Time for a new country and a two hour flight with Air Busan to Tokyo Narita airport. After a quick transition through passport check and customs, we headed to exchange our JR Passes which we had preordered and would save us money on the J lines and Shinkansens (bullet trains). Obviously most other tourists thought the same thing as the queue was long! This was the first time I got a sense that the Rugby World Cup was going on here, as most people in the queue were from nations competing in the quarterfinals at the weekend. There were also lots of posters and banners with information on how to use the trains and advice on what’s places to visit in Japan. It took us about an hour to complete the process, before we finally got on the Narita Express into the city to Hotel Gracery Tamachi, where we were staying for the next few days. On arrival we were handed some hot towels which was a nice touch after our travels!
After a quick shower it was time for some dodgy dealings! When booking tickets for the World Cup last year, we were quite confident that Ireland would win Group A and make it to the 4th Quarterfinal. However things changed when Japan gave great performances to beat ourselves and Scotland in the group stages to finish top of the group. So we finished second and like most Irish people here we wanted to swap our tickets for the 2nd Quarterfinal. In the few days before arriving to Tokyo, I had been trying to hunt down some tickets. Trawling various Facebook pages and groups and I even joined Twitter to tweet in Japanese to find someone who was willing to swap! I eventually came across a local lady named Sae who owned the Seamus O’Hara Irish pub in the south of the city who had someone with four tickets that wanted to swap. We arranged to meet that evening at her pub. We arrived to this tiny pub with a South African family and two Irish lads sitting at the bar, two Japanese men wearing suits with two laptops open on the table in the corner and an Italian man behind the bar. We soon found out that the exchange would be happening with one of the Japanese guys, Koichi. Introductions were made with Sae interpreting, tickets were checked and double checked. There was serious stalking done on Facebook before finally the exchange was made! After having a polite drink with everyone, we said our goodbyes and left with four tickets in hand, not sure how to make of this strange experience and hoping we hadn’t been scammed!
Next morning, we went to Shibuya Crossing to see the madness of one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. We first viewed it from Shibuya station, before we went down to join in the madness and cross it ourselves. Next we walked down Takeshita Street which is a pedestrian street of a wide array of shops, cafes and boutiques. We had a brief visit to Shinjuku Gyeon National Park before it closed. Then it was time to hit the trains again and make our way to Tokyo Stadium which is about an hour west of the city. The atmosphere on the train was brilliant with renditions of The Fields of Athenry and Ole, Ole, Ole! I don’t think the locals really knew what to make of it all! We were definitely disrupting their normal ‘dead silent’ commute.
We arrived at the stadium holding our breath as they scanned our tickets, hoping everything was legitimate. I’ve never been so happy to hear the beep of the scanner knowing Koichi and Sae has been good to us. Unfortunately the result didn’t go our way, (New Zealand 46:14 Ireland), where we can up against a great New Zealand team.
Next day we walked through the International Forum Building to see its beautiful architecture before going to the fans zone bar to watch the Wales v France (20:19) and Japan v South Africa (3:26). The Japanese fans were brilliant and have clearly embraced the rugby fans!
After a weekend of rugby it was time to do some sightseeing and activities. First stop was the Robot restaurant, which was a weird experience. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but it was all very unusual. We were told to be there an hour before the show started and were brought up to the waiting area, where there was food and drinks available for sale. We were then brought into the main room and shown to our seats where again they were selling more food and drinks, before the show started. The show itself was made up of four 15 minute acts of robots and dancers with different themes and it was actually very good.
Next we went to Meiji Jingu shrine and walked around Yoyogi Park to get some peace after the crazy show. And then we finished our time in Tokyo with a trip to Konica Minolta Planetarium. After a nice chilled evening.Read more