Monday, June 23, 2008

Japan vs. Bahrain at Saitama Stadium (埼玉)

After buying tickets well ahead of time (more than a month in advance!) I finally got to watch the Japanese National Soccer Team playing in a qualifier for the World Cup 2010 in Africa. The game was in Saitama Stadium which is about 40-45 minutes from the center of Tokyo by train. The constant heavy rain did only a little to quash my excitement...
Getting to Saitama Station is pretty simple - it is one of the final stops of the Namboku Line (南北線 - which literally translates to South-North Line) and for people who live close to Chuo Line (中央本線) like me this means taking the express to Yotsuya Station (四ッ谷駅) and changing lines there. As this was a "game night" per se, there were quite a few people wearing jerseys on the train. After 40 minutes it was time to get off and well, face the Urawa Reds badges and downpouring rain.
The stadium, which is one of the stadiums Japan built for the 2002 World Cup it co-hosted with Korea, plays host to one of the biggest teams in Japan's Premier Soccer Leauge - J-League called "Urawa Reds/Red Diamonds" (浦和レッドダイヤモンズ). The stadium is about a kilometer from the stadium (it's even marked on the way from the station with 100 meter intervals). There is also a bus (which I think is free) between the two. On a match day food vendors flank the walkway on both directions offering variety of snacks from traditional Japanese food like takoyaki/たこ焼き to food from other cuisines like gyros.
The Japanese supporters are really passionate though I must admit the most passionate of all seem to be concentrated behind the goals (I suppose that's typical since those are the cheapest seats and these people go to a lot of games....) The game was a bit slow and the walk back under the pouring rain was tough with more than 51,000 other people with literally everyone taking the train back (it was 11 or so by the time I made it home) but it was a lot of fun. I am looking forward to the next one in September!

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