Not even the after-effects of Typhoon Faxai could dampen the mood as teams are met with wonderful receptions on arrival in Japan.
Japan’s reputation for unrivalled hospitality has been in evidence the length and breadth of the country as the 20 participating teams at Rugby World Cup 2019 continue to arrive.
With the clock ticking down towards the start of the first tournament to be staged in Asia, the sense of excitement is tangible everywhere you go and the greetings from the public have been extremely warm and welcoming.
In a scene more reminiscent of the old Cardiff Arms Park, Wales were treated to a word-perfect rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau by a Japanese choir as soon as they set foot in Kitakyushu.
Not to be outdone, schoolchildren in Kashiwa, to the north-east of Tokyo, impressed their All Blacks guests with a performance of the Haka at the team hotel.
After the applause died down, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: “A fantastic welcome, mind-blowing really.”
Centre Sonny Bill Williams proved to be a particular fan favourite among the hundreds of autograph hunters with his time at J-League club the Panasonic Wild Knights clearly remembered fondly.
South Africa have been in Japan longer than any other team having beaten host nation Japan 41-7 in Kumagaya last Friday in their final warm-up match.
And they have already proved a big draw with 6,000 locals (main picture) turning out in sweltering temperatures to watch the Springboks put in an intense, sweat-soaked field training session in now familiarly hot and humid conditions on Monday.
The day before, local tuna fishermen, mango growers and juice producers presented gifts to the Springbok team to follow the team’s presentation to the city at a Saturday night jazz festival where the local councils sponsored 50kgs of beef and 20kgs of pork for the team’s stay.
“The people of Kagoshima have been amazing,” said Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.
“They have welcomed us with open arms and have been so helpful. The reception we received at the airport was beautiful. And the attendance at training was amazing. We are really enjoying our time in Japan and are looking forward to meeting more of the people when we visit schools and have a second open training session this week.”
This is only a taste of what is to come with Team Welcome Ceremonies held across Japan from 13-19 September.
The ceremonies will be an opportunity for the local community, the Japan Rugby Football Union, Japan Rugby 2019 and World Rugby to officially welcome all teams to Japan and to Rugby World Cup 2019.
The ceremonies will take place in iconic locations spread across Japan, from the northern island of Hokkaido to the tropical island paradise of Okinawa, more than 2,600km to the south.
Locations for the 20 ceremonies include the famous Zōjōji Temple at the foot of Tokyo Tower in central Tokyo, an historical sumo wrestling hall in Osaka and one of the finest examples of European neo-classical architecture from Japan’s Meiji era, the Bunshokan in Yamagata City.
During the ceremony, all 31 players will receive their Rugby World Cup 2019 cap (a rugby tradition), while the entire team, including coaches and management, will receive the Rugby World Cup 2019 Participation Medal.
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