It’s England time. Kobe or not Kobe? 26.9.19

Given we are in Japan to watch rugby and travel to as many places as we can, it was a weird thing to wake up in Kyoto on the day England were playing their second game of the tournament and remembering that we would actually be going to that game. As is my tradition, I never wear any England gear to matches, be it football, cricket or rugby, as I just don’t see the point. Today, it would be my ‘Midnight’ Jam T-Shirt and shorts.

We were in two minds. Did we do another insane early start in order to take in some more sights in the magnificent Kyoto and then run the risk of being late for the game or did we have a leisurely approach, get to Kobe in good time and enjoy the atmosphere? After some discussion, plumped for the latter.

Kobe is about an hour on the Shinkansen from Kyoto and we had arranged to meet our friend David, who lives in Japan with his wife and daughter there. David’s Mum, Clare and his Dad, John who were over from the UK supporting Ireland, were also coming to the game.

It was another bright and hot day. Travelling through Japan we have seen and met loads and loads of rugby fans. It’s always dangerous to make sweeping statements, especially around national cliches but to hell with that so here goes:

The French – mainly middle aged, loads of couples pretty much always wearing their team colours with plenty of pride. Plenty of supporters present.

All Blacks fans – all ages, always dressed in black and many, many men all of whom look like they have played rugby. Loads and loads in Japan.

Aussies – similar to the New Zealand fans, but plenty of older fans, again in couples and all very tall. And loads of ’em.

Irish – all ages, always in green always laughing or lost, usually both. Probably the most representative of a truly global community. The Irish are from everywhere and are everywhere and the world is a better place for them. And there are loads of them here.

Welsh – all ages, rugby mad and plenty of couples too. Plenty of younger lads.

Scots – kilts everywhere, loads of young lads who like the Irish and Welsh have clearly made an effort to get here. Plenty older fans too and plenty of pale white legs and mossie bites!

The best hats

Italians – mainly male, slim and stylish. Beards are neatly kept. Less numbers than the above.

Argentinians – like the Italians, the vast majority of supporters are male, of all ages but loads of them are probably 25-35 yrs old and I suspect follow football as well as rugby all over the world.

English – mainly middle or old aged and many on organised trips. From the numbers here at the moment it seems like most England fans of the future have opted for the ‘arrive at the quarter finals stage and progress to the final’ approach. This has been noted by other fans and remarked on. Not always in a positive manner I may add.

We found the fan zone area in Kobe, right in the port area easily enough. Kirsty decided to buy an umbrella to ward off the intense sunshine and that proved to be a really good move, given it gets really sunny out here and then rains at no notice for a short time and then gets sunny again.

Sunshine on a rainy day… either way you are covered with this

I absolutely loved Kobe, the port area reminded me of San Francisco in the 60’s, and for older readers it really looked like the locations used in the original Batman film. I could just imagine Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin tearing around this place. It made me very, very happy.

A brilliant & clean port

This reminded me of Batman 1966

Pedestrian control is precise and polite

We got news that our friends Gary and Joe had not left Japan after all and were headed to the game too. This was great news as these two just make the world a happier and far better place. Add in that we were meeting up with the McCarthys we knew today would be just brilliant.

It was great to see David again and I immediately quizzed him about all sorts of aspects of Japanese life and culture that I was hungry to know more about. David was a mine of information as I expected and speaks pretty good Japanese from what I could tell. Loads of his nuggets of wisdom will be shared throughout this blog, there was literally so much it would be wrong to dump it all in here at one fail swoop. Something that particularly tickled me was the fact that his Dad, John was not on Facebook, but John’s twin brother, Tom was, and Facebook always tried to tag Tom using face recognition, when pictures of John were posted.

Mr David McCarthy looking very fit and very well

The fan zone is typically well organised with plenty of food outlets all all drinks, whether they be Heineken, cider or wine, are purchased via a voucher system. So you queue for your tokens, pay for them and then queue again to redeem them at the bars. It sounds ponderous, but it really isn’t. The price of drinks however, was on the high side and any bottles bought into the zone needed their labels removing. It’s seems that the Rugby World Cup has gone down the same road as FIFA and their sponsors ensuring competing brands are erased from all view.

The atmosphere at the fan zone was fantastic, it was packed and fans of all ilk were enjoying the pre match banter. Added to that Italy vs Canada was on the big screen. Joe, Gary, David, Clare and John all got on like a house on fire with Gary and John swapping stories and discussing plenty around people they knew back home in Ireland. Whilst all this was going on, I got approached by a lovely England fan who had spotted my ‘Midnight’ t-shirt. Turns out he was a fellow Jam fan and desperately wanted to know here I got it from, and got another customer right there!

L-R David, Kirsty, John, Joe & Gary

Eventually we headed off to the ground via the Metro and arrived in good time. Kobe port at night lit up and really came alive.

Love this place

And they know how to do lights

There was a huge picture in the Metro from a rugby match. Blow me, it was only Joe’s best mate Ryan Wilson playing for Scotland again!

It’s Ryan Wilson. Again!

Everyone split up as we were all dotted around the ground and Kirsty and I had great seats surrounded by Japanese fans most of whom seemed to be supporting England.

The cutest Japanese fan ever?

And now with the rest of the family

Volunteer helpers are everywhere and always just lovely

And the coppers aren’t too bad either

Everything is covered

The game was a pretty routine win for England 45-7 although England allowed the USA to score a try at the death. The atmosphere was electric though and just like Ireland vs Scotland it felt like a cup final. Many of the Japanese fans are pretty new to the game, so some are not used to the beats of rugby. So it does give the impression that we are some sort of super human predictors of the future when you stand up and see the try in, way before the touch down, much to the amazement of all the locals around you. As always, the Japanese fans are hugely enthusiastic, friendly, eager to high five, have pictures taken and above all are always laughing and happy. Add in that you can drink beer in the ground, and there is literally nothing to not like about watching live sport here.

Another great stadium

England playing in red threw some supporters!

This guy knew his stuff

Kirsty got lost again coming back to the seats

Gloucester’s finest on the ball

No hat swaps here

Happy with the atmosphere

England players at the end happy with a job reasonably well done

A random line-out

After the game Kirsty and I walked back to a station, I have no idea which one, and magically got on a train which ended up in Kyoto and we jumped on the Metro and got back to our hotel and to our bed. We were exhausted, but happy England and Italy had won, and made sure we got our bags sorted for another early start in the morning. Next stop Hiroshima.

Brilliant day all round. And here’s a team shot with Clare in it.


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