“Have I just landed on the moon?” was the first thought of 33-year-old British rugby player Dave Walder when he first set foot in Japan to take on his next playing assignment, for Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars in Kanagawa Prefecture.
“I’d walked off the plane to be greeted by three mask wearing, baton waving individuals showing me, I think, where to go”, says Walder, who after having just finished a successful 12-season long period of professional rugby in England now writes about his new life in Japan on a Sky Sports blog.
After a few moments of confusion, when he had to explain why a person with no work permit or long stay visa is carrying three huge Adidas bags and a couple of pieces of hand baggage, Walder was finally allowed to begin his new Japanese adventure.
His first impression, on an early-morning ride to his new home? Although most places in the world don’t seem to wake up until 7 a.m., Japanese leave their homes at “ridiculous o’clock” trying maybe to “beat the pre-pre rush hour”.
The first cultural lesson learned came from his translator, seconds after entering his new apartment. “He acted quickly and told me that it was rude to get beyond the front mat of anyone’s house (including your own) without taking your shoes off.”
Two weeks later, Walder is beginning to come along the Japanese way. In the meantime, he noticed that noodle eating competitions and unicycle tag are just two of the unusual ways that Japanese clubs use to build their relationship with the fans and the community.
How’s life treating him? He says he’s having a brilliant time. “In between what seems like the organized chaos around me, I have trained for hours, played a couple of games (not too well!), visited karaoke bars, eaten raw fish on more than one occasion, travelled to downtown Tokyo (a whole story in itself!) and passed my annual compulsory company medical”.
And next, he’s going the following weekend to Sendai with some of his teammates to give a rugby class to some of those affected by the tsunami. “The adventure continues!” [Dave Walder’s blog] Photo by zoonabar