The England Trail: A Rugby Fan’s Itinerary

Lily Crossley-Baxter

Follow England’s Rugby World Cup matches and you’ll be up and down Japan like nobody’s business, but we can help you make the most of it.

rugby world cup england
Photo by David Barkhausen used under CC

England’s games are a where’s where of Japan, with matches held just days apart on the northernmost island of Hokkaido and then the heart of Kansai. There are, of course, games in Tokyo and Yokohama, but mixed with the above locations could mean you spend more time on the train than in the stadiums. But who cares right? You’re here to support your team and that’s what matters—so we made an itinerary for you, covering everything from transport to sightseeing. And don’t forget to check out our beginner basics to visiting Japan.

Pro tip: Consider getting a Japan Rail Pass to save money traveling around Japan, and grab a wifi router or prepaid SIM card to make navigation and communication easy.

The fixtures: who, where, and when

With a guaranteed four games and a potential seven, this is the fixture list you’re probably all too familiar with already.



  • Sun Sep 22nd | England vs Tonga | Sapporo
  • Thu Sep 26th | England vs USA | Kobe
  • Sat Oct 05th | England vs Argentina | Tokyo
  • Sat Oct 12th | England vs France | Yokohama

If England succeeds, they’ll play their next game down in Oita before (fingers crossed) heading to Tokyo and Yokohama for the semi-finals and final match which brings the event to an end on November 2nd.

Getting around Japan

rugby world cup england in Japan
On clear days, Mount Fuji is visible from the bullet train. | Photo by hans-johnson used under CC

Assuming you’re planning to travel to all matches, tickets or not, this would garner quite some mileage. If you make it from Sapporo through to Tokyo for the final, you will clock up over 4,300 km, which is no mean feat. Your transportation options are any combination of rental car, flights, bullet trains and night buses, depending on your budget, schedule and driving credentials.

For our suggested itinerary, we suggest a mix of flights and trains for the trip (with options for night buses too)—combining passes for good value but avoiding excessively time-consuming options. If you have a plan in mind and you’re wondering whether to splash out for the Japan Rail Pass, we suggest you use our JR Calculator to work out the costs. If you have an international driver’s license (or can get one in time), have a read of our guide to renting cars here (luckily it’s the same side of the road as home!).

England’s RWC 2019 schedule: Game by game

This rough itinerary takes you from Sapporo to Tokyo with a few stops and a few thousand kilometers in between. We divided it into chunks based around the home city of each game—enjoy!

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Game #1: Sapporo | Sep 22nd | Free time: Explore Hokkaido

rugby world cup england
Photo by Luca Sartoni used under CC

Sapporo is a great city with a reputation for food and beer—so it’s a pretty ideal place to start your explorations of Japan. If you have a few days to spare then explore Hokkaido—a nature lover’s paradise.

Things to do: Choose from fish markets, museums towers and more
What to eat: Known for butter ramen, beer and potatoes, the area is a gourmand’s paradise.
Day trips: Hokkaido has natural beauty, creepy prisons and lots of roadtrip and hiking opportunities.
Travel: Learn how to kill time at the airport and read our tips on getting to Tokyo.

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Travelling from Sapporo to Kobe (or Osaka)

Your options for the longest stretch of travel on the trip:

Trains

This option takes 11 hours in total and costs around ¥37,000. You could use the JR Pass and make stops along the way.

Driving

This is a 21-hour drive so could be stretched out over a few days with stops in either Niigata, Nagano, Kanazawa and Osaka if you stick to the coast, or Sendai, Nagano and Nagano if you stay more central (we suggest the first option).

Flights

Cutting your journey time down to just over two hours, you can fly on budget airline Peach to Osaka.



