G-Dog's tour diary: Nuclear reactors, earthquakes and Japan’s best curry

G-Dog's tour diary: Nuclear reactors, earthquakes and Japan’s best curry

In my third tour diary of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, I recount staying one kilometre away from a Nuclear Power Station, sleeping through an earthquake and finding a gem of a curry house.

G-Dog in Japan

The third week of our tour saw us depart one of my favourite locations in Japan as we left Nagoya for a small coastal town called Omaezaki, in the greater Shizuoka area.

The trip started on a light note as myself and Hollywoodbets photographer, Steve Haag boarded an express Shinkansen which saw us fly past our actual destination by a good hour. Once we stopped at the next station, we boarded the correct bullet train and arrived at the correct train station we'd originally missed.

We had an idea that our next week of the tour would be a more rural experience of Japan, and that became a reality the further we drove by bus to our final destination. Around an hour later, our bus stopped at its terminus and we had to walk around 1.2 km to our hotel.

Dragging heavy bags was not an easy undertaking and Haag’s main bag, which has been to three World Cups, eventually broke down as one of the wheels completely ground away. 

Our walk to the hotel was hot and humid even in the late afternoon. There was a distinctly agricultural smell in the area, a mixture of damp and fertiliser which made our travelling group a bit apprehensive about finding out what our hotel would look like in the quiet town.

We eventually arrived at the Kuretake Inn Omaezaki. Despite its slightly outdated outside appearance and inner decor, myself, Haag and journalists Adnaan Mohamed and Ashfak Mohamed were relieved to have reached our accommodation after a long day of travel.

After unloading our bags in our rooms, Haag and I decided to go for a walk around town. I was overjoyed to find a local skate park right next door. Although it was old, a small quarter pipe and bowl made me smile and curse myself at the same time - having left my skateboard back home in Durban.

Even in the quiet town of Omaezaki we found a McDonalds and settled for an old faithful Big Mac meal before calling it a night.

Nuclear Power Station and earthquakes

When we made our trek by foot on Sunday from the bus stop, I thought I had noticed what looked like a massive power station just over the hill from our hotel.

As we made our way to the Springboks’ hotel by foot and bus the next morning, I decided to Google 'Omaezaki' and discovered that I was indeed right and that the building less than a kilometre away was the Omaezaki Nuclear Power Station.

READ: G-Dog’s tour diary: Carpools, Nagoya Castle and the stadium roof that doesn't close

Anyone who has read about or watched documentaries about the Chernobyl disaster would no doubt feel slightly apprehensive about being so close to a Nuclear Reactor.

As I read on about the plant, I discovered that it had been forced to cease operating close to a decade ago. The main driving factor was the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear disaster in 2011 which was caused by an earthquake-triggered tsunami that damaged the reactors of the site a couple of hundred kilometres up the Japanese north coast.

Omaezaki Nuclear Power Station
Omaezaki Nuclear Power Station

Following the disaster, Japan forced all its nuclear power stations to close in order to improve safety systems at the various stations. Omaezaki’s power plant did the same but it’s ongoing closure is also a result of local governmental pressures.

The Omaezaki area is apparently expecting a severe earthquake in the next 30 years according to seismologists and there are concerns that a disaster could occur at the station should that happen.

Once I’d read all of this information, I told the rest of the South African journalists who then teased me for the next few days about looming earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns.

Ironically, on Wednesday night, an earthquake measuring around 4.0 on the Richter scale happened 60km away in Shizuoka. A number of the journalists felt the earthquake, while some of us including me slept through the event. Later that week, I asked Springbok captain Siya Kolisi if he’d felt the tremor and it turns out that he did!

Needless to say, we all stopped joking about looming disasters and quietly started counting down the days until we left the strangely eerie town.

Taking comfort in curry

As I’ve explained at length, Omaezaki is a quiet town with not much to see or do. 

The Springboks stayed at the Shizuoka Hamaoka Golf Estate, which offered an obvious choice to pass the time, although not many of the players actually got a round in.

The rest of us were left trying to find ways to entertain ourselves between media opportunities and training sessions. 

On Tuesday evening, Adnaan and Ashfak Mohamed invited me to join them for dinner at a small local curry restaurant a short walk from our hotel. 

Omaezaki Curry
Omaezaki Curry House

The small establishment was already full when we arrived and we crammed into a back area where you eat curry the traditional way, sitting on the floor with your shoes off.

I really liked the ambience of the place and the curry was even better. I had a feeling this would not be the last time we would eat at the spot and I was not wrong.

For the next three nights, we returned to the restaurant which quickly became the local favourite for almost every South African in the area.

Every night we arrived, we would run into a couple of Springboks or a few members of the Supersport team travelling with us covering the team. We felt right at home and I will fondly remember the spot for its good food and friendly atmosphere.

Weird and wonderful things

The rest of the week was quite random. 

On Wednesday afternoon I went for a run through the local countryside. I was tempted to run up a trail by the beach but ran into a few massive spider webs as I started down the path.

Given the size of the spiders in the area, I didn’t waste any time turning around and returning to the streets for the rest of my run.

I also visited a local 24 hour gym which was a fun experience. I had to bring two pairs of shoes because you can’t walk around the gym in the shoes you were wearing outside. 

All in all our time Omaezaki was a real change of pace from the bustling streets of Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya. I enjoyed the countryside and it gave us an authentic experience of life in quieter towns in Japan.

With the Springboks playing on a Friday night in Shizuoka, our shorter week ended on a happy note with a big win over Italy. After a long taxi ride home, I packed my bags and prepared for what would be an eventful week in the busy seaside port city of Kobe.

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