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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shimogamo Shrine & Rugby History in Japan

下鴨神社

The draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan was made earlier this month on May 10 in Kyoto. A look at the history of rugby in Japan might tell us why the former capital, Kyoto, was chosen for this event.


Stone memorial to the first game of rugby in western Japan, Shimogamo Shrine.


It is believed the first ever game of rugby in Japan was played by British sailors in Yokohama in 1874 and had spread via a British professor to Keio University, a college founded by Fukuzawa Yukichi and at the forefront of westernizing zeal at the time, by 1899.

In Kansai, western Japan, the game received a boost when a Keio student taught rugby to Third High School (which was to become the college of Liberal Arts at Kyoto University) students in the grounds of Shimogamo Shrine in 1910.

Sawatasha, a small sub-shrine of Shimogamo Jinja, Kyoto.


A stone monument and Sawatasha, a small sub-shrine of Shimogamo, now mark the historic spot.

Rugby became popular in the Kansai with a club at Doshisha University established the following year and it was the enthusiasm of Kansai students for the game that helped to set up similar clubs at Waseda and Tokyo University in the capital, both now hot beds of the game in Japan.

The ceremony for the draw was preceded by a visit to the shrine by Rugby World Cup dignitaries and a game of kemari (ancient Japanese football) was also held.

Grounds of Shimogamo Shrine, Kyoto.


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