RouteAirlineOne-way FareBooking
Sapporo => OsakaPeach¥11,370 (US$106)Details
Sapporo => OsakaANA¥11,815 (US$110)Details
Sapporo => OsakaJapan Airlines¥17,055 (US$158)Details
Sapporo => OsakaSkymark Airlines¥19,294 (US$179)Details

Game #2: Kobe | Sep 26th | Free time: Explore Kansai

rugby world cup england
The famous Dotonburi area. | Photo by Jonathan Konitz used under CC

We suggest you head to Osaka for a night or two before you hit Kobe, since it’s another city known for food and drink. The city is famous for kuidaore—meaning “eating yourself to bankruptcy”—and you’ll soon see why.

Things to do: Check out the top ten sights, rainy day options and our favourite area (Shinsekai) to keep busy.
What to eat: Local speciality kushikatsu is the perfect pairing for all the craft beer here.
Day trips: Explore islands, mountains and onsen towns or visit nearby Kyoto and Nara.
Travel: If you’re arriving into Kansai Airport here’s how to get into town—be it Kobe, Kyoto or Osaka.

Travelling from Kobe to Tokyo

The journey from Kobe to Tokyo is a pretty well-worn route with a lot of options to choose from. While you’re in Kansai we suggest spending a few days exploring, and have guides on getting back to Tokyo from Osaka and from Kyoto too—but if you’re heading back from Kobe, read on below.

Trains

The fastest option is to hop on the bullet train from Shin-Kobe (two minutes from Sannomiya Station by subway) as the journey takes around two and a half hours, costing ¥14,160 for an unreserved seat. Non-bullet train options require upwards of five transfers, take around 9 hours and cost the same if not more—so you might as well enjoy the spacious seats of the bullet train!

Night buses

The best budget option, night buses are a slightly grim but affordable way to get from A to B, with the bonus of avoiding accommodation costs for the night. Buses from Kobe Sannomiya are available from JR and Willer, starting from as low as ¥3,600 although prices vary so book as early as you can. We suggest chekcing Kosoku for the best options. And of course day buses are an option too if you prefer!

Driving

If you drive straight you can reach Tokyo in just under seven hours (avoiding tolls) if you travel via Nagoya. Along the way you could stop off in Gifu, potentially expanding the trip to take in Takayama before heading on through Yamanashi and going past Fuji and the five lakes of Kawaguchiko.

Flights

If you opt to fly from Kobe, you’ll be best off with Skymark who offer direct flights to Haneda (the most central Tokyo airport) starting at around ¥7,000. If you go from Osaka, you’ll have your pick of budget airlines including Peach and Jetstar, with flights starting at around ¥4,000, although these go to Narita Airport.

RouteAirlineOne-way FareBooking
Kobe => TokyoSkymark Airlines¥7,614 (US$71)Details
Kobe => TokyoANA¥8,325 (US$77)Details
RouteAirlineOne-way FareBooking
Osaka => TokyoANA¥8,558 (US$80)Details

Game #3: Tokyo | Oct 5th | Free time: See the city

asakusa hotel
Photo by Elena Gurzhiy used under CC

Tokyo has a thousand and one things to do—so start off with our basic guides and see what takes your fancy! We have area guides as well as events listings, so you can make the most of what’s going on in the city while you’re here.

Things to do: 101 ideas to start you off, a 24-hour guide and our events!
What to eat: A foodie itinerary, the best fish markets and themed restaurants.
Day trips: Check out these these evergreen ideas or go for the autumnal feels instead.
Travel: Travelling in Tokyo is easy—read up on travel cards, download the apps and get exploring!

Travelling from Tokyo to Yokohama

Yokohama is a half-hour journey from Tokyo, and while trains will be busy, they won’t be difficult to navigate. Check our guide to getting there and leave yourself plenty of travel time on match day.

Game #4: Yokohama | Oct 12th | Free time: Explore the city

Yokohama Minatomirai rugby world cup england itinerary
Photo by Aotaro used under CC

Yokohama is only half an hour from Tokyo and is the second biggest city in Japan—so there’s plenty to explore. We suggest visiting for a day or two to make the most of it (and avoid crowded trains after the match)!

