World Rugby recently issued the schedule for RWC 2019, for which I wrote a short piece intending to speculate on a visit. This turned into an online discussion with friends from at least three continents starting to draw up schedules and hardwiring plans. My favourite Scottish Kiwi mate even has a day-by-day plan already committed to the Internet, which inspired me to do something similar with a north to south journey built around a block of time in Tokyo.
Starting in Hokkaido
I’ve written plenty about Hokkaido lately in a recent post, a dated piece and a stack of correspondence about a similar recent article in The Guardian, so it’s opportune that England’s opener against Tonga is one of two games in Sapporo. The game is on the evening of Sunday 22 September, which probably equates to arrival the day before and attempting to take in other games in pubs in what isn’t a rugby town.
Without stopping off in Tokyo, I expect this will be my first stop and a direct flight to from Hong Kong might be the easiest route. A visit to the Sapporo beer factory for lamb barbecue and the crab noodles in a great fish market in Hakkodate provide sustenance. A new Bullet Train could complete the journey to Tokyo or, depending on scheduling, the flat rate JPY 10,000 JAL airfare for non-Japanese could be handy.
Base in Tokyo
The nationality of Mark Pearson is somewhat contested. Slovenian wife, educated in London himself, resident in multiple countries and with two children born in the UK, there have been serious rumours circulating our favourite Canadian actually has American tendencies. Attending the USA v England game in Kobe on 26 September, probably on a one night return from Tokyo, therefore appeals.
Failing that, there’s a USA game in Kumagaya near Tokyo which would work well, 9 October, especially to watch a RWC game on a ground I’ve played on. Tokyo would have the benefit of reprising a 2004 rendition of New York, New York as well. This technical duet with my of transatlantic pal was dominated by a hate-filled, threat-laden rant that shocked the room and even to this day puts his audience on edge while dealing with any contentious conversation matter.
Trip to the south
New Zealand will be the favourites and it’s likely the greatest number of my friends there will be Kiwi, so an All Blacks game is a must. The game against a currently unconfirmed qualifier in Oita, Kyushu looks the most intriguing for 2 October. Mainly because I’ve never been there and a game outside Tokyo is certain to have better ticket availability.
The southern parts of Kyushu are also warmer, so I’d also use this opportunity for black sand beaches and sand baths, pictured, with the possibility of a ferry trip to part of the tropical island chain heading toward Taiwan. It’s only this far south where it will be beach weather in October. Getting from Tokyo to here is probably a fine use of the JR pass, with Tokyo to the Kyushu gateway a comfortable four and a half hour ride.
From then, it’s probably Tokyo for as long as I can realistically stay in the country and/or away from work. This will probably be a young family sort of thing, so I’m thinking an AirB&B will form part of the solution though this seems almost as expensive as a night in a mid-range tatami-mat-floor Inn.
On some level, though, I’m also hoping budget will require spending a night in an Internet cafe – the cheapest accommodation I can think of in the dry. It’s the only way to properly respect my gobby half back team mate who shrieked this at a bunch of fresh faced Japanese students, shortly before crashing out on one of the busiest pavements in the metropolis.
Sand bath image licence Wiki Commons
Karaoke image courtesy of Blake Walker