International Rugby Board chief executive Brett Gosper expects the 2019 World Cup to stir "sleeping giant" Japan from its slumber and raise the game's profile in the host country as the 2002 FIFA World Cup did for soccer.
"Soccer wasn't that big before then but it really woke people up," Gosper told Kyodo News, referring to the World Cup the country co-hosted with South Korea.
"Our research shows the Japanese love big events and that they turn up more than others to get a sense of the event. And I am sure it's possible to do that again with rugby."
The Australian conceded it was a "bold decision" to award the marquee event to an Asian country where low turnouts do little to promote top league games but remained optimistic of a rise in the sport's profile.
"Japan is a rugby nation and while it is true the crowds are not what they once were, and a long way off what you need for a Rugby World Cup, there is a good knowledge and image of the sport here.
"I believe it is a sleeping giant that needs to wake up, and I think an event like the Rugby World Cup can wake up that latent interest."
Gosper felt it was crucial for Japan to shine on the pitch at next year's World Cup in England and for their matches to be readily available to television viewers back home.
"We need to expose the sport more," he added.
"We want free-to-air exposure and we are working with broadcasters towards that. We need to increase the awareness of people in Japan that this is a Rugby World Cup host country."