Rugby anyone? 21.9.19

After a fine night out in Akasaka we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed on Saturday morning the proud owners of tickets to see the All Blacks vs the Springboks. I forgot to mention we were supposed to meet our friends Gary, Joe, Milly and Ian in The Dubliners pub in Akasaka to watch the Japan vs Russia game, only to discover there were two Dubliners pubs in the area and we got the wrong one. Only we could collectively mix up two Irish pubs with the same name in Tokyo!

We had bought the tickets for the match off Viagogo the night before in a bar, so I now needed to print them off. That was a challenge to say the least given the hotel’s PC and keyboard was very unfamiliar and it was running an old Japanese version of Wndows. After much faffing and use of Google Translate, I managed to get our tickets printed, indeed I got two copies, more on that later.

How cool are these two?

The somewhat tricky screen to make our tickets real

The game was to be played in Yokohama, which is 25 mins outside of Tokyo on the Shinkansen aka Bullet Train, so we grabbed a coffee and headed to our rendezvous in Shinagawa which is one of the Shinkansen hubs. We had to stop by the JR office in Shibuya to get some more seat reservations sorted out and followed the signs only to pop out at the very same office we had visited the day before. The journey overground on foot had been repeated this time totally underground. That’s how big Shibuya station is!

Shinagawa station

The railways are so efficient it’s incredible, but then again this is Japan so we shouldn’t be surprised. We met Gary who’s Irish, with his son Joe and daughter Milly, both of whom live in Australia and Gary’s good friend Ian, from Brisbane and Joe’s best mate Ryan, who Gary also coached as a younger man at Farnham Rugby Club. More on Ryan later. We had a good few pints of Guinness and Japanese lager and headed off to Yokohama.

Team photo

We soon found a bar come restaurant close to the station and enjoyed some wonderful Japanese hospitality. We were joined by two South African brothers, Darren and David who were friends of Milly and also live in Australia, both of whom were joining us at the match.

Our brilliant base in Yokohama

After much laughter, beers and plenty of singing, we all headed to the match. The stadium is a short walk from the station and the atmosphere was electric with Japanese fans sporting both All Blacks and Springboks shirts and colours. The two best teams in the world were taking each other on and it promised to be a crackerjack of a game. We all split up and headed to our respective entrance gates. I was with Kirsty and we went through the incredibly pleasant security checks without issue. But as soon as we got to the ticket checking steward I knew something was up. The steward gently asked us to come with him and led us back out of the stadium. Instinctively I didn’t want to leave the stadium. Many, many times travelling the world watching sport, I’ve managed to get in to venues not always by conventional means, let’s just say, and once in you never leave.

The Nissan Stadium, Yokohama

We were taken to an office where there were other fans all looking anxious. An English speaking woman eventually told us our tickets were forgeries and we couldn’t go in. I will leave out exactly how I reacted to this news for the sake of younger readers, but suffice to say, I wasn’t happy. Viagogo seem to allow forged tickets to be sold on their platform a lot and never actually seem to be called out for it. Just look on Twitter to see how many people get ripped off in this way.

Tonight I am Sergey Konolavov

Anyway, in the melee and confusion, Kirsty and I got split up. I decided to take my chances and try one more time to get in. That extra print out of the ticket came in handy after all. I waltzed through the security checks easily enough and then huddled in with some other fans as we went through the ticket steward. I thought I had cracked it as I got to my seat, which was of course already occupied, but my hopes were dashed as I had been spotted by the steward. I was then surrounded by about five or six security people with me like a piece of cucumber in a Sushi roll and them like the sticky rice and very politely and quietly moved as they moved away and out of the stadium.

And that was it. No game and no way to see the game. I walked around Yokohama for a while and then got a call from Kirsty. She was back in the restaurant come bar we had been in before the game. Gary and Ian had suffered the same fate and we had all been victims of the Viagogo scam. Kirsty has already secured a full refund and compensation voucher as had Gary and Ian so all was well. We were all gutted that we had not been able to get in.

We enjoyed some more beers and were joined post match by the others who had all got into the game, all be it Darren and David had felt that the Springboks had disappointed somewhat. By this time we were all laughing and joking about the whole escapade.

We jumped back on the Shinkansen and arrived back in Tokyo, with Gary, Ian, Darren and David. We found a wonderful restaurant with a traditional Zashiki seating arrangement featuring a low table set on Tatami flooring and enjoyed the most delicious salted Japanese ice cream. We had the best time, all be it not exactly as we had expected.

Tokyo Station at night

Traditional approach. And usual chatter.

Our train back to Shibuya stopped short about halfway at Osaki and we had to get a cab. I reminded Kirsty that our friend Sarah was getting married and we needed to ‘tune in’ via our friend Dave’s phone which we did in the cab back to our hotel. We were sad not to make the celebration in Somerset but watched the whole thing from the back of a cab, then in the street and finally back in our hotel room.

On so many levels, it certainly wasn’t a day we will forget any time soon.

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