Thanks to the superb organisational skills of Gaijin stalwart Alaistair Nimmo, the Gaijin were just able to scrape together the required numbers for another trip to Japan's rugby Mecca "Sugadaira".
Having heard accounts from previous Sugadaira trips such as the time when a former captain interfered with tanuki carrion and then the following morning at the opening ceremony (still completely intoxicated), recounted in precise detail his entire career and how much he loves rugby, in front of all teams present, I knew I had to make the pilgrimage and experience Sugadaira for myself.
Leaving the metropolis on Friday afternoon with Gaijin Motivational Specialist Erin Hughes and son Eric, we were hit by the most sudden, fierce hail and thunder storm this Gaijin has ever experienced - hardly an auspicious sign with the weekend's proceedings just beginning. Erin slowed his SUV to about 5kms per hour on the motorway, expressing caution uncharacteristic of a former Marine hard-man, and we slowly forged on. Reaching Sugadaira at nightfall, we realised that Mrs Erin (Satomi) Hughes hadn't bothered entering the hotel address into the car- navi (she'd simply entered Sugadaira, Nagano). Whether she had overestimated her husband's navigational skills, or used this to get back at her husband for taking the family car for the weekend remains a mystery but we were completely lost. Luckily we had young Eric to bail us out of this sticky situation.
Just one week after the final match of a long and intense Tokyo Cup campaign the Gaijin found themselves participating in the opening event of the Shuto League, a 10’s tournament held in Urayasu city (Chiba prefecture).
As the match statistics show, the Gaijin played very well in the pool stages of the tournament, winning all five matches and finishing up with an impressive for and against tally of 61 points to 7.
The stand-out player for the Gaijin during the pool stages was ‘Big’ Joe Nawoqavanua with four tries from five matches. Joe joined the Gaijin too late to be registered for this year’s Tokyo Cup unfortunately so this tournament was his first proper outing for the team and he certainly made it a day to remember. In fact, Big Joe made an impact even before he even took the field by leading the team in a pre-match prayer session, during which he quoted the words of Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".
On yet another rainy Sunday the Tokyo Gaijin gathered at a new rugby venue for a playoff game against Rokko East RFC with the winner gaining the right to play in the Tokyo Cup 1st Division in 2009. The pitch at Komaba University was of the Astroturf variety but it made a pleasant change to running around in the mud, as it seemed we had done throughout the Tokyo Cup campaign. If the game had been played at the regular venue of Kizoochi Field it would have been an absolute mud bath and I doubt very much that 44 points would have been scored.
To backtrack a little, the TGRFC had finished second in the Tokyo Cup 1st Division (after losing the final 26 v 22) and their opposition on this day, Rokko East RFC, had finished second last in the 1st Division. Both teams were to fight out for a spot in the 1st Division in 2009.
Jesse Takahashi, who had been doing all the managerial work and attending the Tokyo Cup Committee meetings, wasn’t fussed about which way the result went as being a participant in the top level just meant more work for him next year and a lot more scrutiny for the team. Player availability was also causing concern as in 1st division the team couldn’t afford to have so many players out but that was the situation facing the TGRFC on this day with a plethora of players out, due to work & family commitments and injuries.
The team crosses its collective fingers for the safe delivery of a child to Mr and Mrs Iwasaki in the next few days. In a break from tradition, it will apparently be Jo's turn to handle photography and medical supplies.
Still on the baby front...
Blake's parents recently came by to see 3 month old Tomoki. However Mr Walker Senior's originally delighted face soon clouded over upon observing his grandson's poor ball handling.
Said baby is apparently sporting this summer's “must have” apparel... see Mizue Sauco for details
In more Team News...
We won't be seeing Mr. Sauco for a while, as work continues in China. He is behind on a shipment of 50,000 photocopies of Louis Vitton's autobiography.