Sunday, December 18, 2005

thoughts on japanese culture during 10 days in japan

run when the music starts
After 10 days spent in japan , mainly in the tokyo/yokohama metropolis for the football club world championships december 11-18th 2005.
A thronging mass of (mainly japanese) humanity teeming onto a fearsomely complicated transport system with a large variety of train & subway lines from early in the morning to very late at night.
Expect packed trains at 10pm most nights even more so than (say) 5pm as the salaryman or equivalent still works or is at work or is entertaining for very long hours.
Expect to walk miles to change lines or find your station exit often negotiated via miles of underground shopping centre.
Expect overt formality to pervade everyday life - rituals that have filtered through from traditions such as the shinto religion, the bushido code & various ceremonies.
Expect strict adherence to the law ,not many buildings that seems very old, few immigrants to alter (taint ?) the culture (apart from some obvious western influences eg coffee shops)
Tiny children walking alone in tokyo city , even tinier children tied together tottering along with a teacher leading them.
And an underlying feeling of a very powerful national (rather than nationalistic) spirit evident especially whenever disaster strikes.
A well dressed populace eating very healthy food & living for a very long time in a safe environment presenting an often (to a european) impenetrable facade.

See the yasukuni shrine (picture above) & in particular the nearby yashukan (military) museum including the very poignant wife dolls made for the (young, unmarried) special attack corps (kamikaze) pilots that died during ww2.
And most of all wonder how such a previously nationalistic nation could transpose into a peaceful and so deferential country that we see now.

Wonder at the mobile phones with the 400 page manuals & the akihabara (electronics town) area of tokyo - the mecca for the cyber geeks (the young guys that you often see asleep on the couches in the internet cafes after all day/night gaming sessions)

So everyone waits at the crossings until the music starts & you can cross the road - run quickly so you get across before the music stops & try to avoid the locals talking on their mobiles &/or not looking where they are going.

liverpool vs sao paulo final club world champs yokohama

liverpool 0 sao paulo 1
played before a nearly full yokohama stadium (66800) with maybe 3000 liverpool and similar
numbers for sao paulo plus locals
the atmosphere as usual tends to dissipate in such a large stadium with the crowd well distanced from the playing area
the tournament means more to the south americans than the british & they certainly celebrated at the end (with the mandatory communal praying)
thats not to say that liverpool didnt want to win and in the second half particularly they showed a lot of spirit & desire though it seemed strange that crouch was not to appear until the last 15 mins - surely he would have caused the brasilians problems from the start ?
but liverpool had many chances anyway & should have had a least been level at the end
it was only in the first half that sao paulo were to show consistent (attacking) prowess
& you felt they were unduly pragmatic in the 2nd
the final presentations with mr blatter prominent seemed to (and did) go on for ages

overall a generally entertaining tournament with all games being close (except liverpool vs saprissa) played in v cold but dry weather in large stadiums before mainly quiet audiences
tickets easy to buy - only maybe the final would need some prior organisation & it looked like they had cat 1 (v expensive) tickets left
as you would expect in japan it is very easy to get around - the transport system is awesome

To encourage more local participation it would make sense to a) include a local team
b) move the event around different confederations c) merge oceania with asia in the sense of having one champion/particpant from that super-region