nine-to-five noodle ninja 

Nice shooto!

The Japanese national team may have said sayonara, England may have headed home, my initially promising sweepstake draws may have crashed out (France, Sweden and, despite a delightful run, Mexico), people may have been killed in riots in Moscow, been shot by spouses in power struggles over the remote control or tried self-immolation in an attempt to bolster their team's fortunes but, all in all, this has to be the most enjoyable World Cup I've ever seen.

Obviously a lot of that is due to the corking games we've had and the sheer number of form-defying results - it's been great to see so many underdogs giving the favourites a good stuffing; the huge number of upsets and early plane rides for those who weren't expecting it has led to some great, wide-open matches in the knock-out stages and some great football.

But another thing that's made it really good is watching the whole thing through the filter of the Japanese media - the studio punditry is generally appalling, no matter whether you watch in Japanese or English (NHK broadcasts carry on-the-fly English-dubbed subchannels for those of use fortunate enough to have suitably equipped bilingual tellies) but it all becomes watchable thanks to one little detail: papier-maché garden gnomes of all your favourite players.


These are taken from the build-up to the England-Argentina match the other week; the Japanese text on the screen behind the two presenters reads, dramatically, "innen no taiketsu", lit. "fateful showdown".

I've already mentioned the short explanatory documentary they played before the match detailing the two teams' history; I don't *think* any of the three Diegos - Maradona, Simeone, Heskey - bear much personal responsibility for the Falklands War, but NHK didn't seem to be ruling it out. Stoke the flames of rivalry? Media frenzy? Who, us?

Posted by chris at 12:16 PM | Permalink

My eyes, my eyes...

Oh, no... not *replays*, please... Stop rubbing it in.

I'm going to bed.

Posted by chris at 12:31 AM | Permalink

It is now.

And so it ends again. Damn. The boss is away on business at the moment, so all of the foreign (ie British) staff crowded in to his office to abuse his widescreen TV, with the odd Japanese member of staff sticking their head through the door every now and then to see what the disappointed moans were all about. Advantages of watching the match at work: no need to take the afternoon or day off, and it gets me away from sitemapping for a couple of hours. Disadvantage: no beer to cry into.

At least we only have half an hour until we knock off for the day, find a nearby bar to drown our sorrows and ponder this evening's rather distasteful quarter-final riddle: do we support the USA... or Germany? There's no way they can both lose, is there?

Posted by chris at 05:39 PM | Permalink

They think it's all over...

And so it ends. The other big match of the day, of course, was Japan-Turkey - a shame to see Japan go out, but boy was it fun watching them get there. More later; right now, no time, no time...

Posted by chris at 12:49 AM | Permalink

Italy - Korea

Urk... still alive, just busy working (6-day weeks) and watching as much football as possible (Italy-Korea for 90 minutes plus nearly half an hour of extra time, plus endless laps of honour and firework ceremonies, can really take a chunk out of your evening).

Posted by chris at 12:45 AM | Permalink

Can't stop

Can't stop - just about to dash off to Tokyo station to catch a shinkansen to Osaka for the England-Nigeria game - wish us luck...

Posted by chris at 08:01 AM | Permalink



Posted by chris at 05:08 PM | Permalink

I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it

And, lest we forget, the next big match is Ing-ger-land vs. Argentina, tomorrow night in Sapporo on their spiffy floating pitch; it's an utter conceit, there's no need for it at all but, at the same time... wow! Cool!

And, just in case anyone was starting to relax about the potential for crowd trouble after the utterly benign England-Sweden encounter, tonight one channel previewed the Argentina game by running a short retrospective feature that took in the 1966 World Cup (we beat them in the quarter-finals), the 1986 World Cup (they beat us in the quarter-finals with a little help from the Hand of God), the 1998 World Cup (Beckham gets self sent off, they beat us on penalties in the second round) and of course the 1982 Falklands War (they set up camp in our penalty box, we fight back to we beat them after three weeks of extra time in the South Pacific). Seriously, they had stock footage of Harriers taking off from HMS Hermes, the Belgrano going down and even HMS Sir Galahad on fire - the implication presumably being that England are on a mission to avenge the Welsh Guards we lost twenty years ago almost to the day.

For Christ's sake. No wonder the average sarariman-on-the-street is expecting to be butchered alive by mobs of bloodthirsty hooligans, if this is the kind of press the match is getting. Let's hope that England and Japan do actually meet in the semis this year, as at least maybe then we'll have The Bridge on the River Kwai and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence re-runs to look forward to.

Posted by chris at 01:04 AM | Permalink


Just back from watching the France-Uruguay match; the first 0-0 draw of the tournament, but what a good game. We were rooting for Uruguay all the way through but despite some very good chances they weren't able to find the net - even after France had a player sent off after about 25 minutes by the card-happy ref. Quel toupet!*

I actually drew France in a sweepstake a month or so ago, but any vested financial interest in their success took a back seat to smug schadenfreude as soon as they lost to Senegal in the opener, so there was plenty of merry zut alors!-ing coming from our sofa as we watched les Bleus flush their trophy hopes even further down le chiotte this evening.

