From The Vaults

12 November 2018
SPECIAL EXHIBITION - Brave Blossoms: the History of Rugby in Japan

'Brave Blossoms: the History of Rugby in Japan' is produced in partnership with 'England Rugby Travel' and 'Kanto District Transport Bureau'.

As the rugby world turns towards the land of the rising sun in anticipation of Asia's first Rugby World Cup, the World Rugby Museum is delighted to present its new special exhibition 'Brave Blossoms: the History of Rugby in Japan'. Featuring new research and objects drawn from around the world, this special exhibition tells the story of how Japan transitioned from the late Edo to early Meiji period and the role that rugby union played in establishing educational and diplomatic links, initially between Japan and Great Britain and then the wider sporting world.


Graphic Magazine, 1874

It celebrates the achievements of a Japanese Prince and shows how rugby helped Japan rebuild in the post-War period. It will show how in the modern-era Japan has pioneered a new way of playing rugby with consequences far beyond its shores, culminating in seismic victories against tier-one opposition from 1968 to 2015.

South Africa v Japan - Group B: Rugby World Cup 2015

Getty Images

Finally it will look to the future and the 2019 Rugby World Cup which promises to be a tournament like no other that has gone before. World Rugby Museum Curator Phil McGowan said,

'The Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup will represent the culmination of a project embarked upon by two friends at Cambridge and then Keio Universities 120 years ago. The history of rugby in Japan is a fascinating story. Our exhibition will demonstrate how Japan embraced a traditional sport from the west before making it their own'.

England and former Japan Coach Eddie Jones said,

'Having a successful world cup and a successful national team gives kids a dream. They can play international sport at the highest level and it doesn't matter what size you are. That's really important for the future of Japanese Rugby'.

Key elements include -

  • The first artistic depiction of rugby being played in Japan in 1874
  • A 1904 jersey from Keio University, the oldest rugby jersey in Japan
  • Archival material relating to Prince Chichibu
  • The story of the blossom as related by Demi Sakata
  • Exclusive interviews with Eddie Jones about Rugby World Cup 2015

The exhibition opens over the weekend of the 17th and 18th November, when England will take on Japan for the first time in a fully representative international test-match at Twickenham. It will run until the autumn of 2019.

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