Will the Pool A decider between Japan and Scotland go ahead as planned? Will the bullet trains run to Yokohama on Sunday morning, or will Typhoon Hagibis keep the South African media contingent in the Kobe bubble for yet another day?
I’ve been asking myself these questions all week. My colleagues and I were forced to change our plans after the England-France match in Yokohama was cancelled and train services were suspended on Saturday.
The locals have been talking about Hagibis all week. Even as far afield as Kobe – some 500km from Tokyo – people have been bracing for impact.
— Jon Cardinelli (@jon_cardinelli) October 5, 2019
The storm hit on Saturday. The area around Meriken Park and Harborland was empty. Most people were holed up in the surrounding hotels. As we watched the rain lash against the windows and felt the building sway and shake, we shuddered to think about the situation in the capital.
Social media showed us the flooded areas as well as cars and trucks succumbing to the high-speed winds. At that point, it seemed almost certain that the Japan-Scotland clash would be called off. Reports of floods, earthquakes and even several deaths seemed to put matters in perspective.
I was surprised to find out that the Shinkansen was operating on Sunday morning. The PA informed the passengers about possible delays, but the weather was clear all the way to Shin-Yokohama station and the entire journey was uneventful.
By the time I arrived, the rumours had been confirmed. The Japan-Scotland match would go ahead as planned.
Eventful first 24 hours in Kobe, from the brilliant madness of the locals in the portside fanzone to a first experience of yakiniku with @LiamDelCarme1 and @blobby15 #TourTales🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/oLoIkrmxHx
— Jon Cardinelli (@jon_cardinelli) October 6, 2019
The Springboks will only arrive in Tokyo on Monday. The players had a couple of days off following the win against Canada on Tuesday. While they returned to training on Friday, they have been forced to wait until the outcome of the Japan-Scotland match on Sunday night to find out who they will face in the quarter-finals.
Not that Kobe and the surrounding area doesn’t have some pleasant distractions. The cosmopolitan city is a world away from the sleepy town of Omaezaki – where the Boks and the South African media were based last week.
I took a stroll down to Meriken Park last Saturday. The Kobe Fan Zone was packed with locals determined to make an occasion out of the fixture between Japan and Samoa, which was being shown on a big screen near the water.
The area is similar to Cape Town’s Waterfront. The bright red hourglass otherwise known as the Kobe Tower commands your attention as you walk along the promenade. It’s also possible to see Mount Rokko, which is behind the Shin-Kobe Station. I made the short hike up to the Nunobiki Falls earlier this week and was struck by its close proximity to the city centre.
Kobe beef experience lived up to the hype. Sign on the wall: ‘You will be impressed in the after glow’.
Not cheap. May have to survive on press-centre crackers for next few days.
— Jon Cardinelli (@jon_cardinelli) October 7, 2019
Kobe served up some unforgettable dining experiences during our stay. After witnessing the celebrations inside the fan zone on Saturday, a few of us made our way up to Chinatown for a yakiniku.
The following night, we splurged on a Kobe beef teppanyaki. The badly translated sign on the wall assured us that we would be ‘impressed in the afterglow’. While the portions were small – and pricey, at around ¥15,000 (R2,000) for 180g – we agreed later that the experience had lived up to the hype.
Following the game against Canada, a couple of journalists decided to head west to explore Hiroshima. East Cost Radio presenter Gareth Jenkinson and I opted for a quick visit to Kyoto.
En route to the Philosopher’s Path, we stopped at a street vendor to sample some takoyaki. The vendor handed us the food as well as a cup of Sapporo and explained in Japanese what kind of meat was at the heart of the doughnut-like snack.
We shrugged our shoulders and proceeded to tuck in. When I bit into one of the doughy balls a jet of purple ink shot into the cobblestoned street. We concluded that the mystery element was indeed octopus.
Had a great and unexpectedly long week in Kobe (thanks to Hagibis) and even managed to pop over to Kyoto for a bit.
— Jon Cardinelli (@jon_cardinelli) October 12, 2019