Yesterday was the big game day for us as it was the SA v NZ game at the Yokohama International Stadium. We decided to leave mid-morning and go to the Kirin Beer factory on route to the stadium. We had read it was one of the main attractions in the area and so thought it was worth the visit. It took us about an hour to get there (15 minute walk to station; 30 minute train; 15 minute walk to factory). Unfortunately you need to pre-book (which we hadn’t done) so we just walked around their gardens and then went to their micro-brewer for a beer and two sharing platters (everything was smoked including a boiled egg).
We headed then for Yokohama which B had read had a waterfront area. When we got off the train D had a missed call from the lost & found about his iPad and so M & him decided to go fetch it (about a 90 minute round trip). B & I stayed in Yokohama and walked along the water area. Yokohama is a lot more modern than where we are staying with high rise buildings. Lots of people out and about. It was noticeable how many young couples (either dating or married) and young families were in the area. Japan is trying to encourage a higher fertility rate as there population is projected to shrink from 120 million today to below 100 million by 2040. The fertility rate is only 1.57 per couple. The government now offers free daycare until age 5.
While there might be a ‘watefront area’, it was really a walkway along the water, an amusepark park with rides for kids, a ferris wheel (like London Eye type but smaller), some street performers and a number of modern shops (including a small mall). B & I found a Starbucks for coffee (we can already see that getting a decent coffee in Japan is going to be a challenge). Lots of rugby supporters around as well all wearing their jerseys with lots of banter every time you see a fellow supporter (we somewhat stand out in Japan).
B had read about the Cupnoodles Museum (not kidding real thing – https://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/en/) and when pinned our location for M & D to find us we realised it was close by. So we walked there to have a look. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for a museum on Cupnoodles. I tried to persuade B that a 6-pack of cup noodles would make a great gift for his wife but he didn’t want to spend that much for a gift for her.
We met up with M & D on way back to the station and decided to have an early afternoon lunch of ramen. We found a place nearby that was advertised as having great ramen. It was called Tetsu (https://www.tetsu102.com/shop/yokohama/). You order from a window on the right side. 3 of us ordered the standard ramen (https://www.tetsu102.com/goods/ramen/). You then line up and wait for a space to sit. There are only 16 seats inside and so no lingering when you do finally get in and get your food. It is quite fishy in taste because of the broth but I enjoyed the noodles, meat, bamboo etc that comes in the broth. It is definitely a good Japanese experience.
As we had exhausted everything we wanted to do in Yokohama, we headed for the stadium. On route we experienced a Japanese train being overfilled – part locals, lots of rugby fans. Your personal space being totally invaded seems to result in conversations being struck up and so I got talking to 2 Namibians (in Springbok jerseys) and 2 Canadians (also going to watch the rugby but All Black fans). When we arrived at the stadium we were unfortunately on the wrong side so spent 20 minutes walking around to get to our gate. Security was very efficient and friendly and into the stadium without much hassle.
There were definitely more All Black supporters than Springbok supporters at the game but actually it was predominately attended (maybe 60%) by local Japanese. We had two NZ fans in front of us and we got talking throughout the game with them and enjoyed the banter. They were spending 2 months in Japan (they have tickets for all NZ games, QF, SF and Final). He said they expect to spend NZ$35000 over the 2 months (around R320 000). They are rugby obsessed. They hadn’t taken leave since the previous World Cup (which they also attended for the whole time)! It was a great atmosphere and despite us losing we enjoyed the game and the experience.
We thought it would be a crush to leave the stadium and get on a train so we exited immediately the game was finished. We got ahead of most of the people in the stadium (there were 65000 people present for the game) and managed to get onto a train relatively easily to get back to our AirBnB. 22000 steps later and pretty exhausted!
Until tomorrow …
P, B, M & D