After the excitement generated by the semi finals I decided to head somewhere more tranquil. Catching the westward bound Shinkansen I headed for Itsukushima, home of the floating shrine and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It offered a stark contrast to the previous night as there were more deer than
people wandering around the dimly lit streets. But in the bay the floating shrine was lit up. I understand that mere mortals used to have to enter the island by boat through this shrine. These days it would seem to be a matter of studying the tides as the two times I have been here the shrine appears to be standing on a mud flat.
Choosing something to eat isn’t as difficult as you would imagine here in Japan. Mainly due to the fact that outside the majority of establishments they have either a photograph or a plastic imitation of the dishes available.
The main problem I have is when they describe the dish in English, seeing the likes of eel, squid and octopus immediately puts me off, whereas written in Japanese the food might still look appealing. This night I chose a local speciality okonomiyaki, a noodle dish with pancakes and
fried eggs as well as shaved fish, called hanakatsuo. When this is added as a topping to a hot dish, the heat has the effect of making the flakes move as if dancing; because of this, it is also known as dancing fish flakes.
Watching the Togel Hongkong move made me wonder if John Lennon was on drugs or just eating okonomiyaki.
It just so happened that the next day Sanfrecce Hiroshima were hosting Jubilo Iwata in the Emperor’s Cup. So taking the Astram line monorail out of the city, with buildings below and hills on either side I eventually reached The Big Arch, home of Sanfrecce and almost a World Cup venue in 2002. As I walked in I was handed a leaflet, with closer inspection I found that it was
a songsheet for the supporters, complete with words (in Japanese). So later
I was to be entertained with Smoke on the Water, Ale, Ale Hiroshima
(possibly a drinking song) and The Great Escape.
Two well taken free kicks gave Sanfrecce a comfortable win and a place in the semi-finals of the Emperor’s Cup. This appeared to appease the home supporters in the sparse crowd who looked a little lost in the 50,000 stadium built originally for the 1994 Asian Games.
Headed homeward after the match on the Shinkansen with a brief stop (normally less than a minute between arriving and departing stations (at Osaka and then a slight detour in Nagoya) before arriving back in Tokyo on the eve of the Club World Cup Final.
The first match of the day saw Urawa Red Diamonds clinch third spot thanks to a 4-2 penalty shoot win, after a 2-2 draw during normal time. Washington the Urawa goalscorer, with two headed goals will be greatly missed as he is now to return to Brazil. However he has promised the Japanese that one day he will be back to manage the only club he could ever play for in Japan.
Milan Win World Club Cup
The final itself was a simply a showcase for Kaka, who in turn used it to announce that he belonged to Jesus. Kaka was a constant menace and as well scoring he provided two assists and provoked into a foul a Boca player which saw him sent off. Boca supporters continued their chant of “dale Boca” throughout, but whilst it must have looked as though the team were dallying, in truth Kaka delivered a performance which saw him crowned World Player of the year, if the vote had gone to anyone else they would have changed it after watching this display. His performance meant that once again Brazil were the winners of this competition, a fact which clearly hurt the Argentinians. He taunted the Boca fans with the trophy and Brazil flag as he ran round on Milan’s lap of honour.
Once again Japan has left its impression on me. The place where you start the day with the latest energy drink, with two pills dispensed in a plastic cup before knocking back some potion. The cleanliness of the place, where even at the football stadiums people pick up their rubbish and place it in the bins provided. Where you now pay for items by scanning your mobile phone
over a paypoint. This time though I get to leave my own (fingerprint) impression with Japan.