Our final day in Japan also meant our final fixtures of the tour. We journeyed back out to the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club, home to the oldest rugby club in Japan, set in suburbia atop a hill looking out over the two cities below.
The second team, a little tired and beaten from playing against some very strong 1XV opposition in the previous two games, somehow managed to summon the energy one final time.
It was a close game throughout which ebbed and flowed in all directions. The LGS boys spent the final 5 minutes camped on their own line resolute in the ideal of holding onto a win and finishing on a high. A superb turnover with the clock dead enabled the ball to be kicked dead and the relief to take hold.
The 1XV had been waiting patiently for their turn. The wait had done them no Davies with the champions of Tokyo warming up nearby, turning more than a few heads at their intimidating physical size.
Because of this, the LGS boys struggled to find their feet in the first quarter of the game. At half time however, the realisation struck that they weren’t as imposing as they first thought (except for the 20 stone Tongan international number 8 that is).
A tight second half ended with two tries a piece. As captain Joe Callery explained at the final whistle, it bodes well for next year as there will be few bigger teams on our circuit.
Confidence was the winner in the end on this tour. The boys know each other. They know to play for each other as well as for the badge.
When we have all finally caught up on our sleep (perhaps sometime in 2019), we can look forward to the new season ahead. The team has fused together to the extent that few outside of the group, would be able to tell you which year each player is in. Mission accomplished.
Thank you to all those who helped in getting us out here. And for allowing your sons (and husbands) five full days of bed rest when we eventually arrive home.
Arigatō and sayōnara Japan. It’s been a pleasure.
Today we got up early and set off for Tokyo using the Japanese railway, which was once again very busy.
We arrived in Tokyo and went to get some lunch before setting out on an interesting guided walking tour of the city. We saw sights such as the busiest crossing in the world and one of the craziest places Takeshita Street, which enabled us to experience more of the extraordinary Japanese culture.
After the tour we went back and got ready to go out later that evening, which we were all excited about. On the journey to the restaurant we went through one of the busiest railway stations in the world. Then headed to the amazing restaurant for our dinner which was all you could eat, everyone took this to full advantage and nearly ate the place out. At the end of the dinner we finished with prizes from best player to best tourist, which finished off a great day and delicious meal.
After dinner we were given some free time to explore this hectic city and do a bit of shopping in the local area.
We then headed back to the hotel to get a well needed sleep, to get us ready for the game tomorrow which we will hopefully win.
Tuesday arrived and we headed off for another trip on the Japanese rail to our Taiko drumming experience.
Donned in traditional garb (see picture) we attempted to sound like we A: knew what we were doing, and B: had rhythm. Results were a little sketchy.
It was a fantastic hour of true Japanese culture that gave us a real insight into their heritage and history.
Following this we journeyed into ‘old Tokyo’ where we were met with the biggest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. A couple of hours of exploring and mooching led us towards the baseball stadium.
With 50 new supporters of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows alienated within the ranks of the away fans we had our backs against the wall. But our gusto and intrigue into this somewhat unfamiliar sport allowed us to fit in easily. As, it must be said, did the general size of some of our tourists.
A trip back to hotel ensued ahead of a busy day exploring Tokyo tomorrow. Stay tuned for more.
Today saw a very welcome ‘day off’. After over 1000km covered yesterday, the call was made to give the boys a morning to themselves.
With many making use of the incredible amenities that we have on our doorstep here in Yokohama, it was the perfect opportunity to recharge those batteries before we head into the home straight of the tour.
After meeting in the hotel at lunchtime, we hopped back on to our perennial friend the Japanese Rail, to head for the beach.
Despite the rocky terrain and the humidity we managed to squeeze in the traditional beach touch tournament before enjoying the impressive surf of the Pacific Ocean. With no scores really being kept it’s difficult to call a winner. My guess is that it was either team 4 or the staff team. We’ll call it a draw.
We have a busy day tomorrow in Tokyo. More to come after that!
Today we were up early for our first taste of the famous Shinkansen (or bullet train). We were heading for Hiroshima.
Upon arrival we hotfooted onto another train, and then a boat to visit the holy island of Miyajima for some more cultural exploration.
After heading back to Hiroshima we had the sobering experience of walking through the peace gardens to find the A-bomb dome; a structure that sat directly 600m below the tragic blast and as a result was one of the few remaining buildings from the explosion.
A difficult couple of hours was then spent wandering the halls of the museum before jumping back on the train to Yokohama which is our destination for a calming three whole days.
It was a day that will be jettisoned into the memory for many. And a real sad privilege to be a part of.
1XV game 22 July
The 2nd team faced a difficult 1XV opponent, it was a tough game. The opposition came out on top despite the boys fighting well, especially considering the hot and humid weather. They scored one try, which was their first in Japan. The try came late on in the game which proved the hard-working attitude of the whole team. This was a challenging match during which, the players played their very best, evident from the blood, sweat and almost tears. Overall, a great performance from the 2nd team against a very strong opposition and there were some signs of development starting to creep into their second half performances.