We decided during the Senegal match that French for "spoon", as in "to spoon a shot over the crossbar", was "le spoon" - as none of us were sure of how to pronounce (or even spell) cuillère. That one's been getting a lot of practice, that's for sure. I'm sure my old French teacher, Monsieur Rocher, would also be very impressed by my now fluent command of the simultaneous Gallic-shrug-and-"Bof!", which is practically all that remains of my A-level French. ("Urrr, Jenneengz, you arr taking zee piss? Bof!") Bless.

Posted by chris at 12:26 AM | Permalink

...and yes I said yes I will yes

"Yes because he never did a thing like that before certainly not at the World Cup finals anyway Robbie Keane scored in the last minute of injury time after the lads had gone down to an early Miroslav Klose goal" - The Guardian reports on the Ireland-Germany match in the style of the final chapter of Joyce's Ulysses - thanks to Dave for the heads-up.

Posted by chris at 12:52 PM | Permalink

World Cup blog

Just wanted to point out this excellent World Cup blog - the blog format is really well suited to this kind of event, and this particular one is very well written - a great resource for daily summaries.

(via a couple of days ago but delayed due to my slackness)

Posted by chris at 12:44 AM | Permalink

Japan - Belgium

Well, it seems that the country has finally woken up to the fact that they're hosting and playing in a World Cup at the moment. After Japan's thrilling 2-2 draw against Belgium last night, we've been treated to non-stop TV recoverage of not only the goals, but the wild scenes of jubilation around the country.

It's common here for fans to gather not only in bars but also municipal halls, other stadia and even just on the street to watch the national team's matches - there's certainly no shortage of large open-air TV screens, after all - and the crowd reactions I saw were completely over the top... just wait till they win one...

None of us could get back from work in time to watch the match live, so Dave and Anita taped it and we watched it straight afterwards - we managed to avoid hearing the result, but what with the notorious thin-ness of Japanese apartment building walls and the neighbours' glee (two bursts of glee, to be precise) as the match was actually being played, we had the suspicion that something exciting was on the cards. What a nice change to see Japan playing flowing, attacking football for once. Roll on the Russia game and gambarre Nippon!*

Posted by chris at 07:36 PM | Permalink

All aboard

"It is very expensive but we think we will need it at least two or three times" - Japanese Ministry of Justice spokesman explaining why the authorities have seen fit to hire a 630 passenger-capacity ferry to transport captive English hooligans from Sapporo to Tokyo after the England-Argentina game.

(Update - this plan has, oddly enough, been shelved. I'm almost disappointed as I was looking forward to the human rights-abuses claims.)

Posted by chris at 12:32 AM | Permalink

Japanese hooligans run riot

First hooligan violence at Japanese World Cup - and it's not a Brit. Not even nearly. If this is the worst trouble we see all tournament, I shall have to fight the feelings of smugness very hard indeedy.

Posted by chris at 12:11 AM | Permalink

Are you English fooligan?

I seem to have made it quite far without mentioning the World Cup, but I guess I wasn't going to be able to avoid talking about it for long, what with it unfolding on my doorstep and all. This article is absolutely correct in terms of its reading of the Japanese attitude towards the tournament, ie indifference mixed with fear of being swamped by violent hooligans.

Over the last week I've definitely noticed an increase in the number of soccerwear-clad foreigners wandering around Shinjuku and other areas; no mass rapes as yet, though. I'd like to find out which xenophobic moron came out with that one, go up to him and just be... really... foreign at him. Yeah. People often don't realise what an inherently racist country Japan is, nor do they understand Japan's uneasy relationship with foreigners; seeing how this country copes with hosting such a prestigious and cosmopolitan event as the World Cup for the first (and probably the last) time is bound to be morbidly fascinating.

Two nights ago I saw five armour-plated police buses, presumably stacked to the gills with riot cops, parked "discreetly" along Shinjuku-dori... that's a lot of batons. Presumably Roppongi's even worse, but don't expect me to find out in a hurry.

Let me just point out that I'm not the slightest bit anti-World Cup - in fact, I've got tickets to a couple of the games: England-Sweden tomorrow and England-Nigeria on the 12th, and I'm really looking forward to them. It's great to see so many people discovering Japan and I just hope that Tokyo's able to embrace the spirit and turn the games into what they should be - a truly global kick-ass party.

I'm about to pop in to Shinjuku for dinner, though, so if I get back tomorrow some time, having been arrested for having white skin and short hair, expect a totally different appraisal of Tokyo's ability to embrace anything.

Posted by chris at 07:49 PM | Permalink

Breaking: Pope Catholic

Shocking headline of the week, courtesy of Yahoo news and Reuters: Beer popular at World Cup.

And on page two, "Pope in Catholicism Shocker". Also be sure to check out the earth-shattering "Bear Caught Shitting in Woods" on page four.

Posted by chris at 06:10 PM | Permalink

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