So the day finally arrived last Saturday – my first English lesson. (Note: that’s me teaching English, not me receiving a lesson, although you could easily be forgiven for thinking the latter). After hours of preparation, making flash cards and receiving advice from Maz, off I toddled for my first venture into a Japanese house. Thankfully I was already aware of the traditional custom of removing your shoes in the little porch area before being asked to wear slippers, meaning I’d put on a neutral pair of socks rather than the usual action hero ones. I was teaching four different children and they were all a much better standard than I’d expected. However I must have done something right as I have a repeat booking pencilled in. I was even complimented on my Japanese skills by the parents. It all went really well and I left feeling a little bit proud of myself!
On Saturday evening I met up with some of the 5-a-side lads and we went to my first J-League match – Kowasaki Frontale versus Vengalta Sendai (or, the “Sendai Scum” as one teacher so eloquently put it). I got to the ground a little earlier than everyone else so I had a good look around and was amazed at all the food stall outside. Not like your crap overpriced burger vans you get back home. But row after row of all types of food you could possibly imagine. And literally everyone was tucking in. There was also entertainment outside the ground in the form of a skipping master class. These four chaps were doing some insane tricks and the crowd were mesmerized.
However when the other teachers turned up, we were quick to find out that the game had actually sold out! We wandered around the stadium and found a couple of weak points where we thought we could slip in as a last resort. The security was unbelievably slack and it would have been so easy to just vault the waist-high fence. But, with just 15 minutes to kick off, we were informed that despite the game being sold out, there were in fact tickets available if we wanted to sign up for membership. And not only this, but if we signed up for membership it was in fact cheaper to get in than had we actually just bought tickets in the first place! So we finally got inside the stadium just before kick-off.
The game itself was extremely poor. The standard is clearly not very good in Japan. There’s no physicality to their game and you get the feeling a good L2 team would give them a game. Technically they’re good players, but there was no speed or aggression to their game. The crowd on the other hand were nuts! It was constant chanting throughout the game. No anger directed towards any players. One team would chant and then let the other team reply, and so on. It was a really alien experience considering the hundreds of football matches I’ve seen over the years. It was impressive to a degree, but I felt it was maybe a little forced if anything. It was a very different kind of passion to back home.
On Sunday we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Tower as it was a beautiful day. We’d hoped to see Mount Fuji but sadly no luck. (In fact I learnt earlier that Fuji is an active volcano and it has the same alert level that Mount Ontake had before it erupted last weekend!!). Following that we went to the cat café in Shinjuku. Look away now if you don’t like cats!