Tuesday 14th May 2013
It's a warm sunny morning as we settle into our seats on the team bus for an excursion from Fukui to Kanazawa to visit the scenic Kenrokuen Gardens, and there' s a drip, drip, drip leaking through the overhead luggage. There's no rain, it's Ric's coke bottle seeping the brown liquid onto anything in its pathway that includes a tour shirt designated for the after-game presentations ...... Manager Ric finds himself in a sticky predicament !!! Today, our local bilingual tour co-ordinator Masayuki "Masa" has to take second place to the official tour guide for the day. Clearly there is either japanese protocol or a trade union rule that precludes Masa from being allowed to give commentary on the bus. The Japanese Gardens at Kenrokuen give a sense of tranquil beauty, colourful trees through filtered sunlight, fountains and ponds, winding streams and trickling waterfalls, with small pagodas secluded amongst the trees. We leave this garden paradise for the hockey game with a short stop in Higashi chaya-gai (Higashi Geisha district) where we see the slatted wooden facades of the geisha houses lining the narrow streets, and learn about 'geiko' and 'maiko' - geisha and apprentice geishas.
Now one might think that all this is an unusual preparation for what has been billed as the premier match of the tour, the "must-win" game. But rumour has it that the Japanese hockey hierarchy may have master-minded the programme encouraging the hockey tourists to spend the morning with their legs immobile in a bus, then a two hour walk in the park, followed by the lure of the geisha, before returning to the stadium near Fukui for hockey!!