Another beautifully designed but somewhat inconveniently located stadium in Kyushu (much like Oita Bank Dome across the island), Kumamoto Egao Kenji Stadium (32,000 seats) was presumably selected as it’s sometimes used for Japan’s Top League rugby competition.
It’s accessed via Kumamoto Station, which is 30 or 40 minutes south of Fukuoka by shinkansen. It’s then a 50-minute bus ride from Kumamoto Station to the stadium, see here for shuttle bus information.
Alternatively, if you want to get as close as possible by train and then walk or take a taxi, the nearest station is Hikari-no-mori on the Hohi Main Line (20 minutes from Kumamoto Station). From there it’s a 45-minute walk along fairly busy roads running through rural Kyushu; there’s a taxi company 500m east of the station on the south side of the main road, from where it’s about 10 minutes by cab (though be aware that the taxi can only take you as far as one of the park & rides, where you have to switch to a shuttle bus to access the stadium).
This building on the right is a taxi office:
To walk it, turn right where that coffee truck’s turning out of. Pull the route up on Google Maps, and it looks like this:
6 October France vs Tonga
13 October Wales vs Uruguay
Hotels near Kumamoto Stadium
I usually find Agoda to be best for booking Japanese accommodation online, here are some Agoda search links for Kumamoto:
Search here for hotels in Kumamoto
If you’re going to visit Aso and plan to stay there search here
Airbnb is also a great option in Japan, in fact in Japan it seems to work particularly well – most hosts arrange self-checkin & checkout systems, allowing you to arrive & leave flexibly without needing to meet someone for the keys (the key’s often left in a lockbox for you). The wifi is always super-fast, and I’ve never had an Airbnb nightmare in Japan (have had a few elsewhere). There was a crackdown in summer 2018 with the introduction of new regulations requiring Airbnb hosts to have a specific licence (with some regional variations in the details) which led to a collapse in the number of listings available and accordingly a jump in prices, with a lot of travellers reporting that their reservations were suddenly cancelled as a result. It was all a bit of a mess at first, but the situation has calmed down now and you can be confident that any listings remaining on there at this point are legit. Prices have gone up but then so have minimum standards, and Airbnb is still my usual go to for accommodation in Japan.
New users can get a $35 discount from their first Airbnb rental through Rugby Guide Japan, simply click here and sign up.
Transportation in Kumamoto
Kumamoto has two tram lines which run through the main downtown area and connect to the main train stations. You can use IC cards on the trams, and also on the city’s buses if you ride them.
Things to Do in Kumamoto
Kumamoto Castle is one of the largest in Japan. While the existing structure is a modern reconstruction of the original, it’s known for being arguably the best modern castle reconstruction there is (in fact only a dozen original castles remain); unfortunately the castle was badly damaged in the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake and is undergoing repairs which will take several years. This means you can’t visit it as usual, but during the week that the two matches take place in Kumamoto you’ll be able to see the castle from a viewing platform.
The White Egret Castle in Himeji (near Osaka) is probably the easiest original castle to visit while you’re in Japan for the rugby, see here.
Mt Aso, or Aso-san, is a beautiful volcanic caldera in the middle of Kyushu, lying halfway between Kumamoto & Oita and easily reached from both. It takes around 2 hours to reach Aso Station from either direction, so while it is doable as a long day trip it’s better to stay a night or two if you can (search Aso hotels here). The caldera itself is huge, some 25km across, with a series of volcanic cones at its centre. They’re very much active, but conditions permitting you can go right to the Nakadake crater rim by ropeway or on foot (a 30-minute hike or quick ropeway ride from the bus stop, which is a 30-minute bus ride from Aso Station). It’s one of the easiest active volcanic craters you can visit anywhere on Earth, and you’re treated to views (and smells) of the crater lake and the clouds of poisonous gas it emits. Note that if the gas emissions (or other volcanic activity) are too high, access to the crater is closed off so check before heading all the way there.
It’s a 2-hour bus ride to Aso from Kumamoto Station, see here & here. The train line was damaged in the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake and is unlikely to be running again by the time of the World Cup. From the other direction it’s a 3.5-hour bus ride from Beppu (see here), or you can take the train from Beppu or Oita. It takes about 2h15 from Oita by local train (2130 yen), while the limited express Aso Boy is 20 minutes faster for 3580 yen; obviously if you have the JR Pass just take the limited express.
Any questions about watching the rugby in Kumamoto? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you.
Useful Links for the Rugby in Kumamoto
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How to get online in Japan
Check out the Japan pages on my travel blog