A guide to touch rugby in Hiroshima-ken

johnmccartyrugby

By John McCarthy

If you are interested in playing a high intensity sport without having gravel permanently embedded in your body from Japan’s dirt athletic fields, I invite you to check out touch rugby in Hiroshima or Kure.

Touch rugby is an amazing way to get in shape while making friends with Japanese people and other foreigners. I’ve been playing touch in Hiroshima for the past year. Besides the camaraderie I’ve found on the field, I’ve also enjoyed many unforgettable times with players off the field on road trips, camping excursions, nights drinking and more.

For those new to the sport, touch rugby is a fast-paced game with an emphasis on speed, agility and ball handling. It’s similar to traditional rugby, but without the tackling, kicking, scrums, rucks, mauls, and lineouts. Though traditional rugby is a rough contact sport, you don’t have to worry about getting hurt playing touch rugby. Touches are supposed to be made with minimal force, and hard touches are a penalty. Tournaments usually are played on grass fields as well, so you don’t get very scraped up.

Like any sport, the rule book is thick. But to start, all you need to get down are a few of the basics, and you’ll be good to go. Don’t worry if you are new to the sport. We will teach you!

There are two teams in Hiroshima prefecture: the Hiroshima Hookers & Dummies and the Kure Ship-Heads. Both are year-round co-ed teams with Japanese and foreign players. There are players of all skill levels; beginners are always welcome and see plenty of action.

The Hiroshima Hookers & Dummies were established in 2002 and are well respected in the touch community. The team finished in the top four in every tournament it entered last season. Last September, the Hookers & Dummies had a championship finish at the ninth annual Tokushima Touch rugby tournament.

The Kure Ship-Heads formed last October. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for the Ship-Heads at the start of the season, but they caught a current later in the season and earned a Runners Up trophy at the fifth annual KRAC tournament in Kobe. The team in Kure is so popular that they actually had enough members to enter two teams at the Kobe tournament last June.

The Hiroshima Hookers & Dummies practice twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays at either Chuo Koen or Big Wave from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Kure Ship-Heads practice once a week, usually on Thursdays at either Nikko Chugako or Irifune Koen from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Ideally, the teams would like players to come to the majority of practices and tournaments. However, with that said, it is OK to come as often or as little as you wish. Both teams have core players who come week in and week out, and players who come by every so often.

It’s easy to get started. We recommend that players eventually buy a pair of cleats, but that is the only equipment needed. You can buy a uniform if you like (a great souvenir to take home!), but it’s not required because players who can’t make the tournaments are usually happy to lend you theirs.

The main costs of playing are associated with the tournaments. Each year the teams participate in tournaments in Tokushima, Kobe and Awajishima in Hyogo prefecture. Besides tournament entrance fees, players are responsible for covering transportation and hotel costs, though both teams work to make inexpensive arrangements.

Players currently are preparing for the 10th annual Tokushima Touch Rugby tournament, which will be held on September 14. It will be the first tournament of the 2008-09 touch rugby season. Hiroshima is looking to defend its championship performance while the Kure Ship-Heads are hoping to make like pirates and steal it from them.

Both teams always welcome new players. If you would like more information on either the Hiroshima Hookers & Dummies or the Kure Ship-Heads, please e-mail John McCarthy at kure-john@softbank.ne.jp.