The Crusaders game was a strange one on many counts. Played under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the wake of the late, great Tokyo Gaijin legend Akira Yamagen’s passing. But what better way to honor the man taken far too soon, than a showdown with the Gaijin’s oldest and greatest foes?
The game was aggressive and attritional, with a fair amount of niggle, as any Tokyo derby should be. After a poor start the Gaijin roared into a 12 – 0 lead through debut tries from Jet Yates (Man of the Match) and Oisin McPartlin (Dick of the Day – in spite of a great first outing).
The Crusaders closed the gap with tries on either side of halftime, before Yates got on the scoreboard once again with a great finish in the left-hand corner. Unfortunately, the Gaijin would rue a day of ringing the changes, and the lack of cohesion that followed, conceding a try under the sticks in almost the last minute of play to surrender the game to the Crusaders.
The final score of 19 – 17 represents what was a close encounter, but one the Gaijin will see as a missed opportunity until the Shuto League rematch this autumn.
A toast to Yamagen san followed, prefaced by a moving speech from Tokyo Gaijin Club Chairman, Tomofumi “Tommy” Nasuno. Speech in full will be below the article.
In honor of Yamagen, both sides forewent using the number 10 shirt (his playing number) during the game – a beer and cigarette was rested by Gaijin number 10 shirt during the post-match for Yamagen to enjoy, wherever he may now be.
Speech by Tomofumi "Tommy" Nasuno Ladies, I want to thank you all for playing today. I feel like the Crusaders and Gaijins are two sides of the same coin. Different agendas, play styles, fashion but multicultural and most importantly have the sense of family within the club which is such a big part of the Western Rugby culture. For many of us it has been a hard week with the loss of Yamagen. Yamagen has been a part of the Tokyo Gaijins for almost a decade and it is heartbreaking that he left us so soon. He was a Secretary-General of the Shuto League, a hero of Amatuer Rugby in Tokyo, and a brother for the Tokyo Gaijin but more importantly to us all, a lost comrade of the game that we all love. He truly lived by the words of “Work Hard, Play Hard” with his tremendous determination and presence on and off the pitch. You cannot help but look up to him and respect him when around him. And yet he was humble and selfless when recognition was deserved. I wish that today we walk away not as winners and losers, but as companions walking down the path that Yamagen paved for us and that we may continue his work as advocates of the game he loved. Cheers and god speed Yamagen