Friday 18 October 2019

'We passed Tokyo Disney and it was hard to tell where the fairytale ended and the real city began'

Kaiseki dining at the Palace Hotel, Tokyo
Kaiseki dining at the Palace Hotel, Tokyo

Gareth Morgan in Tokyo

We were about as late to the party as you can get, without the party moving on to someone else’s gaff. While hordes of rugby fans have descended on Tokyo in recent days, spending time to take in the megacity’s mind-bending surrounds, we were the last wave of supporters to trek from Dublin before Ireland kick off in Yokohama today.

The Emirates flight to Dubai on Friday evening had the hallmarks of an old fashioned rugby tour. It was almost like cramming into an old minibus for the long drive to Twickenham, except thankfully less banging noises from the engine, and fewer bawdy songs.

Safely delivered to Dubai, we barely had time to say "duty free" before the flight to Tokyo Narita was boarding.

The Emirates staff are great, and their planes fairly comfy but this one put the looooooong in long-haul.

We flew into the Saturday dawn, chasing it so hard we overtook it and descended into Tokyo dusk. The clamour was for news of the rugby. Ironic that we were making such an effort to get to Japan and missing all the action in the process.

France were winning at a canter when we were on approach, losing as we landed and winning again as we queued for passport control. And oh the queues! The only thing the Japanese seem to love more than queuing is devising organisational systems for others to queue. There were forms to fill in, eyeballs to scan and fingerprints to imprint. It was like living some sort of alternate reality where Regina Doherty was Taoiseach. We had better behave ourselves.

Driving into Tokyo was like a 1990s Nintendo street racer video game made real. We passed Tokyo Disney and it was hard to tell where the fairytale ended and the real city began.

I tried to find a local bar tonight but got lost in a subway station the size of Ballsbridge - and in many ways just as soulless but slightly posher. I had to content myself with a polystyrene plate of sushi which is better than any I've had in them fancy Dublin restaurants. And it only cost me 300 yen. Which is don’t ask me how much I'm jetlagged in euro.

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After watching Jamie Roberts' video of a twitching fish head on a plate, I made doubly sure it wasn’t still breathing before I ate.

Later on I met some official-looking New Zealanders, all wearing lanyards from the game against South African. They'd been analysing or assessing... or something ... they'd definitely been drinking. They looked euphoric. Only delighted with themselves.

They knew how big a deal beating South Africa was. Didn't want to meet Ireland in the quarter finals.

Sure we will have to meet them at some stage if we are going to win this thing. Bring them on.

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