Jiji Press YOKOHAMA (Jiji Press) — A monument commemorating the establishment of the first Asian rugby club near the end of the Edo period in the 1860s was unveiled Thursday in Yokohama’s Chinatown.
Yokohama is set to host seven games, including the final, of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. The tournament will kick off Sept. 20, the first to be hosted by an Asian country.
“I want people to come and see the monument when they come to watch the games,” said a person involved in the monument construction project.
The history of rugby in Japan is said to date back to 1899, when Edward Bramwell Clarke, then an English teacher at Keio University, introduced rugby to his students.
Mike Galbraith, 72, a member of the successor team of the Yokohama Foot Ball Club, established by Britons, came across an old magazine illustration in which foreigners are depicted playing rugby in front of Japanese with mage topknots.
Fueled by curiosity, Galbraith kept up his research and found an English-language article indicating that the Yokohama Foot Ball Club was founded in 1866 at the then foreign settlement area in the city.
The article showed British people including soldiers garrisoned at the city after the opening of the Port of Yokohama formed the team. At that time, rugby and soccer were not clearly separated. He sent the article and other materials to the World Rugby Museum in Britain. The museum certified the Yokohama club as the earliest rugby club in Asia in 2015.
Tsutomu Nagai, 70, an official of the Kanagawa Rugby Football Union and a friend of Galbraith, raised funds to set up the monument, exceeding the target of ¥3 million.
The monument stands in a park in Chinatown that was built on a place where Clarke’s father used to run a bakery.