Japan replica jerseys selling like hot cakes

A worker putting replicas of Japan's red-and-white jersey on the shelves at the Rugby World Cup megastore in Tokyo. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A worker putting replicas of Japan's red-and-white jersey on the shelves at the Rugby World Cup megastore in Tokyo. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • It is early morning outside a sportswear store near the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium and there is already a queue for the hottest property in Japan: a Brave Blossoms replica shirt.

The red-and-white jerseys are flying off the shelves as the Japan team continue to defy expectations at the Rugby World Cup, winning all three matches and being on course for a historic quarter-final.

Sales forecasts of 200,000 have been exceeded, with 90 per cent of the stock for the whole tournament already gone.

Shirts are being sold as soon as they can be replaced, said Danny Robinson, manager of the Rugby World Cup megastore in Tokyo.

"Everybody loves the Japanese jerseys. It's much, much more than we anticipated," he said.

"Every day people are waiting at the door and coming in to grab the jerseys. So it's very difficult to keep them on the shelves. We keep bringing them in every day."

It is not just the Japanese who are snapping up the shirts, with Robinson estimating that around half the buyers are foreigners.

Jesai Knight, an Australian fan, has been searching high and low for his souvenir.

"We came here yesterday at about 9.30 in the morning, and they were sold out already. And they told us to come back at like 9 o'clock today to get one," he said.

The World Cup has been a bonanza for Canterbury, the company that produces the Brave Blossoms shirts along with other rugby gear.

Yoshi Katsuta, head of Rugby World Cup operations for Canterbury Japan, said: "Such demand was really difficult to predict. We expected foreigners to also buy Japan shirts but not on this scale."

Another feature of this World Cup, the first held in Asia and in a non-traditional rugby hotbed, is how the home fans have adopted teams and dutifully bought their replica jerseys.

"I'm not sure we've ever seen a World Cup where the home fans have supported all of the teams this well," tournament organiser Alan Gilpin said in a recent interview.

"And the merchandising sales for replica jerseys for every team being bought by Japanese fans is brilliant."

The famous black shirts of champions New Zealand have proved especially popular because "the Japanese love the haka", said Robinson.

Also being snapped up are England, Scotland and Ireland shirts.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2019, with the headline 'Japan replica jerseys selling like hot cakes'. Print Edition | Subscribe