1XV game 22 July
Although the intense humidity and heat posed a big challenge to the boys, we dealt with it extremely well and came out the blocks fighting. We scored a brilliant early try down the left hand tour line with the try eventually being dotted down by Guy Ackerley. The opposition then struck back with a driving maul try, but the boys weren’t disheartened, as we responded immediately by breaking through the middle of their defence after a great steal from the kick off from Jamin Street. Selfless hands from Sam Titchener to put Olly Carruthers in for the try demonstrated how far the boys had come as a team. Unfortunately, through the fatigue caused by the heat, we let slip to a few tries with some dubious calls from the ref agonising the players especially at scrum and line out time. Although we had left too much to do in the remaining time, it didn’t stop the skipper, Joe Callery from scoring a last minute try after a hack through. Overall, the boys performed really well and it is clear to see the improvement the boys are making and how we are building as a group of players. Although the scoreline does not reflect the game, the boys can feel happy with themselves knowing they performed well within the circumstances of the heat and the dubious decisions by the ref.
Following a lovely dinner at the Petite Hotel in Sugadaira last night, the boys were up early this morning to travel to Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan. Once on the bus, the tourists spent some time on the road before stopping off at Tsumago, a place of historical significance, part of the Nakasendō route between Kyoto and Tokyo that the Samurai used to travel on. This route was key to these noble warriors’, as they moved between the two cities every year. The boys enjoyed the beautiful scenery of this mountain passage, whilst they dined and bought souvenirs (some more useful than others) in various establishments throughout the village.
We then continued on our journey to Kyoto which was aided by some movies on the coach, Fast and Furious 7 being of particular enjoyment. On arrival, the boys checked in and then headed out to explore this amazing city. Many headed to the spectacularly built train station, only second in size to its Nagoya counterpart, found only 200 metres from our hotel. It contains nearly one hundred restaurants, where the boys enjoyed a fulfilling dinner following their long day of travels. They will now get a good nights rest before their guided tour of the city and tough fixture tomorrow.
After a refreshing breakfast with views of the fantastic surrounding mountains and rugby pitch the boys were ready for the all-important Captains Run on the fantastic local rugby pitch.
The facilities where we were playing today were fantastic, in fact the Japanese international team had trained here prior to the World Cup which puts into perspective just how good they were.
With the sun baking hot and the boys getting through lots of water the second XV got underway kicking off first. The opposition were evidently very well drilled and organised scoring early on and making a small lead. The game progressed and the determination and commitment shown by the team grew which was very encouraging. By half time they were a couple of tries down. They came out revitalised in the second half, flying into the rucks and running hard which was a huge improvement from the previous half and conceded less tries.
Now it was the turn of the first team who came out of the blocks and scored a great early try and consequently gained the lead, however the opposition came back fighting and subsequently scored shortly after. With the scores now level, the game was there for the taking and it was hugely physical. Down at half time there was a tough task ahead of them which, with a few fantastic tries, did lead to a loss.
Both matches were followed by snacks and drinks which were greatly received with a fantastic presentation and exchanging of gifts between the two teams.
We were up at 5am today for our flight to Tokyo so there were some tired eyes at the room sweep.
With a steady 5 hour bus journey waiting for us on the other side, it was going to take something for it to be worth the discomfort. It certainly was.
Perhaps for the first time on this tour we feel a little more immersed in the local culture. All shoes off at the door, some rooms with tatami mats for beds and two excellent tour guides joining us to help us fit in.
Apart from that, there isn’t much to say to be honest. A worthwhile day, but a mere precursor to tomorrow. We are in ‘rugby town Japan’ and tomorrow we play rugby.
With the first rugby of the tour under our belts today we turned our attention towards some recreation and sightseeing. We were up and out early to head to Repulse Bay for a quick swim in the South China Sea. It was a beautiful spot and a perfect chance to fully unwind after a busy start to the trip.
After lunch we headed off on a guided bus trip around Hong Kong, stopping off at the idyllic Victoria Peak for those must have tourist pictures. A stop off at the famous Stanley Market on the south of Hong Kong island and a visit to a slightly bizarre Symphony of Lights on the waterfront ensured that we had ticked off all of those must see destinations before heading off to pastures new.
We have an early start tomorrow to catch our flight to Tokyo and coach trip on to Sugadaira, and with the fairly epic thunderstorm going on outside it’s sure to be somewhat of a disrupted night’s sleep. Fingers crossed the plane can still take off…signing off for now.
After a long but smooth journey the 50 tourists arrived at the Charterhouse Hotel on Hong Kong Island. A jet-lagged-interrupted night ensued with some tired looking faces arriving for breakfast the following morning.
A competitive (and very hot!) touch tournament helped us all to blow out those long haul cobwebs before a little R&R ahead of our opening fixtures.
Departure time arrived and the weather had changed some. The rain. Oh, the rain. Do we all remember the ice bucket challenge? Well picture that but 30 degrees centigrade. Umbrellas were useless and it was too hot for ponchos, except for the smug and snug Dr Ball.
I think that the most frustrating thing of all was that it was the ideal weather for perfecting those Klinsmann dives but the rubber crumb pitches made that a painful exploit. Didn’t it Joe Callery?
The games themselves were a fantastic experience, we played against a couple of teams from England and a Hong Kong RFC XV, whilst being surrounded by skyscrapers in biblical rain.
The second XV will head to Japan unbeaten following a draw and a win. The first XV had a tricky couple of games, losing both. The second one was much tighter though, and was stopped slightly early due to the conditions resembling something akin to Atlantis.
All thoughts move towards tomorrow and a morning at the beach.