Saturday, 19 July 2003

Under the weather

Because, of course, it is a bank holiday weekend over here. Monday is Umi-no-hi or holiday for the Sea, which I think is a mighty fine reason for having a national holiday - Japan after all being an island nation and eating a lot of fish. The usual plan is to get together with all your mates and go to the beach, again a mighty fine idea. Except in a stab at improved globilisation, Japan has decided to import the very British idea of 'bank holidays = bad weather' and so it will be probably be raining on monday. Oh well.
Apparently there has been a big lump of high pressure over the Sea of Japan that has been hanging around for longer than usual, making the rainy season last longer and the weather cooler - no bad thing there, you may think, but it is. Sales of air conditioners, sun block, beer and other summer goods are all down (though I'm doing my bit for the beer sales), and for a economy in a parlous state, this is not a good turn of events. And this poor weather also has a pretty negative effect of the farming industry, inhibiting the growth of fruit and veg all across Japan, which will undoubtedly lead to higher prices later in the summer.
On the upside, the threatened power blackouts have yet to happen as demand for electricity to run air con units is down. For those not in the know, TEPCO, the Tokyo Electricity Power Company has had to shut down most of its nuclear reactors as they were found to be unsafe, with potentially lethal levels of slackness in their maintenance and upkeep - with the follow on effect that Tokyo will not have enough electricity for the summer and therefore rolling power blackouts have not been ruled out. Makes you wonder, doesn't it.

But I am trying not to be negative as it has been pointed out to me that there may have been a certain amount of ranting against the Japanese going on recently. So apologies if you have felt the same way, I just try to tell it like I see it. Incidentally, Mr Konoike withdrew his comments about publically beheading parents' of errant children - I don't know, these politicians never stick by what they believe...

Anyway one cool thing I saw this week was this. On Thursday all our schools were closed and a companywide 5-a-side football tournament was arranged. A bit short notice, to be sure, but in the end we had about 30 players, including yours truly, turn up and a fine day was had by all. But the cool thing was where we played. For those of you who remember, the 2002 World Cup was half played on these shores and they built lots of nice new stadia to hold the games. One of these stadia was built not 30 minutes from where we now live in a place called Urawa-Misono. It was at this stadium that England played Sweden and the whole place is a salutary lesson in how to organise and build an impressive stadium with minimum fuss - i.e. those in charge of the Wembly/National Stadium fiasco take note.

The stadium was built just outside of Tokyo, but with a dedicated subway line meaning that most of central Tokyo is only about 40 minutes away. Also, it was built right next to a motorway, giving easy access to the road system. Also, it was built far from any residential areas, so as not to piss off the locals. This had the added benefit of more space - so not only have they built a swish, futuristic stadium, but they also have a separate full size pitch, and 2 smaller 5-a-side/futsal pitches that anyone can come along and hire. And this we did, and not only did we get the pitch, we also got clean changing rooms with working hot showers. All for about 150quid, which does not seem at all unreasonable to me. And this being Japan, even though there are huge swathes of concrete, there was not a single piece of graffiti to be seen.

So it was all pretty marvellous, if you ask me. The only problem is what will happen to it all. Like a lot of the other stadia, not a lot of thought was put into what would happen after the World Cup. It was hoped that Urawa Reds, the local J-League team, would play their home games there. But no-one actually thought to ask the Reds. They prefer their old stadium, which although smaller, creates a better atmosphere and is better placed for their fans - the result is that only about 6 games a year are played by the Reds at Urawa-Misono. Now even i can see that six games isn't going to pay the rent, or debt, and nor is hiring out the futsal pitches to English schools for 5-a-side tournaments, so heaven knows what they are going to do to make money. And I doubt very much if the other stadia built for the world cup are doing any better, which again is a real shame. However, the FA in England could do a lot worse than ask the people who organised and built these stadia to take over the Wembly situation and get a stadium built - preferably with the same ideas about location and transport access.

On a related note, the Telegraph Fantasy Football site is now up and running for the new season and a link has been added above right. This is the site from which the whole CoB Intercontiliga has sprung and which has given Steve D something to do with his afternoons for the last 4 years. For those wishing to join this happy throng, drop Steve a line on the CoB site and your applications will be vetted by committee at the earliest opportunity (written references will almost certainly be required).

PS as if anyone is interested in our performance - P6 W0 D1 L5 GF4 GA plenty

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