Trip Report - Japan - MAY'95

Friendly Matches in Kirin Cup, Japan, May 1995
Trip Journal by Scott Kelly, Brussels Tartan Army

Having always wanted to visit Japan, I decided to deliver a crippling blow to my visa card and travel over to watch Scotland play in the Kirin Cup in Japan. I left Brussels on a wet Wednesday morning and began my journey. After negotiating the usual selection of drunken Irishmen and Aussies at various airports, I arrived in Tokyo after an eleven hour flight. A long queue for passport control and I took my first steps on Japanese soil.

Luckily I had acquired a 'Japan Rail Pass' before coming away and was able to save myself the 40 quid single train fare from Tokyo city centre from the airport. I found a cheap !? (45 quid) place to stay in Tokyo and spent a couple of days there eating noodles and finding out just how expensive the country is (you have special shoes for outside, inside, bathroom ansd toilet). I discovered at least one of the Japanese culture spots - the English Conversation Lounge.

This lifesaver works as a sort of club / bar where Japs pay about 20 quid to come in and practise their English ! Mother Tongue English speakers however are allowed in free and get to buy beers for about 2 quid instead of 7 or 8 quid - I was happy there ! Another distinct advantage of these clubs is the generous balance of pretty young ladies who all want to speak to you - conversation was not too advanced but at least a few of them had seen basic instinct !

More to the point however, the Japs in general seemed quite interested in football and the Kirin Cup was big news in Japan, even if it hardly merrited a report in the Scottish press. I arrived in Hiroshima by train on the day before the first match against Japan and enjoyed a few beers with some Japs on the train on the way down - they were going to the match themselves.

After finding a cheapo place to crash, I went in search of food and Scots fans. The first was easy as I had become adept at miming and pointing at my requirements - waving the hands in an eating sort of way and drawing a bottle shape in the air. I found a small bar and had about 4 or 5 beers and loads of small dishes of food which seemed to just keep arriving. Eventually, I was talking with a Jap footie fan who worked as an (rather poor standard) English Translator. After some time and a few more beers, I asked for my bill, and was shocked to find it came to the Yen equivalent of about 80 quid - for a few beers and snacks ! That was my spending money for two or three days. My new found japanese footie fanatic friend who by this time was well on his way, pulled out his wallet and promptly settled my account, mumbling something about visitors to Japan being welcome and such other things. I sneaked away, mulling over my lucky escape from a crippling bar bill !

Later that evening, I bumped into Charlie and Alan, a couple of Jocks who had also travelled over for the tour - The first Scots I had seen since I arrived. We had a few beers and turned in for the night - the match kick off being 12:00 the following day. I made through the torrential rain to the train station at about 10:15 but after failing to find someone who could help me acquire a ticket or any information on which train to get to the stadium I was getting slightly worried and wandered round to Charlie and Alans hotel to see if they had left already - they had. However, by another big stroke of luck, a 12 seater mini-bus was sitting outside the hotel with a little card in the corner stating 'Scottish Press Party'. I negotiated my way in and travelled what turned out to be several miles to the Big Arch stadium in style ! (That official Press Party appeared in a somewhat sorry state from an obvious heavy drinking session the evening before).

From here, things became even more bizzare. I walked into the stadium itself without even a ticket - I was assumed to be one of the press party and collected all sorts of programmes and other souveniers inside (programmes were face value equivalent of about 20 quid). Eventually, the SFA representative found me and I was provided a ticket for my seat (I must admit that I have never actually paid for that ticket but I suppose that just as well since the face value was about 40 quid !).

Still inside the stadium, I wandered further along and even walked into a large training hall underneath the main stand where the Japs were warming up. They looked quite a mean bunch. I decided to go and try and find my seat and met Alan on the way. Unfortunately, neither of us could read the kanji and decided to head for the covered section of the stadium (which we knew we weren't in but with the rain still coming down in buckets, this seemed the best solution).

