In case you haven’t heard, the World Cup is in Asia for the first time.

Taking place in Japan, the tournament feels completely different to its predecessors and both foreign and Japanese fans have been revelling in it.

There are many things to love about a World Cup out east, some of which were expected and some which have come as a welcome surprise.

But after a bit of discussion, the BBC Sport team in Japan have settled on what they love most.

The unpredictability

BBC union correspondent

You never quite know what you are going to get in Japan. It is never boring; and always fun.

For example, the weather seems impossible to predict – any given day could be a combination of perfect sunshine or torrential storms – while at breakfast one needs to be prepared to eat anything from rare beef to fish stew to donuts and cakes.

And for such polite and reserved people, the Japanese also absolutely love letting their hair down by getting stuck into good food and good drink – often in a karaoke booth.

The upsets

BBC chief sports writer Tom Fordyce

Every World Cup needs a result in the group stages that shakes up the established order, that messes with the predictions you may have made on your wallchart and keeps you watching other matches that you might otherwise assume to be dead certs.

In 2007, you had Fiji beating Wales. In 2011, you had Tonga upsetting France, and in 2015 you had Japan’s famous victory over South Africa.

What this World Cup is delivering is not just an isolated one-off but – maybe – a story that could kick on and on. Should hosts Japan make it through to the knock-out stages for the first time in their history, it would be devastating for Scotland but remarkable for the wider tournament.

Other tier-two nations have struggled, and that should be a concern for World Rugby. To have the host nation in the last eight would cover up a number of those wider issues.

Japan celebrate

The Japanese fans

BBC Radio 5 Live rugby union producer Louise Gwilliam

The enthusiasm of the Japanese fans for this World Cup has been like no other tournament I’ve ever been to.

Not only do they buy the shirt of every team they go and see (imagine hundreds of Japanese fans in full Namibia kit, backpack and all) they have also learnt the words to every national anthem and sing them with as much pride as passionate Argentines, crying Frenchmen and women and multi-lingual South Africans.

The language

Former England fly-half and BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Paul Grayson

Never have so few words in a native tongue elicited such a warm response.

I know how to say about six things in Japanese covering a huge range of topics from hello to sorry and all the way to excuse me.

The response to these attempts is pure joy from the recipient and then they politely speak to you in Japanese after which you nod and smile and point at stuff.

You feel welcomed and foreign all at the same time. Loud English gets you nowhere here and that’s absolutely as it should be.

The respect

BBC Sport journalist Becky Grey

Japanese society has a lot to teach us about respect. Trains are plastered with signs reminding travellers not to use their phones on-board and on match days there are announcements in English telling fans not to “cause any discomfort” for their fellow passengers.

The high value placed on respecting others has translated onto the pitch too. Teams have stayed out on the field after full-time to go round and bow to every side of the stadium, as is the Japanese custom when thanking someone.

And there’s been plenty of respect between teams behind the scenes. After thrashing them 63-0, reigning champions New Zealand invited into their dressing room for a few post-match beers.

Richie Mo'unga and Peter Nelson

The rules

BBC Radio 5 Live rugby union producer Louise Gwilliam

The Japanese love a rule, and there’s absolutely no deviating from them, but it makes life in Japan really quite pleasant and easy.

Everyone waits at the crossings for the green man, even on back streets with no-one around. There are signs painted on the floor of where to queue on train platforms and no-one ever pushes in.

Trains are always on time, and when over a minute late you get a public apology. Lastly, shoes must be taken off inside, no outdoor shoes are allowed in gyms and caps must be worn by everyone in the swimming pools.

The hosts

BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Gareth Lewis

My favourite personal moment so far was being presented with a jar of marmite in a little bar-cum-restaurant in Tokyo. We had popped in there to watch the England v USA game and had deliberately chosen a place with no westerners.

BBC's Gareth and marmite

After pretty much everyone had had a go at their English, the bar owner was so excited to have British guests that he produced a tiny jar of marmite from behind the counter and made us pose for pictures with it.

And as for the rugby… I am not counting my chickens or making any predictions, but to see Wales beat at a World Cup for the first time in 32 years – at last – was pretty special.

I’m not quiet when I watch games at home on the TV and tend to live every pass, kick and moment of unbearable tension. To let all that out by commentating on the game itself was an unforgettable experience. I’ve just about left another level to get up to in case Wales go on and do something special.


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