049. Match 23

RWC2019 Match 23: South Africa 49 Italy 3

Any day that includes a castle, a tea ceremony, Japanese gardens, and a rugby match is a good day.

LittleDavyOne and I got up early in Kobe to walk around the Kitano neighbourhood of our hotel.  Back in the late nineteenth century this was the hillside enclave for European merchants and diplomats to build their fancy houses, many of which still stand. Lovely views out to the sea, Shinto shrines, and many elderly Japanese taking their small dogs for morning constitutionals. A suburb very satisfied with life.

Then we packed our bags, walked up to Shin-Kobe station, and – smart as two smart things – put the bags in a coin locker.  Up to the platform and straight on to the first Shinkansen heading to Himeji, one stop back up the line.

Step out of that station, and look up the avenue to a picture perfect 17th century Japanese castle. Himeji Castle, also known as the White Egret Castle, which is a seriously cool name for a home.

Himeji Castle

We walked all around and up it, accompanied by several classes of Japanese school kids (also picture perfect).  While it is a castle, and was built as a strong defensive position, in its present configuration it was never attacked.  (It even survived the Second World War aerial bombings essentially unscathed.)  So it is the real deal, and two major renovations in the last 60 years have made it sumptuously alive.

The major sense I took away with me was the smell and feel of the wood: cedars and pines, centuries growing and now centuries in place. You have to take your shoes off as you enter the castle proper, and the rub of the wood floors on your soles is a treat.

Below the castle are formal gardens, exquistely laid out and maintained.

Himeji Castle gardens.

In one of them is a tea house where you can have an abbreviated experience of how tea should be properly conducted.  LittleDavyOne loved it, and Ned didn’t disgrace himself by dropping anything, so that counts as a victory.

Back to the station, catch a Shinkansen back to Shin-Kobe, regather our bags from the locker, back up to the platform, and straight on to another Shinkansen, bound for Hamamatsu.

Because Ned’s a clever bugger, and knows that the Shizuoka stadium could be a tricky transport option.  It’s close enough to Tokyo for people to Shinkansen in and out, but that still requires a local train as well, so it could all be a bit pressed dealing with 40,000+ people getting in and out.

So we get off at Hamamatsu, and catch the local train to Shimada (which is a place not on your bucket list), bags to the hotel and time enough for an hour’s rest, return to the station, and catch a train back to Aino station.  A nice half-hour walk up to Shizuoka stadium, which is damn big and damn pretty.

South Africa vs Italy, Shizuoka Stadium.

And it’s a damn good game, right up to the brain fart by two Italian forwards at the beginning of the second half.  It’s a terrible tip tackle on Vermuelen, dropping him on his head.  Straight red card for the worst offender, and arguably should have been for both.

Italy had played with real spirit up to that point, only conceding two tries in the first half.  Afterwards, the South Africans ran in another five.

The other feature was the injuries to the Italian front-row, which meant golden oldies scrums for most of the match.

All of that means it’s difficult to assess what sort of progress Rassie Erasmus’s squad is making as they head for the quarters.

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