As I alight the train at Kawasaki I’m greeted by the pleasant sound of bird song. Sadly it only takes a few steps down the platform before I realise these are pre recorded chirps and much like canned laughter it numbs the effect.

Kawasaki is where national hero Mitoma cut his teeth, also home to Liverpool’s training pitch where Taiga will be on site for 8 hours today, engaging in a training match, and a ‘4×4’ competition, all part of the team program. 

On the train there are adverts for glass screens. The canon zoom, offering microscopic magnified views of up close sporting action, and Amazon prime offering endless hours of TV drama streaming pleasure on an iPad. The model’s faces on the ads express joy and wonder, and staring at these without being able to read the slogans gives me a different perspective. You’d be forgiven for thinking that without the screen such heights of human emotions were impossible.

Taiga’s 4×4 team ‘Fire birds’ didn’t win the tournament today. The fast pace and flexible rules of this quick fire game appeared to take them by surprise. But he showed a lot of spirit, chalked up two goals, and seemed to really love the bottomless cup at the drinks machine in the family restaurant afterwards. 

The restaurant was on the side of a main road, and reminded me of one of the diners I ate at when Anja McCloskey and I toured Canada a few years back. Think “Little Chef” but with a larger menu (suspiciously large in fact – they can’t actually make all those dishes fresh, can they?) Comfortable seating and an emphasis on speed and convenience – an iPad on every table that you use to place your order (who needs human contact!?!) 

Worth noting the menu offered no clear cut vegetarian or vegan options. It just doesn’t seem to be a thing. 

The five boys sat huddled close in a space designed for 3 adults. Leaning against the high backed cushioned seating they jostled and joked, exchanging bespoke hand shakes and gentle taunts. It’s good isn’t it? To be part of a team, to suffer set backs and support one another, to have a laugh, eat pasta and share a bottomless cup of pop.

Suica card – It’s like an oyster card, if anyone remembers them? You need it to travel on all trains, underground tubes and buses. Or so I thought ….

Upon arrival in Japan this time I realised I’d left my card in Wolverhampton. Not very useful there so I’d removed it from my wallet and…

No big deal I thought, but when I tried to buy a replacement they said they’re no longer available due to a worldwide shortage of the chip used inside them. Can’t argue with that.

Anyway, luckily my German mate T, a fellow football dad had a spare he leant me and I was soon back on the road. It was then that I noticed folks flashing their wrists at the turnstiles, and I felt about 200 years old. 

It seems the demand for the cards themselves has reduced with the increase in smart phones and specifically watches – I know a lot of folks have Apple Watches in the UK but here it appears to have sky rocketed with folks shaking their wrists at every transaction.

As I leave the cafe it’s 09:52am and there’s an icy chill wind from the sea.

I walk back towards the apartment by the bay and notice a huge queue of people congregating outside the Pacifico exhibition center. Many are carrying merch and memorabilia, some have so much they need a trolley and suitcase. All the waiting folks have pin badges and the group is a cross section of ages from teen to middle aged. I pause at one Uni student aged female who is kneeling and drawing (see pic) she says “They’re waiting for ‘idol’”, which wiki explains:

 ‘Idols’ are intended to be an ideal object of love of frenzied fans. The term has been commercialized by Japanese talent agents. The talent agencies hold auditions for cute boys and girls and make them stars.

Kinda sounds familiar I guess, but leaves me with more questions than answers. I’m not sure who to speak to about this to garner an insight, but I mark “idols” card for further investigation and then, almost on cue…

At the department store, there’s a floor to ceiling sign that reads “be SPECTACULAR girls” at the entrance of the female toilet. 

Not sure if this is an instruction, a warning or a gentle reminder but disconcerting nonetheless. Is it unfair to draw a line between this and the “idols” thing? Feels like a similar sort of pressure to be perfect. Maybe I’m making assumptions, but it does remind me I’ve been meaning to talk to you about toilets for a while now. Maybe I’ll save that for tomorrow’s diary entry…

Dan x