Our man in Japan: “the obliging cows are fed on beer”


Words by Bill Hill

Bill Hill is living in Japan for the next few months learning the language and catching some rugby on his travels. This month he’s travelling to Kobe to watch England v USA.

Well… realised England v USA was on in nearby Kobe.. got enthused.. Stubhub obliged… £140.. could be worse.

Yesterday early evening was spent headless chickening around central Osaka trying to print out my golden ticket in the name of one such Olivia Richards. I was prepared to whack some lippy on and don my heels… once again, if need be.

“Tonight, Mathew… Bill is … Olivia” (I actually played Sandy in a brief rendition of ‘You’re the one that I want’ from Grease.. my brother Mike pulled the short straw and was Danny.. such a long time ago.)

Trying to print a ticket off your phone is no easy feat when you’ve only got three years Japanese study plus a recent three week intensive course in Sapporo under your belt. The 90 minute ordeal that followed trying to print out the ticket seemed a lot longer.

I now just needed to wend my merry way back to nearby Osaka Station (station is Eki in Japanese… which I believe equates to something akin to ‘staging post for horses or horse-drawn vehicles’.. but I digress.. something I’m *ckin good at) and hop on a train to nearby Kobe, which some of you might know is famed for its beef. What you might not know is that the obliging cows are fed on beer, according to Danny Zuko.. I mean my brother Mike, who visited recently on a fact-finding mission.

I promptly ended up in a different station (Umeda Eki) on a train to Kobe-Sannomiya… one of a clutch with Kobe in the name… I had not researched the destination with any thoroughness… but my suddenly appearing guide named Akira, who’d enthusiastically assumed said coveted role, and who’d never heard of Migaki Stadium, filled me with confidence that I was heading to the right place.

Arrived. Tried hailing a taxi New York style, and it didn’t stop, so I bowed (O-jigi in Japanese.. what?! a bow’s nothing like a jig..?) and another suddently appeared swinging its automatic door open (yes, remember this, because you feel a bit of a donkey trying to manipulate doors that are already doing their job).

When we arrived I arigatou-gozaimasued (thanked a lot) the driver and scurried across the wide carriageway and disappeared in the dome. A young ticket-checker (not a chubby one) waved his scanner and I got a red light.. twice.. which was like a Family Fortunes XX amplified tenfold to my chomping-at-the-bit but anxious state of mind. He proceeded to look at me and said ‘okay?’ as if requesting my permission to let him say I could pass ‘go’. I replied with a barely convincing ‘okay’ before slipping through the net of disaster and venturing forth to examine what this Dome could offer.

I quickly found the W7 entrance and disappeared through it like a ferret down a trouser leg (or is it up?)… and bounced up the steps to an arena buzzing with anticipation. Found my aisle, row and seat….

ALREADY OCCUPIED BY AN ENGLAND FAN!! Knew it. He and his mates showed me their tickets, also bought last minute online, in the name of the aforementioned Olivia’B***ch’ Richards, and informed me that, shortly before, they had also been approached by a group of Welshmen claiming to have tickets for the very same row.

We’d all been had. I found a lone, spare, seat really close by, and settled down to enjoy the encounter.

And I did. It was a predictable win for England but the USA gave it their all and pulled a converted try out of the bag in the dying seconds, one man down!