Saturday, October 15, 2011

Football Journey To The Southern Tip Of Japan

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I have not been to a few places in Japan, and one of them is Kyushu.

Before the draw for the final round of the 2012 London Olympic Asian Qualifiers was made in early July, I was hoping that our national football team will be drawn in the same group as Japan. The result of the draw turned out exactly as what I hoped for; Bahrain and Syria were the other two teams which completed Group C. However, the match was scheduled to be held in Saga prefecture in the southern island of Kyushu, more than 1,200 kilometers away from Tokyo.

Thanks to the kind gesture of the Ministry of Youth & Sports, five students from Tokyo was given the chance to join the minister, Dato' Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek and the rest of the delegates to watch the football match on September 21, 2011. As you might have read in my previous entry, we had a dinner session with the minister and the delegates the previous night at Rasa Malaysia Cuisine in Ginza.

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The five of us assembled at JR Shinagawa Station to join the rest of the delegates in the early morning of September 21, 2011.

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Shinagawa (品川) to Hakata (博多) on Nozomi (a type of bullet train service)! Tambahan lagi it's green car!

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And it was the N700 Series Shinkansen, that could reach a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour.

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The Nozomi stops at only the largest station along the Tōkaidō/Sanyō Shinkansen.

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Here comes the train.

So, you might wonder what does a "green car" mean. Basically, it is like the business class in airplanes. They are usually less crowded, offer more spacious and comfortable seats, more and bigger pillows and blankets, usually, but not always, come with free beverage and sometimes snacks, and also a dedicated lounge area. However, they are typically 30% to 50% more expensive than ordinary cars.

Prior to this, I have taken a green car before, but that was many many years ago and it was actually a mistake made by my friend and me because our tickets were only valid for ordinary cars haha!

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This is one of the ordinary car inside the bullet train, or more commonly known as shinkansen.

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And this is the green car. There were just a couple of ang moh besides our delegation in the coach we took; so we practically had the whole coach to our own!

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Sempat posing with Dato' Sri during our five-hour train ride *hehe*.

There were not a single one of us who has been to Kyushu before, and we were like super excited when we were gonna reach Hakata. No disrespect to the people from Kyushu, but it felt as if we were stepping into a completely brand new world. So, we, or probably just me, acted kinda like jakun-lar haha!

I just found out after this trip that the railway track is connected from Honshu to Kyushu by an undersea tunnel - Kanmon Railway Tunnel. During the train ride, I could not remember the train crossing through any bridges when it crossed the Kanmon Straits. So, for several minutes, the trains was running under the sea and once it emerged and arrived at Kokura Station, we wondered if we had actually reached Kyushu.

So, tanpa segan silu, I asked one of the attendant, "Excuse me, is Kokura located in Kyushu?" She just smiled and said, "No, Kokura is the twin city of Kalkutta in India!"

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Finally, we reached the largest train station in Kyushu - Hakata Station in Fukuoka prefecture.

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We check-in at Hotel New Otani Hakata in Fukuoka upon arriving.

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Each of us were given a pair of an orange jersey to be worn during the match.

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Got ourselves changed into our Team Malaysia jersey, ready to head to the stadium for the match!

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Had a photo with the Director General of National Sports Council of Malaysia, Dato' Zolkples Embong, a funny guy and fun to talk to. I still remember his 
"Saya ingat dia cakap 'cepat-cepat ambil payung' (an inside joke)" line during our dinner at Rasa Malaysia. 

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The press team also were in their bright Team Malaysia jersey.

The minister and the rest of the delegates went to the hotel the players were staying to have a short meeting and offer motivational words to the team before the match. As for us, the kids, we had some free time until the meeting is over and we head to Tosu for the football match. We used up this time to take our lunch, and also to wander around the outlets at the port area of Fukuoka city. However, as we were wearing our bright orange jersey, it attracted a lot of attention and curiosity from on-lookers when they see aliens wondering around their city haha!

It was just less than a couple of hours since we reached Fukuoka. When we were taking the escalator, we were curious whether the people in Kyushu stand on the left or the right. In Tokyo, it is left, but it is the opposite in Osaka. In Fukuoka however, we noticed that some of them stood on the left, while some other, on the right. So, our conclusion is that the people in Kyushu will just stand everywhere when they take the escalators haha!

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Fukuoka Dome, home to Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, one of the professional baseball teams.

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Our lunch was at The Don (ザどん). I had Aki-no Sake-zukushi don (秋の鮭づくし丼), which had sliced salmon, Hokkaido's ikura, smoked salmon, 
 and salmon fats from its belly. It also comes with a bowl of miso soup, and tofu.

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Ohh yea, this is the five students who joined the minister's delegation, Awadh, Iman, Aime, Yan Kuang and Calvin.

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Hakata Port Tower, the symbol of Hakata Bay.

The football match was scheduled to be held at the Best Amenity Stadium in Tosu city in Saga prefecture, about 30 kilometers away from Hakata. The kick-off time was eight in the evening, however we arrived at Sun Messe Tosu a couple of hours earlier, as there was a meeting between the minister and the rest of the delegates with the Malaysian students in Kyushu.

This meeting was also attended by Dato' Motohiro Otsuka, the Honorary Consulate General of Malaysia in Fukuoka.

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A signboard erected by the roadside, to welcome and serve as a guide the supporters to the stadium.

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The Best Amenity Stadium, seen from Sun Messe Tosu, was filling up as the kick-off time was approaching.

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Arrival of the minister's delegate at Sun Messe Tosu, which was greeted by Puan Siti Zaharah from the HR Department
of the Embassy of Malaysia in Japan and several other staffs.

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Dato' Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Dato' Motohiro Otsuka, Dato' Zolkples Embong and Ahmad Fauzi bin Mohd Faudzi, President of MSAJ Kyuma division, 
joining the Malaysian students in the washitsu room of Sun Messe Tosu.

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The handling-over of tickets and jersey to the students' representative.

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A group photo joined by the two representatives from Telekom Malaysia, who sponsored the tickets for the Malaysian students to watch the football match.

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Bento set for everyone; had to recharge ourselves to maximum capacity so that we could cheer kao kao during the match haha!

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Dato' Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek and Dato' Motohiro Otsuka having their early dinner with the students. How many ministers in the Cabinet 
would actually sit on the floor to have their meals with the rakyat? Something for us to ponder upon. 

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The media team doing some homework (news write-ups) in the build-up to the match.

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Meet up with long-lost (not very long actually, as I saw them at the MSAJ Career Fair in August) batchmates - Sede, Afiq and Adnan, 
who were there to cheer for Malaysia as well.

By that time, we started to feel the exciting atmosphere as the kick-off time were just minutes away. Apologies for the sudden interruption, but it's half time now haha! I will blog about the great and crazy experience we had at the match in the next entry.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

6 comments:

Extreme Power said...

Nice one man. ;)

kae vin said...

after writing one long post haven't sampai the match yet! pengsan

Cindyrina (The Princess) said...

Good Luck!!!! :)

calvin said...

@ extreme power:
thanks bro xD

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
you know this uncle is always very long-winded one mar (^.^;

calvin said...

@ cindyrina (the princess):
thank you =D