Eight unexpected things from a Rugby World Cup trip to Tokyo

After more than 36 hours of travelling back from Tokyo to Cape Town, I can now properly reflect on what was a spectacular experience at the Rugby World Cup in Japan - the first one ever in Asia. I was there for three full days and saw two matches in Tokyo – the New Zealand vs Ireland and South Africa vs Japan games. Here are some of the highlights.

1. Snacks and drinks in the stadium were standardised, as they usually are with these big events. But, it had a lovely local flair. I ordered something called “hot chicken sticks” for ¥500.

You need to divide their currency by about 7.5 to get to the approximate rand value. So, this cost me about R67. These spicy deep-fried chicken strips with crispy fried pieces of chili on the side were an absolute highlight. Also on the menu was ‘pork wrapped onigiri’ and ‘deep-fried soy meat’ for vegans.

2. The speed of the free wifi in the stadiums was almost as impressive as the Japanese bullet trains. Seriously, South Africa cannot be a successful host of a massive sports event ever again if we cannot offer the stadium goers a working, fast and free connection to the outer world.

3. At both the games I attended, there was a brief moment of silence before the games kicked off to remember the victims of the deadly Typhoon Hagibis that struck Japan during the tournament. The seconds of silence from the almost 50 000 fans at the Tokyo stadium was incredibly moving, with literally no one speaking to observe the powerful moment.

4. Of course, there was some Karaoke on the big screens at the Tokyo stadium. All of the fans and there were many from Japan, Ireland, South African, and New Zealand at the games I attended, sang in unison songs from the screen such as Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Brian Adams’ summer of '69. It was weird but sweet.

5. Yes, the Japanese fans were fierce in their red and white jerseys. But it was the discipline, the songs, and respect of Irish lot that impressed me most. Even after their team suffered an embarrassing loss to the All Blacks, they stayed to the bitter end and applauded their captain Rory Best bowing out of his 14-year career in rugby. While we supported them against the All Blacks in their quarter-final, they did not return the favour when the Springboks played the home team the next day. I did have some pleasure in them losing twice.

6. South African fans did not take a backseat in our performance. I was part of a block of about 200 in green and gold. We were determined for the team to hear us and the cameras to film us. We sang Shosholoza and Juluka’s Impi. I even at one stage heard some Mshini Wami, which was weird, but at least we all knew the words.

7. Catching ANC Johannesburg chairperson Geoff Makhubo teaching Japanese fans to sing our anthem.

8. And lastly, the smart toilets of Tokyo. Of all the toilets I used, the only one that looked familiar was the one in the stadium. All of the others had functions like seat warming, spraying in all kinds of angles, deodorising and even can even play noises if needed for ‘privacy’. And here is a collection of Tokyo’s impressive thrones.

Cecile Basson is a producer on the Money Show on 702 and CapeTalk. She was hosted in Japan for two matches by MTN, the headline sponsor of the Springboks.


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Eight unexpected things from a Rugby World Cup trip to Tokyo


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