Tag Archives: Huddersfield Town

Eastern Dragons and Yorkshire Terriers

The number of Japanese students studying abroad has been in decline for many years now. I’m sure there are a variety of economic drivers at play here however, there is one thing in particular that I believe has had a significantly more profound effect on the desire of Japanese to leave the safety of home.

The Internet.

Japanese no longer need to leave the comforts of home in order to consume foreign culture. It’s already being packaged and sold to them at astonishing rate and now there’s the option of same-second delivery. Generally made via YouTube; a website my students on average believe to have existed for around fifteen to twenty years. And if not from there, well the rest of the social networking world is picking up the slack.

Twitter is booming, Facebook is gaining a foothold and Mixi has already been a firm part of the youth culture in Japan for sometime now having skillfully tapped into the long kept and stunningly well maintained school day’s, nostalgia coated friendships.

On top of this plethora of gateways to the wider world stands sport, particularly football and The Premier league.

It’s inescapable.

One boy in my class who has never been to England, as far as I know, idolizes Steven Gerrard and even portrayed him in our speaking project this term. Somehow, from thousands of miles away this fifteen-year-old boy has made a connection with this club, even slipping in, “You’ll never walk alone” into his project script.

There may have only been the one Steven Gerrard in my class but there were more than a few Atsuto Uchidas, Nagatomos and Shinji Kagawas. I also expect that cohort to include Ryo Miyaichi by the end of the year thus precipitating an unusual Man Utd/Arsenal rivalry to break out within the fans in my town, especially amongst the football fanatic kids in my classes.

This fascination is driven by a Japanese media that never hesitates to follow its sporting stars around the world. Shinji Kagawa alone had a dozen Japanese reporters at every Borussia Dortmund game to cover his every move. Now that he’s at Manchester Utd it’s fair to say that interest in his career is only going to multiply.

And if Ryo Miyaichi were to become a stand out player at Arsenal to boot, resulting in some real competition between the two giants of the nineties? I’d never escape their faces plastered across newspapers and TV screens. Endless inquiries from my students would make my ears bleed through sheer repetition and Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City would all be swiftly forgotten by this generation of teenage fans.

With this kind of devotion to fandom, especially in Japan, it is of course no surprise to see clubs outside of the top flight of English football trying to get a slice of the pie.

The most famous and dramatic example of this has to be Cardiff City and their now confirmed rebranding.

In exchange for a total investment of around one hundred million pounds, with money being detailed for use in expanding the only recently completed stadium, a new training ground as well as a substantial transfer kitty for the manager Cardiff City will now be playing in red and their club crest has been redesigned to feature the figure of the Welsh Dragon far more prominently, with a tiny bluebird below as a small touch to placate the fans.

However, with the reasoning behind fandom in Asia apparently quite firmly established; historical success, TV exposure, academy presence in the countries and of course the presence of a national icon at your club such as South Korean golden boy Park Ji-Sung and Japan’s young hopes Kagawa and Miyaichi at Utd and Arsenal respectively, I was left to wonder how effective Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan’s efforts would actually be in rebranding Cardiff City’s Bluebirds by donning them in lucky red and emphasizing the dragon.

Certainly the fans seemed to be pretty adamant about their feelings on the matter initially, though football being a money game seems to have swayed some opinions. This kind of thing after all, is simply a part of the modern game and when one man is willing to put a hundred million of his own cash up, then he can do what he likes by and large.

However, I couldn’t help feeling that my own team, Huddersfield Town, currently on the up thanks to our very own generous owner Dean Hoyle, might be missing a trick here.

Now I’m not for a second here suggesting that Town change anything at all. The trick being missed is that Huddersfield Town already connect to the Japanese market in an important way.

Sheer, unadulterated cuteness.

You see, the Japanese have for some reason in recent years, decided that they prefer to have pets rather than children. A tired economy, limited living space and a generation seemingly uninterested in sex has seen the number of pets overtake children. So while a young couple may not be able to afford kids and all the costs that go with it, a pampered poodle is well within their reach. (Evidently not quite so true…see below comments)

So will Huddersfield Town and Terry the Terrier one day tap into the Japanese market and begin to exploit the benefits of the Japanese adoration of all things kawaii (cute)?

It’d only take a single summer tour of a couple J-league teams and the gift of about half a million Terry the Terrier based omiyage (souvenirs) to sway this nation to the blue and white.

Maybe one day, when one of my students, stunned to discover that Yorkshire is a place and not just half the name of a fluffy ball of cuteness asks me once again,

“Is my dog English?”

I might be able to reply,

“More than that, he’s a Town fan.”

Brazen Oldies

I’m used to being stared at in Japan, but one hundred and fifteen senior citizens all staring at me at once is a new experience to be honest. That they were expecting a speech from me was all the stranger. Yet, there I was in front of a collection of silver haired, wrinkle faced, smiling and occasionally snoring faces about to have a one hour ramble on all things Japanese and British.

I should perhaps clarify before people begin to think I make a habit of strolling into old folks homes and regaling a room full of pensioners with tales from a long dead empire. I’d actually been hired to do this as part of the usual rent-a-gaijin service my employers run, ‘Need a pale faced young man from rainier shores to promote your local service? We have your gaijin.’ There’s no harm in it, usually they just want someone to write a few words in English on their service. I did just that for a local river rafting company; that I ended up wearing a traditional peasants hat and blue happi (essentially the top half of a heavy cotton kimono or yukata) and posing for a photo was sheer coincidence. This time however, I was stood at the front of a large meeting room on the third floor of the local government building and sharing my thoughts on weather, sport and food in Japan and Britain.

The way it worked was that I’d reel off a short sentence or two and then a very nice English chap who’s been out here for many a year would translate my peculiar ramblings into much clearer Japanese.

My nervousness in such events often translates in an infuriating way. I can speak perfectly clearly, but my hands will shake a fair bit. It’s certainly not as bad as it was when I was kid, a year or so of bartending and now teaching everyday means I’m pretty confident when it comes to holding the attention of a table full of people but it’d be fair to say that a hundred and fifteen people is outside my usual comfort zone.

I started to ease into it all pretty quickly, even managing to get a few laughs when I mentioned how I became a Hiroshima Carp fan because supporting a winning team just doesn’t feel like… well like supporting a team really. Supporting England and Huddersfield Town is hardly the quick path to glory after all.

Eventually we reached the question and answer portion of the event from which I hadn’t really expected too many surprises. This is after all a nation of infuriatingly polite people and as such not prone to asking difficult questions. Usually never straying beyond, ‘is this delicious?’ But I’d forgotten that I live in a country where the elderly rule and inappropriate questions come not from the mouths of cheeky teenagers but from brazen oldies.

Militarism. Check. Nuclear weapons. Check.

It’s quite fortunate that on these two topics I generally agree wholeheartedly with the Japanese otherwise I’d know what one hundred and fifteen disapproving old Japanese people sound like.

Disappointingly I was asked the difference between England and Britain, some Japanese being blissfully unaware of the existence of Scottish people beyond scotch and the Welsh beyond… well they don’t know Wales is there really.

Fortunately one man had some inkling of the construction of our Kingdom and asked me whether all the countries in the UK still hate each other. No of course not, I told him.  They all hate England.

Though when abroad, they just hate that no one seems to know that Scotland isn’t a prefecture of England.