We got to Tokyo Station early to sort out the JR tickets and then wandered through the downstairs food court area to look for some lunch options. Picked up a half bottle of cava, two pastries and a cheese sandwich for Eric, and a sushi bento box for me.
Food in hand, we made our way to the platform and enjoyed a glass of cava while waiting for our bullet train. When the train arrived it was entertaining to see the workers come through quickly to clean the cars, replace all the headcovers for each seat, and change the direction of the seats, all in a matter of minutes.
Our train experience was comfortable and while we were on the correct side to see Mt. Fuji it was, unfortunately, clouded in. Still had some nice views though…
After buying our return tickets to the stadium and checking into the hotel, we had about 90 minutes before we wanted to head over to the game so we walked up to the Hamamatsu Castle and grounds. It was free to walk around the grounds, but cost 200 to go to the top so we skipped that part. The most interesting feature was the stone base of the building – known as nozura zumi: the method of stacking natural stones – has proven so strong the wall remains as it was constructed over 400 years ago.
On the way back we were surprised to see several signs in Portuguese – apparently there is a sizable Brazilian population in the area.
By 4p it was time to get to the station for the 4:21 train to Aino. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of other rugby fans! Sat next to a woman with a 4 month old and made faces to keep the baby distracted and smiley.
Aino Station was very crowded but there were lots of volunteers with megaphones (shouting in Japanese) to help guide fans. We followed the masses past a grocery store first to pick up some chips, a ham and cheese pastry, and two beers to drink while we walked. The atmosphere was festive, the people watching great, and the sunset was beautiful.
On our search for the correct entrance, we saw a drink line that wasn’t crazy so we each got a whiskey soda then found our seats. Five rows from the pitch – amazing!
The Springboks dominated from the start and were leading at halftime 17-3. We figured Italy would come out fighting in the second half but an early red card put them down a man and it was all South Africa from there. Unfortunately, our tickets were on the wrong end of the field for the South African scoring spree in the second half but we could see a lot of the action on the large screens on either end of the field. I did miss hearing the referees chatter during the match but we enjoyed the energy of the crowd and people really seemed to be into it.
We didn’t stay for the fireworks at the end but did see most of them as we walked back to the Aino station. Volunteers were high fiving people on the way out. Fun!
Crowd control was good, plenty of people shouting instructions (still in Japanese) and also signage (in English, yay) so folks going toward Tokyo (NE) were split off from those of us going to Hamamatsu (W). We just had to show our return ticket (rather than have a machine scan it) so that sped things up quite a bit. And lucky us, we got on the first available train that arrived only a few minutes after we got to the platform, at 9:26p. I managed to get a seat on this crowded train as well, near an Italian duo dressed as Super Mario and Luigi.
After the game we were pretty beat, so we stopped at a 7-11 on the way back to the hotel for some extra snacks (prosciutto, ramen chips, and chocolate) and called it a night.