Find out about the fanzones around Toyota and Shizuoka as well as other attractions in the area
What Rugby World Cup fans can expect in Central Japan
With a week to go before the Rugby World Cup kicks off, two stadiums in the Central Japan area are awaiting fans from all over the world.
The City of Toyota Stadium in Aichi Prefecture is known for its steep and elevated stands, from which fans can command a close and unhindered view of the action below. It is regarded by many as one of the best stadiums to host RWC 2019 matches.
In Shizuoka Prefecture, the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa sits on a hill, and this location has an added bonus: of the 12 World Cup venues, it is the only one from which Mount Fuji can be seen at close range. Supporters can take a short walk to a viewpoint that offers magnificent scenery of the highest mountain in Japan.
Here are the matches being played at these venues…
23 September Wales v Georgia (City of Toyota Stadium)
28 September Japan v Ireland (Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa)
28 September South Africa v Namibia (City of Toyota Stadium)
4 October South Africa v Italy (Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa)
5 October Japan v Samoa (City of Toyota Stadium)
9 October Scotland v Russia (Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa)
11 October Australia v Georgia (Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa)
12 October New Zealand v Italy (City of Toyota Stadium)
The Central Japan area – which encompasses the nine Prefectures of Aichi, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, Mie and Shiga, and includes the three major metropolitan areas of Nagoya, Shizuoka – is getting ready to treat fans from across the globe with Omotenashi, the Japanese spirit of hospitality. And you can experience that at the World Cup fanzones.
Aichi Prefecture and the city of Toyota will co-host a fanzone at the Sky Hall Toyota, where all matches held at the City of Toyota Stadium and more will be shown live on a big screen for free. Sky Hall Toyota is an indoor arena within a 15-minute walk of Toyotashi station on Meitetsu railway, close to the stadium itself.
Live music performances will be held before matches and the venue will be equipped with a bar as well as a variety of food stalls offering local specialties, like pork cutlets with miso sauce.
Here’s the schedule for the Aichi Fanzone…
20 September 3-10pm, Japan v Russia
23 September 3-10pm, Wales v Georgia
28 September noon-10pm, Japan v Ireland, South Africa v Namibia
5 October noon-10pm, Japan v Samoa
12 October 10am-10pm, New Zealand v Italy
13 October 3-10pm, Japan v Scotland
19 October 3-9.15pm, Quarter-finals
20 October 3-9.15pm, Quarter-finals
26 October 3-7pm, Semi-final
27 October 3-8pm, Semi-final
2 November 3-8.30pm, Final
Shizuoka Prefecture plans to set up Omotenashi Areas – multiple-event zones – between the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa and nearby railway station, Aino, on match days. Those zones will be lined with rows of stalls offering local specialties such as Fujinomiya Yakisoba (noodles fried with vegetables and pork crackling), as well as a variety of local products including green tea.
There will also be live shows of traditional Japanese music before the matches, as well as fireworks after them to celebrate the efforts made by both teams.
Here are the Shizuoka Omotenashi Areas opening hours…
28 September 11am-9.30pm
4 October 1.30-9.50pm
9 October 11am-9pm
11 October 2-9.50pm
How to get there
The Shinkansen is a simpler and smarter way to travel between Tokyo and the Central Japan area. It only takes one hour and half to reach Nagoya from Tokyo by bullet train, without the hassle of a security check, while enjoying a magnificent view of Mount Fuji from a seat on the right-hand side of the car. JR-Central offers a free app to book and manage your Shinkansen ticket, handy for securing the best seat.
What to see
Ukai, or cormorant fishing, is a traditional business dating back more than 1300 years and is similar in nature to falconry. The fisher, in a traditional dark attire with water-repellent straw skirt, controls as many as 12 cormorants.
When the fisher calls the birds back, they discharge their catch of sweetfish, which is prized among the Japanese. A loosely-attached collar made from hemp keeps the larger fish in the cormorant’s throat pouch and allows the smaller ones to be swallowed as their reward.
A strong bond between the fisher and each of the birds is vital for successful fishing. A Ukai master would describe their cormorants as partners or family; so strong is the bond that the fisher keeps retired birds until they live out their lives.
This traditional way of fishing used to be popular throughout Japan, but now it has become a rarity. The two rivers in Central Japan, Nagara River in Gifu and Kiso River in Aichi, are the rare places where one may see the most impressive performances of cormorant fishing.
What to eat
Sweet, tender, juicy, melt-in-the-mouth… no written words are enough to explain the supreme taste of Wagyu, the Japanese super-beef. While Kobe beef has pioneered the export of Japanese beef and is probably the most well-known brand of Wagyu, the Central Japan area offers three prominent Wagyu brands that parallel Kobe in quality – Matsusaka, Omi and Hida.
The secret of Wagyu lies in its fat. The Wagyu meat contains lots of unsaturated fat with a very low melting point, some as low as 13°C, which is less than half as low as regular beef. This fat does not come as white streaks running through the meat, but is evenly distributed, like the pattern of marble. The result is a meat that literally dissolves and releases its rich flavor in the mouth.
What to do
Asaichi, the morning market, has long been a feature of rural Japan. While most of them have not survived to this date, two of the remaining few are held in the Central Japan area.
One of them is in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture. It is open 8am to noon every day bar the second and fourth Wednesday every month. With 200 stalls packed into a 360-metre stretch of the street, it is regarded as the best morning market in Japan.
Since Wajima is a fishing port, seafood can be found at virtually every stall. You can buy fresh fish just off the boat and have it made into mouthwatering sashimi, or get a steamed abalone sliced up to go for later enjoyment.
In stark contrast to Wajima, the morning market in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, is dominated by farm produce. Almost all of the fruits and vegetables found there are locally grown, some of them organic. Different produce like tomatoes, peaches, grapes, pears, apples and persimmons occupy the stalls according to the seasons.
It is open 7am to noon from April to November to 8am to noon from December to March.