Thursday, December 15, 2005

World Club Championship – Part 2: Taking to Tokyo

World Club Championship – Part 2: Taking to Tokyo

With sunrise still a good two hours away, resisting every natural urge, I grabbed my bag and headed out the front door and into the blistering cold. The strong wind coming off the Mersey was particularly harsh, with my breath about the only thing that was visible in the foggy street, as I made my way down Leeds Street towards Scottie Road. Mind you, my eyes were barely open – I was beginning to regret returning to base at 2am, not to mention forgetting to pack before going out the evening before. Thankfully the early morning walk required minimal concentration. It was a familiar trek I was embarking upon, one that accompanies most match days when Liverpool are at home. This time however I was off to see the Champions of Europe play away, and I’m not talking across the park to Everton.

As I approached the junction I saw a taxi with its vacancy light on hurtling towards me, and so I signaled for the driver to stop. He couldn’t miss me, for there was only the two of us on the road. Having narrowly avoided the experience of seeing my toes get run over by the mad jockey in question, I flung the door open, and threw my bag inside. The conversation that followed went something like this:

Cabby: Where to lad?
Soft lad: Tokyo please mate.
Cabby: Ha, Manny airport then yeah?
Soft lad: Yeah I suppose so. Ryan Air from Liverpool still won’t take you past the Baltics.
Cabby: You Liverpool fans are nuts, I’ll give you that.

I took that final remark as a compliment, on both a personal and collective level, and we spent the next half hour talking about Liverpool’s defence (with ten clean sheets on the bounce) and our chances of winning the World Club Championship, which I was traveling to Japan to see us compete in. He was a blue however, and so having wished me good luck after dropping me at Terminal 2, his final comment was “hope you go out in the semi.” He then laughed and sped off for a day working the streets of Liverpool. I thought about ripping him back, but I didn’t have the heart to in the end. Everton do that to themselves with their consistently laughable displays. Anyway what did I have to be bitter about? As I bordered plane number one for Paris, I knew the day ahead would see me flying over Mount Fuji before pulling in at my final destination. Next stop: Tokyo.

Half a dozen films and a couple of rounds of sushi later, we finally landed in the Japanese capital. Just as I was considering how sweet life was however, I hit my first hitch. I could still hear the blue-nose cabby’s laughter ringing in my ear as I discovered my bag was still in Paris. It comes to something when you start missing the Ryan Air service, I can tell you. So in the knowledge that it would be at least a day before I would be reunited with my luggage I headed to Ginza, renowned as the finest shopping district in the city, to pick up some emergency replacement items. The spending excursion didn’t last very long though, for having notched up a whole four hours sleep from a possible forty; I was in need of a little energy boost. And so, I find myself in this coffee shop, from where I am journaling my experiences thus far – and just as my brain was beginning to wonder why it’s not 4am but mid-afternoon, it duly forgot its considerable functioning problems and switched its attentions to the three stunning Japanese girls who I am currently sat opposite. In truth this was the real reason for stopping off. They are probably employed to sit in that window and look lovely. If there aren’t, they should be.

Shall I claim to be on business or pleasure when I coolly ask for their advice as to what to order from the menu? Actually, on second thoughts, I can only speak about six words in Japanese, and my ignorance is bound to do me no favours if they can’t speak English. If that doesn’t do the trick, then the fact that I look like death probably will. I think I’ll return to the real world; have a coffee and leave these impeccably presented Tokyo ladies to their day, a gentlemanly act that I will regret in about ten minutes time no doubt. It could have been quite a story for the lads back home. Note to self: learn Japanese …it looks easy enough after all.

Turning my thoughts to what remains of the afternoon, I suppose I should try and locate my accommodation before it goes dark. So next up it’s back on the Marunouchi line on the Tokyo underground in search of a place with a name that has more vowels than we’ve won European Cups. Yeah, that many. Hopefully that should lead me to the apartment where I’ll be based for the week, covering Liverpool’s attempt to – as our legendary centre-half Sami Hyypia said the other night – “rightly claim to be the best side in the world.” No wonder the blues are bitter. Wouldn’t you be?

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