The Rugby World Cup 2019 domestic trophy tour in Japan is well underway, exciting and inspiring tens of thousands of people along the way.
From 5-7 July, the tour visited host city Kobe, and then from there the Webb Ellis Cup moved on to Hiroshima to support the city as it approached the first anniversary of terrible flooding across the region.
While in Kobe, the Webb Ellis Cup took in the city’s China Town – Nankin-machi – where it was photographed with some of the most iconic Chinese food, landmarks and venues in the city. Unsurprisingly, the trophy generated attention from many passing fans, most of whom took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a selfie with it.
After a visit to NHK Kobe, a local media outlet, the Webb Ellis Cup went on display at Kobe Harborland, one of Kobe’s shopping and entertainment districts, where thousands of fans lined up to take a look at the Rugby World Cup 2019 exhibition, have a go at some rugby activities and, of course, take a photo with the trophy.
Day 23 of the #RWC2019 Trophy Tour and the Webb Ellis Cup has arrived in Kobe! Today the trophy visited the city’s Chinatown - Nankinmachi - a centre for the local Chinese community and a famous tourist attraction. 🇯🇵 🏆 🏉 pic.twitter.com/Qx1MbuCVS8— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) July 5, 2019
The following day, the Webb Ellis Cup visited Hyogo Rugby Football School, a longstanding rugby school in the city. In beautiful sunshine, hundreds of fans and players came together to welcome the trophy to Rokko Island Lawn Square. With players and fans of all ages, from pre-schoolers all the way up to seniors at the event, the excitement for the start of the tournament was palpable. Each person demonstrated how much the game means to them and how excited they are to be a part of Rugby World Cup 2019.
Yuto Yahikozawa, a junior high school student at the event, said: “I have played rugby for six years and I love to be part of a team. Playing rugby has taught me so much, such as the importance of working together to reach a common goal and this skill is something I’ll use throughout my life. It is amazing to see the Webb Ellis Cup and I am looking forward to Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.”
The next stop for the Webb Ellis Cup was Hiroshima Prefecture, an area that saw some of the worst damage in Japan a year ago, when 138 people were killed after heavy rain caused landslides and flooding.
The trophy was a welcome addition to an afternoon training session at Onomachi High School, where the rugby club and hundreds of students, teachers, parents and rugby enthusiasts took the opportunity to see rugby’s greatest prize up close.
Kenkichi Yanagawa, captain of the Onomichi High School rugby team, said: “It is amazing to see the Webb Ellis Cup here and I can’t imagine what it must be like to win and hold this trophy in your hands. We are all supporting Rugby World Cup 2019 here and hope to play well so that local people see what a great game rugby is and will be encouraged to get involved.”
On the final day in Hiroshima, former Japan international Kensuke Hatakeyama joined the activities and took the trophy to inspire the next generation of players at Sakamachi Yokohama Elementary School. Sakamachi was an area that was heavily damaged by the flooding last year and Hatakeyama was delighted to be able to help make new memories for some of those involved.
After speaking with students about his Rugby World Cup experiences, Hatakeyama posed for photos and spent some time showing the students some of his skills with a rugby ball. Hatakeyama was accompanied by Rugby World Cup 2019 mascot Ren-G, who received a very warm welcome from the students during the event.
There is no doubt that the students were inspired by the trophy tour, with one commenting: “the Webb Ellis Cup was so shiny – I have never seen anything like it! This was the first time I have seen rugby and I really enjoyed today – I will watch the matches later this year.”
The Webb Ellis Cup followed the school visit with a photo at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Following his day in Hiroshima, Hatakeyama said: “I feel very honoured to have introduced the Rugby World Cup trophy to the people in Hiroshima. I think the people are still recovering from the disaster last year and I really hope the people can continue to move forward as a team, just as we would in rugby. I hope today has excited everyone here and I would encourage everyone to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event, by going to watch matches at the stadium or on the TV.”