Things to do: A great day-trip destination, Yokohama has art, gardens, museums and more.
What to eat: Head to Asia’s largest Chinatown, visit the Cup Noodle Museum or the Showa-themed ramen museum.

Travelling from Yokohama to Oita

Getting to Oita requires a flight or bullet train, as the other options are long and pricy (it is just over 900 km to be fair). However, if you want to make some stops along the way it could be worthwhile.

Trains

Catching the shinkansen to Kokura and then a Limited Express to Oita takes six hours and would cost just under ¥25,000, although the journey would be fully-covered on the JR and Kyushu Passes.

Buses

Whole there are no direct buses from Tokyo to Oita, you could catch one from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka or Kobe (prices starting form ¥1,800 through Kosoku), then catch another to Oita (prices starting from ¥8,700 through Kintetsu).

Driving

This journey would be around 13.5 hours if you stick to the mainland (slightly quicker if you cross through Shikoku, but that option includes tolls and a ferry). You would be passing through plenty of popular places like Kyoto, Osaka, Himeji, Hiroshima, Okayama and Yamaguchi, so stop-offs would be fun, but it would be a long journey.

Flights

The fastest option for sure, and cheapest if you’re lucky, flights to Oita take between 1.5 and 2 hours. You can fly from Narita on budget airline Jetstar or from Haneda on semi-budget airline Solaseed Air. Alternatively, consider flying to Fukuoka with Peach or Jetstar, the flights are cheaper and more frequent.

RouteAirlineOne-way FareBooking
Tokyo => OitaJetstar¥6,969 (US$65)Details
Tokyo => OitaSolaseed Air¥9,800 (US$91)Details
Tokyo => OitaANA¥12,056 (US$112)Details
RouteAirlineOne-way FareBooking
Tokyo => FukuokaJetstar¥5,770 (US$54)Details
Tokyo => FukuokaPeach¥6,294 (US$59)Details
Tokyo => FukuokaJeju Air¥9,168 (US$85)Details

Potential game #5: Oita | October 19th/20th

Beppu Onsen Hell
Photo by Greg Lane

Down in Kyushu, Oita is a great chance to see a lesser-visited side of Japan, and they’re certainly excited about hosting the games! Known for hot springs and regional cuisine, there are plenty of nearby places to visit both in Kyushu and on the nearby mainland.

Things to do: Start local then consider Beppu’s Hells and Yufuin’s onsen.
What to eat: Be sure to try the local speciality of fried chicken or head to Fukuoka for food stalls.
Day trips: ExploreYakushima island, visit Nagasaki, head to the cat island or Japan’s fugu capital!
Travel: Check out our tips on travelling from Oita Airport.

Travel from Oita to Yokohama

The travel options for Yokohama are a mirror of those used to reach Oita initially—so consider the train, bus, flight and road-tripper options. Keep in mind when flying that nearby airports like Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Kumamoto or Fukuoka will probably have cheaper options.

Potential games #6 & #7: Yokohama & Tokyo | Oct 26th–Nov 2nd

how to photograph shibuya crossing
Near Shibuya Station is where most people get their first glimpse of The Scramble. | Photo by David Ishikawa

If England make it all the way to the final matches, they’ll be staying in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas (thankfully). With this in mind you’ll have a good amount of time to kill in the Kanto region, so it’s the perfect time to explore with day trips. If you’ve exhausted our top 25 ideas, then consider some more specific options.

1. We have great hiking ideas if you want to burn off those beers.

2. There are some pretty amazingonsen towns nearby if you have weary muscles to soak.

3. Consider some diving options for the water-lovers.

4. Plus there’s always Disney (or some alternatives) to distract you from the nailbiting!

Don’t have tickets to all the games? Check out these sports bars in Tokyo where you can catch all the action.

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Tags: #RWC2019, England, England Matches, England Schedule, Rugby World Cup 2019, Rugby World Cup 2019 Dates, RWC
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