After negotiating our way past some confused security gaurds who tried to tell us that our seats were on the other side of the ground, we made our way to two empty seats and sat down (these we later found out were the 100 quid seats !). What a pair of eejits we looked with tammies, 'See you Jimmy' hats, scarves and flags everywhere ! About 5 minutes after kick off, two rather pretty Japanese girls approached and told us that we were in their seats - our polite offers for them to sit on our knees during the match were declined so we all squeezed up together to watch the match.

The match was a disaster. There was so much surface water that neither side was really able to play football. This match would normally have been abandoned ! A makeshift Scots team where Craig Brown was obviously trying out a few new players was fielded but failed to excite during the match (it was Colin Calderwoods debut match). Coupled with the fact that an incompetent (or biased ?) whistle happy Columbian referee conspired to eject two Scots players from the action the match came to a dismal end as a dismal 0-0 draw (at which point the dismal rain ceased as well).

Note: John Spencer was one of those sent off on 30 minutes and for a tackle where he didn't actually make contact with his opponent. However, when quizzed about this later in the tour, he confirmed that his intention had been to nobble the guy and that he had accidentally missed him !

The full house crowd of about 30,000 Jap fans was quite impressive given the weather conditions and the fact that the majoity of the ground was not covered. The Scottish support was somewhat less and we confirmed that there were only 4 fans who had travelled from Scotland. A couple of other saltires could be seen inside the stadium however although we never actually found the owners of them. The only other Scots were a football team called the Yokohama Celtics (20 people consisting of about 5 Jocks and the rest, a complete mix of other nationalities) who had travelled through for the day !)

Disappointed, the 4 travelling fans descended on the Scottish Press Party Bus to try and snag ourselves a lift back down to Hiroshima. Whilst waiting, more bizzare occurences as Japs began to arrive, offering us money to take pictures of us with our hats, scarves and flags like we were circus animals. The Scotland team waved us from their bus on their way out of the stadium and the press coach left shortly after and dropped us off in town where we all retired to have some beers.

The following day was spent touring about Hiroshima (visiting the site where the nuclear bomb landed and devastated the city all those years ago) in the evening we caught a train to holy city of Kyoto where we spent another 2 nights. During this culture stop, the septuagenarian Charlie generated the biggest laugh with his comments on the exsquisite beauty of a particular highly powdered geisha girl who was bidding goodnight to a client on the doorstep of her establishment. She must have been the oldest working geisha girl in town and had surely been a geisha girl for some time !

The following morning, we then caught the bullet train to the second match of the tour against Ecquador which was to be played in a small backwater town in the North of Japan called Toyama. After checking into what must have been the most sub standard hotel in the entire city (it appeared to double as a brothel), I met up with the others and we began our pre-match preparation consisting of a high-carbo meal - noodles - and then getting stuck into a few beers. Charlie again offered himself as the amusement sacrifice with his point blank refusal to use chopsticks in a country which seems not to have forks. He ended up struggling with a spoon !

Once suitably oiled and armed with a generous carry out, we caught the 'football special' bus to the stadium. And lounged about on the grass outside, consuming our carry out - this was a great crack. The official Scotland reps (David Will, Jack McGinn, Yule Craig, etc) came wandering round with their nicely pressed blazers and grey hair giving out small badges to the multitude of Jap kids who were following them. After eventually finding a rep with our tickets, we marched into the stadium (again still not paid for to this day) to find that we were actually in the best section of the stadium for the match.

About 15 !? people were in the Scotland section this time including a bearded John Spencer who had a one match ban after his expulsion during the first match ! A far more entertaining match saw a solid performance from Scotland beat Ecquador 2-1 (Scotlands first came from Robertson on the half hour, but was quickly equalised by a VERY soft Ecquador penalty and won for us on 38 minutes with a side foot home after a scramble by Crawford) and a considerable number of beers consumed from the wee guy with the never ending tray of beers.

Feeling absolutely terrible the following morning, I made the long journey to Tokyo and back home. It later transpired that Japan had trounced Ecquador 3-0 in Tokyo in the last match and didn't have to parcel the winners cup up and send it to Park Gardens by DHL !!

ScottK, Brussels Tartan Army (E-Mail to )

To the Tartan Army Page or the Trip Journals Page