Mac meets Ren-G, RWC2019 mascots, in Shibuya

Remembering Rugby World Cup 2019

One year ago today Rugby World Cup 2019 began and it changed my life.

I attended 14 matches during the tournament: 7 in Tokyo, 6 in Yokohama and the epic Japan vs Ireland game in Shizuoka, one of the greatest days of my life, period.

On my way to the first game, Japan vs Russia, I started filming on my trusty Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. I turned that footage into a vlog. My goal was to capture the fan experience, which TV and other official coverage never really do a good job of. I wanted to show people what it was really like to attend a game. I didn’t think much of it, but three days and over 50,000 views later I realised I was onto something.

I continued creating vlogs of the games I attended, and strange things started to happen. People started recognising me at matches and asking to have their photo taken with me. They told me how much they enjoyed watching the videos. Their messages of support, in-person and online, gave me the motivation to continue posting.

The most viewed of these films, a one-hour documentary capturing Japan vs Scotland, has over 180,000 views. Winning that game secured Japan’s place in the RWC Quarter Finals for the first time in their history.

I became famous for my passionate support of Japan. This can be most clearly demonstrated at the 45:00 minute mark of my video of Japan vs Ireland – the Shock of Shizuoka.

Bizarre things started to happen. I made it onto NHK singing the South African national anthem – I didn’t know about it until a rugby fan I had connected with through my videos spotted me the next morning and sent me the clip. I bumped into famous fan Bak-san, known for his bodypainted team shirts!  I met two-time RWC winner Dan Carter while he was wandering the crowd during the England vs New Zealand semi-final, one of the greatest England performances of all time. I filmed a spot for Nikkan Sports, one of the largest national sports newspapers in Japan, pimping their newspaper which made it onto their Twitter feed.

One of my most memorable moments of the whole tournament was spotting Faf de Klerk at the Hachiko Crossing in Shibuya. He kindly agreed to do a one-minute snippet for the Maction Planet YouTube channel. South Africa had beaten Japan the day before. Faf was man of the match in that game. I encouraged him to “go all the way”. He did, as SA beat England in a great final on 2 November.

During this time I was fully booked guiding our bespoke Tokyo tours. Of course, many of our guests were Rugby fans themselves, so being able to put a rugby spin on our touring – be it taking them to rugby shrines, giant rugby balls dotted around the city or special rugby art exhibitions – added an extra dimension to their trips.

The buzz around the city, and indeed the country, was palpable. The reason I am living here is because of the incredible 17 days I had following the England football team around during the 2002 World Cup. It was a chance to re-experience what Japan was like when hosting major international multi-week sporting events. It was, as always, the fan experience of both tournaments which made them so memorable.

The impact on my life continued after the tournament was over. Fans of our videos became friends I am still in touch with. People recognise me from the videos in the most random places, such as at the Ako Gishi Sai festival in Sengakuji in December 2019.  I attended the Japan National Team parade through Marunouchi in December 2019 and made it onto TBS’s flagship new program N-sta with my analysis on the future of Rugby in Japan, alongside the Guardian Newspaper no less!

Maction Planet featured on TBS Flagship show N-Sta N-スタ

Making the RWC vlogs was a lot of time and effort but it was worth it. The community that we built together will continue, pandemics notwithstanding. To this day I get messages from fans thanking me for my efforts and wanting to meet at the next Rugby games in Greater Tokyo. I like to think I contributed to converting some of the niwaka, the fairweather fans brought into the tournament by Japan’s success, into true Rugby fanatics by showing them the passion of the fans and the great pre- and post-game atmosphere created by supporters of both teams; win, lose or draw.

Bring on RWC 2023. Until then, we continue…

Wales vs South Africa Rugby World Cup 2019

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