GET READY FOR JAPAN
TIME truly has flown. Exactly one year from today, Wales take on Georgia in their first game of the ninth Rugby World Cup in Japan. And when they open their campaign, there will be thousands of fans in the stand as they follow Warren Gatland’s men from Tokyo to Kumamoto City, with a few stops in between.
While the rugby venues and fan zones may provide a sense of familiarity, on the whole Japan will present an experience unlike any which travelling fans have encountered before.
It’s a beautiful and welcoming nation. But its culture is very different from ours, the language can add to the confusion, and the sheer volume of people can be disorientating.
There are a few simple things that you should know before heading out next year in order to avoid running into trouble or unwittingly causing offence. TAKING OFF YOUR SHOES One of the most frequent differences between the cultures that I encountered revolved around a fairly regular requirement to remove my shoes.
Don’t be offended if you are asked to remove your footwear, it’s very common.
At some palaces and castles it is a requirement as you enter. There are said to be many reasons for this, including respect and to prevent marking the buildings and keep them in a good condition.
At authentic Japanese restaurants, there will be a rack by the door for you to leave your footwear before you move through to your table, which may often be built into the floor.
Just make sure you don’t have holes in your socks and are wearing matching ones!
In some places, toilet slippers will be provided for you to change out of your outdoor shoes before entering the loo. This is for hygiene reasons and helps prevent the transfer of dirt or bacteria. DIFFERENT CHARACTERS The people of Japan are incredibly welcoming and helpful but they are, on the whole, far more mild-mannered and reserved than those of us from the UK.
Loud, boisterous behaviour is not as common or acceptable in public places.
This might be something to keep in mind when leaving bars or fan zones after a few sakis! TATTOOS In Japan, tattoos hold historical links with organised crime groups like the Yakuza.
As such, if you have visible tattoos, you may be refused entry to swim- ming pools, hot springs, beaches and some gyms.
In fact, when Scotland played in Japan in 2016, their players had to get up at the crack of dawn if they wished to use the pool before it opened to members of the public.
Covering them up may suffice, and attitudes towards tattoos are being relaxed, particularly if you are clearly a foreigner. BEING POLITE AT THE TABLE Drinks and meals are usually paid for after you’ve finished, and tipping is not necessary.
One thing I noticed is that if you finish your plate or your drink, it’s taken as a sign that you are not full or that you are still thirsty and more food and drink may appear!
Slurping your noodles in Japan is not frowned upon or dismissed as rude, it is perfectly acceptable. Some say it’s a sign that you’re enjoying your food – and it fits in with their pace of life.
You may bring small bowls of soup to your lips and drink it from the bowl.
I’d recommend learning how to use chopsticks before you go. Most places will cater for you and provide a knife and fork if you can’t use them, but, personally, I felt a little embarrassed that I struggled with them.
However, never stick your chopsticks into your bowl of rice under any circumstances. This is considered very rude. BEHAVIOUR AT PALACES AND CASTLES Japan is a country that fiercely celebrates its history and culture, which is the reason they are very intent on preserving the remaining castles and palaces.
Nagoya Castle – near where Wales face Georgia – will be closed during the World Cup as it is being rebuilt. The castle is a national treasure but was flattened by US air raids in 1945, then rebuilt out of concrete. It is now being rebuilt out of wood, using the same techniques that were used during its original construction in the 17th century. off to walk around the castle and take extra care on the stairs because they’re incredible steep. This is because it was easier for the Samurai to throw their enemy down them.
Back in the city of Nagoya – Japan’s fourth most populated city – you can find Nagoya Castle.
During World War II, the castle and the Honmaru Palace, that’s housed within its grounds, were completely destroyed by air raids.
The castle was rebuilt out of concrete, but will be closed during the Rugby World Cup because the mayor of Nagoya has ordered that it be completely reconstructed.
Though visitors next September will still be able to take a look
Nagoya Castle in Japan is a national treasure, and is currently being rebuilt
Rugby World Cup 2019 branding on display outside the train station in Toyota City
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