The very nice young Immigration official in Sapporo was bemused, if not yet suspicious.
“Forty-three days?” he asked. “Why will you be in Japan for 43 days?”
“Ah,” I said. “Rugby.”
“Forty-three days for rugby?”
“Yes,” I said enthusiastically.
The other very nice young Immigration official turned and smiled at us: he had noticed the silver fern on my passport. “All Blacks!”
“Exactly,” I said. “All Blacks.” Because that is all you need to know really.
I had started off some many hours earlier at Wellington airport. I’d taken a taxi it was so early, but MrsDavy had made a dash to the airport herself with the thing I’d left behind. (Phone. Bugger. Not a good start. What else have I stuffed up?)
At the gates and in the planes I noticed a few other Gentlemen of a Certain Age and Certain Girth. Those of us slyly and shyly sloping off early, ditching the dishes and the lawns and all other tasks and responsibilities. We’re not wearing branded kit, but the guilty eyes give it away. A raised eyebrow, a short nod, a conspiracy not to say anything until we’re clean away.
We’re taking roundabout routes, as if trying to throw everyone off the scent. Mine went to Auckland, then Taipei, and Sapporo. “Just popping out to the dairy for some milk. Back soon, love.”
Eight hours in Japan and I know I’m going to love this. Darting in across Hokkaido I had looked out and thought ‘That could be Canterbury down there.’ Lots of hills and mountains covered in bush, and any flat land covered in a quilt of growing.
But you step off and it’s not a bit like New Zealand, because there’s an actual proper public transport system that takes me by train and subway and tram to my lodgings. Fast, efficient, clean, punctual and all.
(A young Japanese woman, bless her, found me peering at the machine that gives out the IC cards, and helped me push the buttons in the right order, so that my journey was not interrupted a littlest bit. I’m thinking that looking floundering and smiling as if I was a doddering fool might be the best trick for the next 42 days. I shall call it ‘charm’.)
I’ve been to the local supermarket and marvelled at all the things I don’t recognise, and turned on the telly to find that part of the world finds it quite possible to exist in something other than the English language, which was fine by me as I watched the sumo wrestling and you are never going to translate that, so shut up and enjoy the show.
So now all I have to do is collect Mayhem from the airport on Friday, and we’ll get to the business end of four years’ waiting.