The American Football Rice Bowl Final in Tokyo Dome 2017 (ライスボウル) - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The American Football Rice Bowl Final in Tokyo Dome 2017 (ライスボウル)

In Japan university sports is a big thing, and some university students can get through their whole university education without almost studying even one bit, often getting excused from their tests and essays in order to fully concentrate on representing their university on the playing field. Different universities usually have different sports they are good at, and for my brother-in-law's university that sport is American football. This has been Taisei's forth and last year in university, and in the beginning of January he was one of the lucky players representing Kwansai Gakuin University's team Fighters in the 70th final of the American Football Japan Championship - also known as the " Rice Bowl" - in Tokyo Dome.
The final of the Rice Bowl tournament is held annually on January 3rd between Japan's best university team and the best company team (学生 vs. 社会人). This final has come to be associated with great prestige, and every year around 30,000 spectators gather in the Dome to see the great match unfold. 
Vendors selling beverages and snack at Tokyo Dome
Among the university teams there are two universities that have been more or less dominating the field for the last 15 years: Ritsumeikan University (where I used to study) and Kwansei Gakuin University, both of which are Kansai-based universities. I'm not that knowledgeable when it comes to American football and would probably have rooted for my old university, but since Taisei is currently a Kwansei Gakuin student I was of course thrilled to hear that Kwansei Gakuin had managed to beat Ritsumeikan in the winter season and thus could play in the Rice Bowl final this year.
The players in action
But unfortunately there is a catch to the whole sweet "student vs company" setting: Just like the universities many of the big Japanese companies also are specialized in one or more sports.
The difference is that the companies see the sport as a way to promote their brand, and they certainly have the finance to make that work. For bigger Japanese companies this is a dead serious business; in fact some of the companies hire sports-talented new-grads just in order to have them play on their team. The other finalist of this year's Rice Bowl was the multinational information technology company Fujitsu Ltd, and even before the final match it had already been made public that the captain of Kwansei Gakuin's Fighters had received and accepted a job offer from Fujitsu Ltd where he's now scheduled to start working this upcoming April. In fact, many of the players in the Fujitsu team - the Fujitsu Frontiers - originally were students at either Ritsumeikan University or Kwansei Gakuin University where they used to be top football players. This tradition of picking top players among the bigger companies (it seems they also are attracting some great players from outside of Japan too) makes it harder and harder every year to beat the company team in the Rice Bowl final for the poor students.
Cheerleaders in action
As we had feared it turned out to be a hard-fought battle for the university team, and in the end they ended up loosing with 13 against 30 points. Victory going to the company team in the Rice Bowl tournament is however not exactly uncommon these days; in fact the university team finalist has only won against the company finalist once during the past 10 years. With steadily more university captains joining force with the strong companies I doubt that this is a trend that will change soon.
Family picture
Although it didn't go as we had hoped for Kwansei Gakuin University it was still fun to see the players in actions. As you might have guessed I'm not exactly a huge football fan in the first place (as a European I prefer soccer), but the cultural aspect of the game made the whole thing rather amusing.
The Kwansei Gakuin University's Fighters.
That's all for now! Thank you for reading and feel free to leave any comments / questions below.

Basic information

What The American Football Japan Championship - Rice Bowl (ライスボウル)
Where 1 Chome-3-61 Kōraku, Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō-to 112-0004, Japan

When Held annually on January 3rd
Website (Japanese Only)

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Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below
- Anette

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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