Ex-Prep and current Year 7 student Owen has recently returned from a double trip of a lifetime to Japan to watch England in the Rugby World Cup. Owen wrote a blog of his experiences, which he has allowed us to publish here. How jealous will you be after reading it?
As a big Rugby fan, I was looking forward to the trip to the World Cup in Japan as soon as my dad told me we were going. I went on a 10-day tour with my Dad, Uncle Paul and my big sister’s husband Tom. First stop was Sapporo which is the capital of Japan’s North Island. The best part of Sapporo was it was very traditional Japanese. It was the smallest place we visited, but it was the easiest to get around. The opening ceremony in the fan park was excellent, the traditional drums played were one of the best non-sporting things I have ever seen.
In Sapporo we watched two games. On day two, the first game we went to was Australia versus Fiji. We all went in our Fiji tops, because we couldn’t support Australia. We did sing Waltzing Matilda on the tube though with a lone Australian as we felt sorry for him when no-one joined in. The game was in the Sapporo Dome and despite an excellent effort from Fiji, with some dodgy refereeing Australia sneaked to a narrow victory in an exciting game.
Day three was the first of England’s group games against Tonga. We managed to walk around to above the players’ tunnel I met all the reserve players. I walked along and sat on the bench with them and they all signed my ball and my shirt! England played OK but still convincingly beat Tonga, scoring six tries. It was a good game which I really enjoyed. A good start to the World Cup. My man of the match was Anthony Watson. He played very well. After the game we went back around to the players and I got more signatures from some players who had played in the match. Lewis Ludlum autographed my shirt and ball, and big George Kruis signed my shirt. It was a great end to a great day. Back on the tube now to downtown Pole town where we went back to the hotel ready for an early flight to Tokyo on the next leg of our tour.
The next morning it was raining in Sapporo, but it didn’t matter as it was a travel day. We got a taxi to Sapporo Airport and checked in our luggage, we then went at got breakfast. There were no McDonalds or any other Western fast food though we had a Raman each for breakfast. I mainly just ate the noodles though!
We arrived in Tokyo to the sun. We got the bus to near our hotel which was near the Tokyo Skytree. This is the second largest building in the world, it’s 634m tall and is a TV tower! We went for a walk to the Skytree and had something to eat, then we went back for an early night as we were off on a trip to Mount Fuji the next day.
Mount Fuji is known as the shy mountain and our day trip shown us why. We went on a coach to the 5th base camp of Mount Fuji, but we didn’t see the top of it. That didn’t matter though as later at Lake Hakone we went up a cable car and got some good views of the top of Mount Fuji. We only got 15 minutes up there but had enough time to get some good pictures as the shy mountain peeped out of the clouds for a short moment.
Day 5 in Japan and off to see some more traditional Japanese culture when we went to the Shinto Temple in Tokyo called Senso-Ji. This was amazing. The streets were packed leading up to the temples with small shops and stalls and hundreds of people. We took part in traditional Japanese religious ceremonies, washing our hands and mouth with a special cup and breathing in incense burning from a fire before entering the temple and making a wish. We then spent the twilight hours at the top of the Skytree which was amazing watching the dark fall over the world’s biggest city. We even got to see the sun set behind Mount Fuji.
Day 6 in Japan meant leaving Tokyo and heading on the Shinkansen to Kobe where England were playing the USA later that day. The Shinkansen is a very fast very comfortable train. Japan have had these for a very long time, and we were told by our tour guide when we were there that the Shinkansen 2 is testing on its own special tracks now. It is going to go 500kph using magnets. That is mad!
Anyway, we arrived in Kobe, dropped our bags at the hotel, got some food and set off down to the Fan Park. It was much bigger than the one in Sapporo but much busier. We had a few cheeky drinks and set off to the game. The subway was absolutely packed! It was like I was Sardine on the train and although the atmosphere was great, I was glad to get off.
Like Sapporo the stadium at Kobe was a dome and very warm. It was also very easy to get access to the England players. I got more of them to sign my shirt and got my picture taken with Jonny May and Henry Slade, which got my sisters and mum very jealous.
It was another good game beating USA by a good six tries. My man of the match was George Ford. After the game I got Ruaridh McConnochie’s signature and a pair of USA player’s shorts. They stunk and were full of mud but after a wash they will be treasured. Better still I got my flag on the TV. I had another great day and really enjoyed myself even though we got lost on the way back to the hotel.
Day 7 was our last full day in Japan, and we took it easy starting the day with a walk to the cable cars for a trip up the mountain to the Japanese Gardens. They were great believe it or not! We then walked down to mountain to a big dam and a waterfall before going for a wonder around Kobe. We were stood outside a sushi bar looking at catfish wondering if we go in and give it a try when we noticed Ben Youngs settling his bill. He came out and signed my shirt and ball and had his picture taken with me. It was unbelievable! The Sushi we had was nice as well.
That night we went for some world famous Kobe beef in a restaurant where we had to take our shoes off and cook our own food! The beef was unbelievable – it melted in the mouth.
The next morning saw an early flight back home. Sad to be leaving but happy to have had the most unforgettable experience that I will treasure forever. Sayonara Japan and Arigatou for the best 10 days of my life!
Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would be going back to Japan. But on Thursday I got up and my dad said “Why have you got your uniform on? We are going to Tokyo for the final!” I couldn’t believe it. After England’s two convincing knockout games against Australia and New Zealand, England were favourites to beat South Africa in the final and I was going all the way back to Tokyo to watch them. I got changed and straight to the airport to catch our flight via Amsterdam and Shanghai.
After 15 hours of travelling we arrived in Tokyo the night before the final. Something to eat and then off to bed, excited for the final.
Up early on the Saturday morning then off on the train to Yokohama, first to the Fan park for playing Rugby Tug of War and sampling more of the Japanese way of celebrating rugby. The weather was excellent again and it was a party atmosphere. Everything was going so well. It was the perfect day, was it going to last? Off to the stadium now – my nerves were getting to me now. I just hope we could win.
When we got to the ground the seats were excellent. We were near all the players and saw the South African President and the new Emperor of Japan. Then just before the national anthems and the players came out, Prince Harry joined the royal box. My sisters shouted at him and he gave them a wave!
The less said about the game the better. It was as though last week had left the England team spent. That is all I am going to say about the game. South Africa were the better team on the day and deserved to win and although I was hurting on the day…….and the day after….and still a bit now… all my time in Japan is something I will not forget. I consider myself very lucky to have gone and to have been in a group of less than half a million people who have been to a rugby world cup final.
Plus France is a lot closer than Japan, and four years is not a long time…