Japan has to offer while being a part of the world’s premier rugby tournament.
The next opportunity to secure tickets begins on 19 September with the opening of the General Ticket Sales Ballot open to the general public. Fans who have been unsuccessful in securing tickets so far are encouraged to keep trying as tickets are still available for all matches and in all categories, across the entire tournament. For further information visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets.