The girl who sits next to me at work just came back form skiing in Japan in Hokkaido, the Japanese island I know least but the home of one of my greatest memories. I paid through the nose for this but watching England grind out a tough but deserved win over Argentina in the Sapporo Dome in 2002 was an important moment for me. I had forever wanted to see England achieve something of this magnitude and wanted to be there. And I was, with Shaun my old Uni mate.
It’s been over 5 years since leaving (asked to leave) Japan but I’m getting myself back into the culture again. I’ve been taking trains across the city, munching on the takoyaki, reading up on the news, learning the language again. Not necessarily the aboves but on reflection and from discussions with friends, Japan permeates your own psyche. It’s a touch awkward returning home. The cleanliness, ordered convenience, lack of crime and ease of life casts a shadow over your own society. You don’t make active comparisons. Japan is too different for such. But Japan is not the kind of place you stay forever. The differences are so obvious and consistently reinforced, its near impossible to ever feel fully comfortable there. Yet on returning home, you don’t feel quite right.
Partly for when you return, you’re at a slight loss. Wondering what to do and where. Some know why they are in Japan and therefore what to go back to. My friend Matt needed money to finish his architecture degree and spent 4 years in Kansai and now back in Australia, he is a qualified architect. Others, in fact most of those I know or knew find themselves at a looser end than before. It takes a few years to get the base re-set and ready for later life. I am not there yet; some are but I’m getting closer.
Anyway back to the point of this blog. Here in Melbourne, I’m trying to see as much as possible. Melbourne is Australia’s cultural city, home of the arts, comedy, food and hundreds of nationalities. But above all, sport. You’ll see joggers alongside rowers on the river and cyclists, all geared up, streaming past you. I’ve done my bit, walking throughout the city and using the gym at my house. I feel better.
So I’ve been to the MCG for Melbourne v Western Bulldogs Aussie rules game, the Australian Open tennis at the Rod Laver Arena, live kickboxing and finally some football. Of course I’ve been watching the live feeds from the 6 Nations and the English Premier League but it’s on so late, it’s a killer for the weekend. (and one of the reasons, Australia is just too far away)
Melbourne Victory are the football team here and playing in the Asian Champions League. They were playing Gamba Osaka, the second team in Japan. The game was held at the 50,000 Telstra Dome but only sold 24,000 tickets, a decent turn out for the third sport in this city. With little affection for the Melbourne supporters and a curiosity for the Japanese, I got tickets in the Japanese section. The Japanese supporters were very genki and vocal, if predictably so. In true Japanese group style, Gamba had their own tubby, male cheerleaders carrying megaphones and flags and starting 10 repetitive songs.
The game itself was a cracker. Neither team could defend crosses. The score went back and forth, each team answering with yet more simply crafted goals. Both teams worked hard, covering the ground and defending zonally. In the 90th minute, Gamba headed in the winner. The Japanese descended into craziness, hugging and high-fiving all round. They deserved it. Just about.
Well back to the big league. God’s team Newcastle United play Sunderland. We invite the shitesters up to Newcastle and civilisation for Keegan to continue his consistent winning record over Sunderland. It’s howay 5-0 right now for Keegan and I have no doubts it will continue on Sunday night.
Oh me lads, you should’ve seen us gannin
Passing the folks along the road
And all of them were starin’
All the lads and lasses there
They all had smilin’ faces
Gannin along the Scotswood Road
To see the Blaydon races
Howay the Lads.