Day 11 9th June 2002
Get back to Tokyo at 11am. Buy disgustingly, horrifically rank Japanese sandwich (of which I eat every last morsel!) and board the train to Shin, Osaka, at 11:20. Couple of coffees on board sort me out and I get to Osaka at 14:30.
Can’t find ‘Hotel Kinki’ anywhere, in spite of the detailed map I printed off their website. It’s supposed to be opposite the Japanese version of the millennium wheel that is red and dominates the skyline, but I can’t see it for love nor money! Cab driver is just as useless, so he phones them up and drops me off- it’s down a ridiculously hidden (and seedy!) alley way!
Meet other AFCB fans at the hotel and we go to an English bar in Shinzabashi to watch Nippon V Russia. They win 1-0 with another strike from Inamoto the Gooner. The Japanese go mad! We feel we should support them- they’re pretty fanatical about us after all!
Turns out to be a good night out on the piss- another late night!
Day 12 10th June
Not much to report really. Explored Osaka, got lost as usual. Watched Korea V USA in the Pig and Whistle (the English pub in Osaka)- packed with lads as you’d expect when England are in town!
Go out again in Shinzabashi. Watch the sweaty Portuguese walk all over the jam rolls (ie Poles). Not so pissed tonight though. Get back at 1am.
Day 13 11th June 2002
11am and off to Yokohama for the Ireland V Saudi match. We have a spare ticket, so the plan is to sell it outside the grand and divvy the money between us all.
We check in to the Marroad hotel in Akasaka, 10 minutes from Tokyo centre, and settle down for the afternoon with lots of coke, chips and spaghetti at the Sports Café. The Danes do the French 2-0 and the Frogs go home without even notching a goal in the process! Unbelievable, n’est-ce-pas?
We sell the spare ticket for 18,000 Yen to a nice lad who wants it for his bird, and head to the Yokohama International Stadium- the venue for the final.
We get the AFCB flags up and do the usual photos. Aside from us and the home nations of course, the Irish have the best support out here from what I’ve experienced. ‘Come On You Boys in Green’ is impressively loud.
Game is quite easy for them- 3-0, a goal for Robbie Keane in the first half (at our end) and later goals in the second half for Breen and Duff. Not many Saudi supporters there!
Do the Hobgoblin (English pub in Akasaka) for a couple of late beers. Meet an Irish geezer out here on business who sinks 4 pints of the Black Stuff in 15 minutes! Then go for a meal Japanese style.
Day 14 12th June 2002
Early rise at 6am to hot foot it back to Osaka for the Nigeria game. Am getting good value out of the rail pass, as I found out that Tokyo to Osaka is nearly £80 one way!
Get back to Hotel Kinki at Osaka at 10:30ish. We all head off to Shinsibashi for pre-match Italian nosh. Get collared into entering the World Cup prediction league- the loser has to go to an AFCB away game of the winner’s choice dressed in only a kimono! I am starting loads of points behind, but I don’t really care- the last AFCB game I went to I was dressed as Non after all!
The heat for this game, a 15:30 ko is ridiculous! Much more conventional for the Nigerians than for us. The game is a bit of a non-event. It was common knowledge that the Swedes were doing the Argies, so I think Sven settled for a draw- not a bad idea; in doing so avoiding the afternoon heat in Oita V African opposition in favour of a night game V European opposition in the shape of Denmark. By no means a classic, but qualification achieved- a job well done. Rio, Butt and Dirty Danny Mills shone again. We did lack imagination in the final third though.
Denmark game is in Nigata- only three days away. It’s really hotting up now!
Have a few in a Canadian bar, then a Japanese bar. Crazy Japanese girls take photos of us with their mobile phones- wonder how long it will take for that craze to catch on at home? Get talking to some Japanese- yet more friends made- God knows what we’re talking about! They can’t speak much EngRish, but we’re with them until 4.30am! Think it consists mainly of reciting Beatles songs, telling them they’re ‘crazy’ and explaining how we plan to get from Tokyo to Niigata on Saturday. Oh, and eating lots of sushi!
Come back smashed at 4.30am
Day 15 13th June 2002
Do nothing all day. The wallet (and the liver) can only take so much after all. Watch the games on telly.
Well, we now need to be back in Tokyo as the route to the final reads: Niigata, Shizuoka, Saitama and Yokohama- all within 2 hours of the capital. Problem being, we have run out of hotel bookings and everything is well scarce. We just take a ‘laissez-faire’ approach and go to Tokyo without booking anything. Turn up unannounced at Japan Railways accommodation help desk. Everyone is shattered, we’ve been lugging bags and cases around all day and have nowhere to rest our weary heads!
To cut a long story short, we end up getting booked into the best 5 star hotel in Tokyo, right opposite the Prime Minister’s residence, and for £30 each per night! BARGAIN! We get pampered good and proper- we even get to watch Mexico V Italy with authentic Motty commentary rather than the Japanese version we can’t decipher!
Day 16 14th June 2002
Wake up in posh hotel- definitely the best sleep I’ve had since I’ve been here.
Go along to Belgium V Russia without a ticket and think maybe I’ll tout it, but one of my mates goes down with a mystery illness and sells me his ticket at the last minute.
At the stadium we buy a massive lunchbox of spag bol, burger, rice etc etc. I am still no better at using chop-sticks though and make a real mess. Resort to eating the burger by ‘lancing’ it with the chopsticks, even though this is a big cultural no-no- it symbolises death!
The game turns out to be really good. Both sides really need to win to get out of the group, which Japan look like winning (the stadium goes wild twice as they beat Tunisia 2-0 in Osaka at the same time). Belgium win 3-2, although we miss a consolation goal as we want to be first to get on the shuttle buses. The AFCB flag is in quite a prominent place, will probably need a reverse angle to get it on TV though. Manage to collect some wicked pin badges off of the stewards on the way back to the bus!
Go for a curry and get given free Japanese soup. We then make twats of ourselves! My mate Gary cracks his head on a glass lampshade (probably because the Japanese are so short) and then I go for a Jimmy Riddle but take the wrong door and end up in the kitchen, much to the chef’s apparent amusement!
Turn in early back at ‘Hotel De Luxe’- it’s another massive day tomorrow!
Check back soon for the next installment of Vinny's World Cup Diary.