City of Toyota Stadium
Located in Toyota City (yes, that Toyota – the city is home to motor corporation), this impressive 41,000 all seater stadium with quirky concertina-like, retractable roof, was built at the turn of the century and opened in 2001 to much fanfare. Built with city government funds in the hope of attracting World Cup football when Japan hosted the competition in 2002, the city was to be disappointed, not making the final cut for any matches.
However, 16 years later, Toyota stadium is set to finally realise the city’s dreams, as it plays host to what is perhaps the most exciting set of games for the pool stages.
Three giants of World rugby will grace the pitch in Toyota during the first round of matches. First up on 23rd September, Wales meet Georgia, before the Springboks roll into town in 28th September for their first round showdown against Africa 1 (still to qualify). 12thOctober will see two-time World Champions New Zealand meet Italy in the final host city showdown.
However, without a doubt the highlight for Toyota will be on 5th October when the eyes of the nation will be glued to their TV screens as host nation Japan battle it out against the play off winner. The atmosphere is sure be electric as Japan aim to go one better than 2015, and secure their place in the knock-out stages for the first time ever.
Today, Toyota stadium is home to the J2 League team ‘Nagoya Grampus 8’, probably the best known Japanese football club in the UK having been Gary Linekar’s final stomping ground as a professional and Arsène Wenger’s managerial home for the two years prior to his appointment at Arsenal. It is also used by Toyota Verblitz, the home rugby union team.
InsideJapan’s founders Alastair Donnelly and Simon King have a special fondness for Toyota, having spent three years living and working in the city as English teachers at the end of the 1990’s – formative times which provided the inspiration for setting up the company. Today InsideJapan maintain this connection with its local office situated just a few miles down the railway tracks in Nagoya. In short, no-one knows this place as well as us! Definitely one of the top picks for the 2019 tournament.
Image: Toyota ‘Kaikan’ exhibition hall © Alastair Donnelly / InsideJapan Tours
Located at the far end of Nagoya’s Meitetsu subway line, Toyota is of course most famous for being the home of the world’s leading car manufacturer. However, modern day factories and urban development obscure a rich and significant history and a vibrant local culture and sense of community.
Toyota was originally known as Koromo, a thriving merchant town in the Mikawa region whose wealth was built on cultivation of silkworms and production of silk. Until the beginning of the Meiji Era the town also provided an important staging post on the route between the capital Kyoto and Edo.
The rapid decline of Koromo’s fortunes were brought on by the US stock market crash of 1929 and the depression which followed. It was at this time that following a visit to the Ford car plan in the US, Kiihciro Toyoda decided to move Toyoda corporation, at that time a manufacturer of automatic looms, into automobile manufacture. He needed a large amount of land to establish the factories and Koromo provided the perfect location. In 1937 the Koromo Plan was opened with full scale production beginning the following year. The city changed its name from Koromo to Toyota in 1959 and now has a population of 350,000, some 25 times the 1930 levels.
Toyota is very much a motor city with 80% of work force being employed by Toyota or their suppliers. However, the city has flourished as a centre for the arts with the Toyota Museum of Modern Art being considered one of the finest in the country. The impressive Toyota Stadium also regularly plays host to Grampus 8 J-league games although the city were extremely disappointed to miss out on hosting a game during the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Toyota also has some fantastic festivals, both big and small. The annual Oiden Matsuri (last weekend in July) is a modern extravaganza of dance and song with an extraordinary firework display to close proceedings on the Sunday night. Koromo Matsuri on the other hand, is Toyota’s traditional festival held on the third weekend in October and focused around Koromo Shrine in the heart of the city.
In the past year Toyota has fallen on hard times with the city bearing the brunt of job losses as Toyota Motor Corporation makes stringent cut backs to cope with the collapse of demand since financial crisis engulfed the world towards the end of 2008. However, in the long term optimism still exists for the company as they look to rapidly increase production of the Prius hybrid vehicle and R&D continues apace on new generation vehicles for a more environmentally concerned future.
Overall Toyota provides an interesting look at Japanese life outside of the major cities and if you time your visit to coincide with one of the two major festivals you are sure to have a great time and make some new friends along the way.
This article was originally posted on insidejapantours.com – all right reserved