WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 6, 2022) – As an extension of the friendship between Tokyo and D.C., symbolized by the cherry blossom trees originally gifted to the U.S. from Japan in 1912, Old Glory DC launches a city-themed matchday top, inspired by D.C.’s iconic Cherry Blossoms, in partnership with the Embassy of Japan. Old Glory DC representatives will present Embassy of Japan Spokesperson Masashi Mizobuchi with a limited edition rugby matchday top inspired by the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin Thursday, April 14, to celebrate the global friendship and camaraderie within the rugby community.
In March of 1912, 3,020 cherry trees arrived in Washington, DC, as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. Every spring, the annual blossoming of the Cherry trees in Washington, DC, signifies an official start of springtime in the nation’s capital and a reminder of the friendship between Japan and the United States. The limited-edition matchday top, inspired by D.C.’s iconic Cherry Blossoms, is a part of a larger city-themed campaign organized by Major League Rugby. The matchday top features a white base color, a cherry blossom print along the shoulders, arms, front, and back of the top, the flag of Washington, DC, and a pop of blue with red blossom outlines on the sides.
“Japan connected with the world through this wonderful sport during the 2019 Rugby World Cup, just as Japan and the U.S. are connected through the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin,” said Embassy Spokesperson Masashi Mizobuchi. “This year we are celebrating the 110th Anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees from Tokyo to Washington, D.C., and we are excited to partner with Old Glory DC to celebrate Japan-U.S. friendship and the Japanese community in the D.C. area.”
The matchday top will be worn during home matches in April and will make its on-field debut during the team’s Friday Night Lights theme on April 15 vs Utah Warriors. Additionally, Old Glory DC will welcome Embassy of Japan’s Ambassador Tamaki Tsukanda and Spokesperson Masashi Mizobuchi to Segra Field to deliver the match ball to referees prior to kickoff. On Saturday, April 23, Old Glory DC will auction off the limited-edition tops to the public after the match, with funds going to Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.
Japan has had significant contributions to the global rugby community in recent decades. As hosts of the most recent Rugby World Cup in 2019, EY reported that the 44-day event “was the most economically successful Rugby World Cup ever, with nearly £4.3 billion generated in economic output.” Additionally, EY concluded that 2.25 million people were introduced to rugby in Asia due to the event. A separate Nielsen Sports report documented that Rugby World Cup interest almost doubled from 26% in 2018 to 44% in 2019, representing more than 50 million people. The Springboks ultimately took the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama, Japan, to cap off one of the most popular international sports events, filled with unforgettable moments on and off the field, unparalleled hospitality by the people of Japan, and the most competitive rugby ever seen.
“It surprises some people that Japan has become known as a great rugby nation,” said Old Glory co-owner Chris Dunlavey. “But their performance in international competition has earned worldwide respect, and by all accounts, the Rugby World Cup they hosted was among the best ever. There are many lessons rugby in the U.S. can learn from Japan.”
On June 11, 2021, USA Rugby formally accepted a bid candidacy to host an upcoming Rugby World Cup 2027, 2029 and 2031. Washington, DC has been identified as a competitive host city since the announcement of the 1874 Cup, which invited New Zealand All Blacks to Washington, DC to face USA Rugby’s Men’s XV in an international test match on Saturday, October 23, 2021, at FedExField. Alongside Events DC and the Washington Commanders, Old Glory DC was the official rugby host of both the USA Eagles and the infamous All Blacks. The marquee event welcomed 39,720 fans to FedExField to experience a rare match against the most successful rugby team in the world.
“As the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, Events DC shares in the excitement of this partnership between Old
Glory DC and Japan, symbolizing the cultural connection between our nations,” said Ralph Morton, senior vice president and managing director, sports & entertainment division at Events DC. “Washington, DC is home to a passionate and robust rugby community, and dynamic international partnerships like this strengthen DC’s position to continue to attract and host major global rugby matches and events, including the Rugby World Cup.”
View the limited-edition Cherry Blossom match day tops in person and join Old Glory DC at Segra Field on Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 23 by purchasing tickets at Ticketmaster.com.