The Good, The Bad & The Rugby! My Return To Kashiwa’s Secondary Stadium After 19 Years!

Like many people in Japan I was keen to see some domestic rugby on the back of the country hosting a successful World Cup in 2019. However, Covid_19 came along and a lot of the momentum for rugby’s growth was lost. With limited knowledge of the Top League, I decided back in late 2019 that I’d like to see NEC Green Rockets purely because they were a team I had seen against Johnny Wilkinson’s Newcastle Falcons way back in 2005 when they were in Japan for a couple of games.

NEC Green Rockets at the old National Stadium in Tokyo, 2005

What I didn’t realise then was that Green Rockets were a Chiba-based team who play some home games at a stadium in Kashiwa. Not the Hitachi Stadium though! Instead, they use Kashiwanoha Park Athletic Field which was originally built to be the new home of Kashiwa Reysol.

Construction began in 1995 and four years later it was used for the first time as Reysol defeated Urawa Red Diamonds 3-1 with the final goal scored by legendary Bulgarian striker Hristo Stoichkov. However, the fans were strongly against the stadium from the offset due to its poor accessability and displayed banners to vent their frustrations. It was last used by Reysol in late 2008 for an Emperor’s Cup game which was seen by just 4,596 people!

After the Rugby World Cup in 2019, the domestic rugby league system was revamped to help drive up the overall standard and popularity of the sport and improve the results of the Brave Blossoms. Japan Rugby League One replaced the Top League from the 2022 season as things became fully professional for the teams which had previously consisted mostly of company employee players with a few full-professionals here and there.

After a few failed attempts to see Green Rockets Tokatsu in action in the last couple of seasons, I finally got to see them on a warm, sunny early Spring day last Sunday. The opposition were Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo for whom the Japan national team captain Michael Leitch plays for.

It was my first time to see live sport at the stadium for 19 years. Back then, my friend Peter and I took a bus from the west side of Kashiwa Station, and about 25 minutes later were at the stadium which is located in the north-west of Kashiwa city. Yokohama F. Marinos were the visitors and Korean World Cup 2002 sensation Ahn Jeong-Hwan was playing for them.

Disposable camera shot! The only one I took at Kashiwanoha Stadium in 2004!

I was quite interested to see him play but I didn’t want him to score…… which of course is exactly what he did on the way to a 2-1 Marinos victory in front of a crowd of just over 10,000. I didn’t give too much thought to that stadium until a few years back when I discovered it was being used by Green Rockets, and I even stopped off there a few years ago to see it.

Back in the present, I purchased my ticket and enjoyed the entertainment (live music, cheerleaders, dancing, mascots, food etc) around the stadium. Other than what I wrote in the previous couple of paragraphs I actually have very little memory of being inside the 20,000 capacity stadium (4000 more than the Hitachi-dai) so there was certainly no nostalgic feeling as I took my place on the terrace with the fairly impressive main stand to my right.


To be honest I was expecting something of a thrashing, and ultimately that is what happened. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the visitors who had a man sent off in the first ten minutes following a TMO decision.

It actually surprised me that that Television Match Official (TMO) decision was made by the referee and his assistants on the pitch who looked up to the big screen rather than a monitor. I guess I’m only familiar with international rugby where such decisions are made by a fourth official in the stands. What was also surprising was that he explained the reasons for the red card in English!

Toshiba had been on the backfoot during those early stages but the disadvantage actually seemed to motivate them a bit and a couple of tries soon followed. Harold Faltermeyer’s  ‘Axel F‘ (the theme from ‘Beverly Hills Cop‘) had been playing on the PA system to great merriment every time Green Rockets got some points on the board, but never did it feel better than at the start of the second half when the home side briefly led 20-18 following a converted breakway try by the New Zealander Ash Dixon.

Sadly Toshiba hit back soon after, and it was a formaility after that as a few more tries followed including one from Michael Leitch as the match drew to a close.


It may have been a long, long wait to return to Kashiwanoha Stadium after all these years, and I really enjoyed it but had had enough by the time referee blew up for full time so I shot off immediately as it was a half hour walk to Kashiwanoha-Campus on the Tsukuba Express Line which is the nearest station.

Final Score: Green Rockets Tokatsu 20-49 Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo

Kashiwa Reysol were actually playing at home on the same afternoon on the other side of the city against Nagoya Grampus but I had long committed to seeing the rugby before that fixture was even announced. Two weeks earlier I had been to see Reysol at home to FC Tokyo.

This wasn’t the best of games and the visitors were probably the better side, particularly in the second half when the Reysol goal lived something of a charmed life as chance after chance went begging for FC Tokyo.

Bonus: The Green Rockets Tokatsu match wasn’t actually my first live rugby in 2023 as I went to Edogawa City Athletic Stadium three weeks earlier to see a rather entertaining match between two teams in the top half of the table.

Click here to read ‘Return To J1 Football Team’s Forgotten Secondary Stadium’

Click here to read ‘Japan’s Sakura 15 Rugby Team Host Ireland In Tokyo: My First Ever Women’s Match!’

Click here to read ‘Rugby World Cup Fever Grips Japan For Six Memorable Weeks Of Action’

Click here to read ‘TF Flashback – My J-League Beginnings (2004)’ 

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
This entry was posted in Sport and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.