Another day and another big Japanese city, this time Osaka via the Shinkansen from Hiroshima. We had no actual plan of activity at this point, so just went with the flow. So much so that we actually decided to head straight to Kobe once we had found our hotel. There was unfinished business to be sorted.
Gary and Joe had met with David and his Dad, John and his Mum, Clare the day after the England vs USA game in Kobe to sample the world famous Kobe steak. Kirsty had felt short changed that she had missed out on sampling that speciality, and had been banging on about it ever since. Kobe is only 30 mins away from Osaka by train and Scotland were playing Samoa there that evening, which was a bonus. So we agreed to seek out Kobe steak. We found a lovely restaurant on Tripadvisor and sampled away. It was pretty amazing, even for an ex-vegetarian like me. The chef moved his knives like Dynamo at his very best, such was the speed and sleight of hand. We savoured it and we won’t forget it, the quality of meat was outstanding, think semi soft full fat butter with a slight and distant taste of Bovril. Delicious.
Post prandial, we decided to hit the Kobe Fan Zone and see if we could get some tickets for the match. That didn’t work out, but there were plenty of Scots and a few Samoans around plus a smattering of other fans and the atmosphere was great, as usual. The queues for beer tokens and for the beer itself were virtually non existent, nothing like the queues the last time we were in town but then again there were fewer Scots fans here than English. But the Scots won the dressing up contest hands down, they always do! As do the Irish and the Welsh!
We watched the Scotland vs Samoa game on the big screen in a wonderful setting. The Japanese fans were out in force and all sat in an orderly fashion on the neatly arranged benches. Before we sat down to join them though, Kirsty showed some other rugby fans and the Land Rover team running the show, how things were done by successfully spin passing a rugby ball into a net. That one will go down alongside Kirsty’s goal kicking fest with Graham Bell at Henley Rugby Club a few years back. It really was hilarious. A couple of Americans were shown up when they failed to do what Kirsty had done.
There were very few non-Japanese fans in the park at kick off which wasn’t surprising given the Scots were playing up the road. Bernie and Sian were, like us, in Japan for the rugby. Bernie was Irish and Sian Welsh. We shared a few pints and all shouted for Scotland who needed to win and win with a bonus point after their loss to the Irish.
It was a great performance by the Scots on a very humid evening. And then the fun really started. Out of nowhere at the end of the match a piper dressed in full traditional Scottish dress, banged out ‘Scotland the Brave’, ‘Highland Laddie’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ with his fellow pipers. It was sensational and had all the Japanese fans up and dancing as well as all of us. The hilarious and wonderful thing about the lead piper was he was Japanese! That one moment summed everything up about this World Cup and how the Japanese have embraced the spirit of the game more than any hosts ever did in the past.
Another great night, plenty of laughs and a wonderful atmosphere. We got back to Osaka in a haze, euphoric but exhausted. And slept.
We woke up the next morning, to blazing sunshine and decided to go to the huge Osaka aquarium via the Pokemon Store. Both were amazing. Both had space for school children to experience and learn, which is another great feature about Japan and Japanese society. Children are allowed to be children. Learning, writing things down and interacting with adults seems to be key and it’s refreshing.
Needless to say the Osaka Aquarium was five or six storeys high and had an incredible variety of sea life. By the time we left it was dark, the Osaka light show was in full swing, just like every other city in Japan that we had visited.
Our friends, Lizzie and Alec, who we had met in Miyajima were in town and we met up for beers and Gyoza. We shared plenty of laughs and memories and resolved to meet at the Wales vs Fiji game in Shizuoka later in the week. Fun times ahead.
For now, we were headed to Mount Fuji. More fun times ahead.