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Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium - Japan's Smallest Rugby World Cup Venue

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Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate Prefecture is the smallest venue for the Rugby World Cup™️ Japan 2019 matches. Read to learn more about the game schedule, stadium access, and the stadium itself—a symbol of the reconstruction after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

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Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium - Watch Rugby at the Smallest Stadium in Japan

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2019 at Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium on July 27, 2019.

Rugby World Cup™️ Japan 2019 (RWC) begins September 2019. Rugby fans have long been anticipating this event, which is held every four years.

Twelve stadiums are hosting the matches. Major cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka boast stadiums with capacities ranging from 20,000 to 72,000 spectators. However, there is a noticeably smaller stadium located in Japan's northern Tohoku Region.

Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium has the capacity to host 16,000 stadium-goers. Located in Iwate Prefecture, this is smallest stadium to host a RWC match.

A Symbol and Site of Restoration

When MATCHA's editorial staff visited the stadium, a resident remarked, "Though it may be small, this is a great stadium."

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

Unosumai District/Photograph by Pixta

Unosumai District, where the stadium is located, was devastated by the tsunami that hit the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011. The stadium stands on the former grounds of an elementary and junior high school.

After the tsunami devoured the three-story-tall school buildings, the students desperately fled in groups to the hills. At the time, there were 600 students, and the fact that they all survived was later called The Miracle of Kamaishi.

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

The stadium under construction. Photograph by Pixta

The school buildings were demolished following the devastating natural disaster. However, once Kamaishi City was chosen to be one of the RWC's host cities, the stadium was built on these grounds. Given the wide array of sports, some people may be curious as to why this city was selected to host rugby matches.

The answer lies in Kamaishi's city history.

Making Kamaishi into a Rugby Town

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

Nippon Steel Corporation Kamaishi Rugby Football Club. Picture courtesy of Iwate Prefecture

According to Sato Yusuke, a member of Iwate Prefecture RWC 2019 Promotion Office, "Kamaishi is a rugby town."

He went on to state, "In 1959, the Nippon Steel Corporation Kamaishi Rugby Football Club (*) formed. The club won many titles, including seven consecutive All-Japan Rugby Football Championships from 1978 to 1984, resulting in the name 'Ironmen of the North.'"

The residents took pride in the club, which later changed its name to the Kamaishi Seawaves RFC. The Seawaves helped considerably with the reconstruction of the city, assisting in transporting relief supplies and removing debris.

"After the tsunami, there were talks about attracting the RWC and building a stadium in Unosumai that would symbolize the town's ties to rugby."

*The club was originally named the Fuji Iron & Steel Kamaishi Rugby Club.

Sending a Worldwide Statement of Restoration

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

The moment Kamaishi was announced as one of the RWC host cities during a public viewing in 2015. Picture courtesy of Iwate Prefecture

In partnership with Iwate Prefecture, Kamaishi City became a candidate city for the RWC in 2015. Once it was officially confirmed as a host city, a challenge arose when constructing a stadium with 16,000 seats in Kamaishi, a small city with a population of 35,000. The designated number of stadium seats would amount to roughly half of the city's population.

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

Yuta Nakano, the captain of the Kamaishi Seawaves RFC.

Some locals expressed the sentiment that "the city's reconstruction should come first." However, this initial attitude began to shift with support from the Japanese government.

Yuta Nakano, the captain of the Kamaishi Seawaves RFC, stated, "By welcoming the RWC to our city, we can send a universal message about the region's reconstruction. I'm looking forward to meeting visitors from all over the world here."

A Small Stadium Packed with Spirit

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

A fan at the Tsunami Memorial Hall celebrating the hosting of the RWC 2019.

Mr. Nakano also mentioned how the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium possesses a unique feature.

"The stadium is packed with 'heart.' The Tsunami Memorial Hall, where visitors can learn about the disaster and prevention of natural disasters, is also located near the stadium at Unosumai Station. We want to not only appeal to rugby fans but also shine light on the city's reconstruction process as well. Additionally, visitors are sure to enjoy the natural surroundings and tasty regional dishes."

The following is a comprehensive checklist—from transportation access, accommodations, to the games itinerary—for those planning to visit the stadium this fall.

Access to Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium

The following is the route to take from Tokyo Station or Ikebukuro Station. The timetables are effective as of September 2019.

From Tokyo to Kamaishi

Take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hanamaki Station. Switch to the JR Kamaishi Line and get off at Kamaishi Station. The ride takes about five and a half hours.

From Ikebukuro Station, take the highway bus (Tohno-Kamaishi Go) to Kamaishi Station. The ride takes approximately ten thousand the fare varies from 9,200 to 10,700 yen depending on the departure time and seating.

Official Website of Tohno-Kamaishi Go: (Japanese)

From Iwate

On match days, the Liner Bus, a spectator shuttle bus with reserved seats, will run from the airport and authorized stations in Iwate Prefecture.

Liner Bus Reservation Site:

From Kamaishi

There are two routes via train and shuttle bus to the stadium.

Train: Take the Sanriku Railway Rias Line from Kamaishi Station and get off at Unosumai Station. The ride takes about twelve minutes and costs 310 yen.

Shuttle Bus: On match days (Wednesday, September 25 and Sunday, October 13), there will be a shuttle bus service from Sea Plaza Kamaishi, located near Kamaishi City. The ride takes about 25 minutes and costs 500 yen.

Reservations will be required to ride the shuttle bus, so please take a look at the following site below.

Shuttle Bus Reservation Site:

Where to Stay

The lodgings in Kamaishi City may be fully booked around match days. It may be wise to stay in other areas frequented by the Liner Bus (mentioned above) that will connect the stadium with major cities in Iwate Prefecture. It might also be fun to visit other sightseeing spots in Iwate as well.

Lodgings Reservation Site:

Liner Bus Reservation Site:

Houraikan, a ryokan (Japanese-style inn), is also located near the stadium. The proprietress survived the tsunami and is open to sharing her experience with guests.

Game Schedule

The Tale Of The Smallest Rugby World Cup (RWC) Stadium In Japan

World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2019 at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, on July 27, 2019.

During the RWC period, there will be two matches held at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium.

First Match: September 25, 2019 at 14:15 - Fiji v. Uruguay
Second Match: October 13, 2019 at 12:15 - Namibia v. Canada

Visit Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium

The stadium just finished completion on August 19, 2018. Because the seats are close to the field, spectators will be able to enjoy an exciting atmosphere. If you plan to watch the RWC in Japan, make sure to visit Kamaishi!

Refer to the articles listed below for further information about sightseeing spots in Iwate and how to access them.

In cooperation with Iwate Prefecture.

Written by

Previous experience as an editor at a women's media company in Japan. I lived in Australia for a while and joined MATCHA after returning to Japan. In charge of editing, promoting sponsored content, and creative direction. I love watching Western TV series.
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