For the average non-Japanese fan, the Japan Top League is a bit of an enigma – most of us know it exists, primarily due to the fact that it’s a popular temporary destination for Southern Hemisphere players who aren’t involved in test rugby – but have you ever actually seen a game? Thought not…
Rugby has been a thing in Japan for decades now, and as with most other cultural imports, the Japanese spin on it can seem a little… eccentric… take the Brave Lupus, for instance – Toshiba’s team has a peculiar name and a frankly bonkers logo (is he related to the Sunwolves Sunwolf?!) and yet they’re no joke on the field.
The Brave Lupus actually won the Top League four years on the bounce between 2005 and 2009, and while they’re currently sitting in mid-table, they also have a very cool, very unique shirt design, as created by Canterbury.
The plain red jersey has black side vents and a black 360º Loop neckline, but in an interesting twist, the whole top right hand side of the shirt, from pec to sleeve, is black too. It looks like nothing we’ve seen from any other team, but hell, we think it looks good.
The away shirt is, if anything, even nicer – swapping black for white and red for blue, it swaps the contrasting side panels for some nice pinstripes, and we enjoy the use of the coordinated CCC logo on the white chest panel here, too.
It’s a shame that the Lupus’ badge rather clashes with things here – not a lot they can do about it of course, but in a jersey that’s all so goddamn neat and tidy, it sticks out a little.
We don’t really know for sure what the six stars across the back of the jersey represent, but we think it might be something to do with the six times the club has one the All-Japan Rugby Football Championship – the end-of-season 10-team tournament involving the top six teams from the Top League, plus the best university and club teams in the nation, which has been contended since 1963.
We said in the intro that Japan does rugby in its own unique way, and these Brave Lupus shirts are a great example of that – they’re cool, classy, made by one of the most familiar names in the game… but they don’t feel like the sort of rugby shirt you’d see in England, or South Africa, or anywhere else. And that’s just as it should be.