A few months ago Scotland lined up a friendly match in October against Japan – in Japan.  Last week the venue was announced as Yokohama, and because Billy is in Japan right now, and because he loves you, he did some scouting this weekend.

The Yokohama F Mariners were hosting Montedio Yamagata in the J-League, so I decided to take a trip down to Yokohama to see the game.  I dutifully outsourced my research to someone else, and on Saturday arrived in Yokohama Station with a spring in my step around 6pm, expecting a 10-minute walk to Nissan World Cup stadium in plenty time for the 7pm kickoff.  10 minutes of walking, no stadium or fans in sight, so jump in a taxi.

After approximately 30,000 Yen (over $30) we arrive at Nissan World Cup stadium – a big, ugly, concrete thing with no exterior charm whatsoever – to discover the game has been moved to the smaller NHK Mitsazawa stadium.  Another 10,000 Yen and I am dropped at the stadium, five minutes after the kickoff and having missed the first goal.  [Some things don’t change  – the same thing happened at Hampden for Scotland vs Belarus a few years ago, but at least then drink was involved, which helped cushion the blow of the 1-0 defeat.]

Anyway, the key lessons learned from this episode: (1) Yokohama Station is not the same as Shin-Yokohama Station; the latter is a 10-minute walk from World Cup stadium while the former is a long taxi ride away in the land of rising taxi meters;  (2) when following the herd back to the train station on leaving a stadium, make sure they’re going to the train station and not a car park in the middle of nowhere; (3) the Japanese “wanker” motion is the same as the Western one.  Yokohama lost 2-1, to two late goals completely against the run of play – I don’t know what Japanese for “we wuz robbed” is but it will have been used a lot on Saturday night.

If you haven’t booked your trip to Japan yet, then do so now.  It’ll be the best pointless international friendly trip you’ll ever make, guaranteed.  I came for the Kirin Cup in 2006 and it was one of the best tours ever, from start to finish – the ‘finish’ being at 5.30am on Sunday morning outside a bar in Roppongi, surrounded by happy Scots and empty glasses, watching the sun come up over the Tokyo Tower while being serenaded by bagpipes.  Tokyo is the sort of place where you could walk up two flights of stairs into a random bar which might have only eight seats, be run by a Jimi-Hendrix lookalike, and be decorated as a shrine to The Who.  This bar exists, Tokyo is unique, and I thoroughly recommend a trip.

And to finish off, a few random notes for you:

Not sure what this says about Hearts’ prospects for the upcoming season but it can’t be good.

Quote of the week from John Sutton, in reference to Motherwell’s upcoming trip to Albania to play KS Flamurtari: “I don’t know much about Albania.  I might get some cup-a-soups.”  Well, I’ve done some analysis John, and I suggest a starter of delicious Tarator followed by some healthful baked fish with olive oil and garlic.  Skip the baklava though, you’ve got a game to play.  [Can you imagine the Albanians’ reaction to drawing Motherwell?  “Oh no – their kebabs are rancid and what is this Buckfast?  I’d better pack some Byrek!”]

Finally, I have to give a shout out to big John Hartson, who was diagnosed with brain cancer last week.  I have to be honest and say I thought he was a dirty b*stard of a player in an ugly Martin O’Neill team – more than once I called him a big fat Welsh **** – but my inside information is he was one of the nicest guys at Parkhead and he certainly comes across as a good guy on the half-times with Setanta.  So good luck and get well, you big fat Welsh ****.


Scotland in Japan 2006


J League Goals of the Year 2008