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New docuseries provides fascinating insight into Japanese university rugby

By Jon Newcombe
Japan U thumbs Trailer

Ever since the Brave Blossoms beat the Springboks at Rugby World Cup 2015 and backed it up by performing brilliantly as hosts of the next tournament in 2019, the popularity of rugby in Japan has been soaring. But one area of Japanese life where rugby has traditionally had a strong foothold, dating way back, is in the universities and, at present, none are stronger than Teikyo University.


Home to around 21,000 undergraduates, Teikyo University are the current holders of the All-Japan University Rugby Championships trophy, having won 12 titles, the most recent coming in January after a 34-15 win over Meiji in the final.

Until now, the outside world did not know much about the inner workings of this rich pathway to Test rugby but Japan U, a wonderful new five-part docuseries, that charts the progress of the reigning Japanese student champions throughout this year’s title-winning season, changes all of that.

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Japan U Official Trailer | RPTV

Japan U follows Teikyo University’s championship rugby team as they aim to become future Brave Blossoms. Watch on RugbyPass TV now

Watch now

Video Spacer

Japan U Official Trailer | RPTV

Japan U follows Teikyo University’s championship rugby team as they aim to become future Brave Blossoms. Watch on RugbyPass TV now

Watch now

Watch Japan U for free on RugbyPass TV>>

“In recent years, many universities have celebrated their 100th anniversary. I believe that university rugby has played a major role in the spread of rugby in Japan. University rugby is popular, and many universities have rugby cubs, which they strengthen,” head coach Tomokazu Soma points out.

The latest in a fascinating portfolio of docuseries available on RugbyPass TV, Japan U looks at life through the lens of the students, whether that is in the classroom or out on the rugby pitch, as they prepare to emulate the feats of many before them and graduate to become Brave Blossoms players, as well as hearing from the coaches guiding them on their intended path to the top.

Episode one pays a visit to the iconic mountain resort of Sugadaira, Japan’s original ‘rugby town’, where 40-plus rugby students are put through their paces under the watchful eye of Soma, the former Brave Blossoms prop capped 24 times by his country between 2005-08.


A deep thinker of the game, Soma says what he experienced as a player has helped to shape him become the coach he is today.

“I had a lot of experience as player and during that time, I met many coaches. And of course, after I retired, I studied coaching, at my alma mater, Teikyo University,” he said in one of his many fascinating interviews to camera.

“After that, I had the experience of coaching in Japan’s Top League (now known as Japan League One, a competition covered live by RPTV) and I worked with many famous coaches like Robbie Deans and Jamie Joseph. Working with my old coaches has also shaped me into the coach I am.

“The thoughts of many people are mixed together, and I am able to imitate their expressions and do things for myself. I want to give back to the students and athletes, in the same way that I have been given, and I want to do as much good as I can. That’s my coaching philosophy.”


Soma’s altruistic approach ensures both the physical and mental wellbeing of the players is paramount as they are rigorously put through their paces, training like professionals in a world-class facility that has evolved dramatically since Hosei University rugby team first used it back in 1930.

“Of course, we are aiming to be the best in Japan every season. More than that, we, the Teikyo University Rugby Club, are about our own growth. We have to face that so we can be better than yesterday, so that we can beat last year’s team,” he added.

“The purpose of this camp is to clarify the direction in which the team will move forward.”


Teikyo University’s then team captain and former hooker, Hayate Era, is a central figure in the docuseries. He has since graduated from student rugby to play Kubota Spears Urayasu Tokyo Bay in Japan Rugby League One and is forging a reputation as one of the next-in-line Brave Blossoms players.

We watch on as Era forms bonds and friendships with his team-mates that may, one day, be translated to the Test arena. That’s his aim, anyway.

“To be a champion team is what we are looking for, even in training we are always striving to be the best in Japan,” he said at the time.

“It has been a dream of mine since I was little to join the Japanese national team and play an active role in the World Cup.

“But this year’s goal is to be captain of the Teikyo University rugby club and give back to all the people who have supported me. So my biggest goal and dream right now is definitely to win the title of number one (team) in Japan.”

As with all journeys, it is not a straightforward one but one that is definitely worth watching.

Sign up to RugbyPass TV to watch Japan U and all the other brilliant content, including our live and exclusive coverage of the test match between Japan v England on Saturday June 22.


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Tom 1 hours ago
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