Japan (often known as "The Cherry Blossoms") is traditionally the strongest rugby union power in Asia, with only occasional losses to Korean rivals in the region, but has both enjoyed and endured mixed results against non-Asian teams over the years. Rugby union in Japan is administered by the Japan Rugby Football Union, founded in 1926, which is a constituent member of the International Rugby Board.
The first recorded instance of rugby being played in Japan was in 1874, when British sailors staged a game in Yokohama. The sport was introduced to students at Keio University in 1899 by Professor Edward Bramwell Clarke and Tanaka Ginnosuke. Japan's first international took place on 31 January 1932 when a trade delegation from Canada brought a rugby union team. The Japanese won 9 - 8.
Japan beat the Junior All Blacks 23-19 in 1968 after losing the first four matches on a tour of New Zealand, but they won the last five. The Japanese (coached by Waseda University Professor Onishi Tetsunosuke) lost by just 3-6 to England in Tokyo on September 29, 1971 in the RFU's centenary year Japan gave Wales a fright in losing by a slim five-point margin, 24-29, at Cardiff Arms Park on October 2, 1983.
On May 28, 1989 a strong Japan coached by wily tactician Hiroaki Shukuzawa defeated an under-strength Scotland missing nine British Lions on tour in Australia, for the first time ever at Chichibunomiya rugby stadium, 28-24. The Japan team included such Kobe Steel stalwarts as centre Seiji Hirao (captain), and locks Atsushi Oyagi and Toshiyuki Hayashi (38 Japan caps and a member of Oxford University's all-time best XV). Sinali Latu at No. 8 was then a fourth year student at Daito Bunka University, and speedy Yoshihito Yoshida on the wing (no. 14) was a third year at Meiji University. Scotland missed an incredible seven penalties and refused the kicking tee which was generously offered - as a surviving video of the game shows. It was almost the same Japanese team which defeated Zimbabwe in RWC1991.
Although the traditional anthem of Japan, its association with the barbarity of Japanese actions in the 1930's and 1940's has often led to calls for its replacement which have been fiercely opposed by traditional estalishment.
o wa Chiyoni yachiyoni
sazare ishi no
iwa o to nari te
Koke no musu made
Thousands of years of happy reign be time
Rule on, my lord, till what are pebbles now,
By age united to mighty rocks shall grow,
Whoes venerable sides the moss doth line.
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