Tragedy Of Doha Article Featured In Latest J-Soccer Magazine

Despite an inadequate knowledge of the beautiful game in Japan, a certain Tokyo Fox has managed to once again contribute a couple of pieces to the latest copy of J-Soccer magazine (issue #15) which went on sale last week.

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When I knew I was going to be in Qatar, thoughts turned to this crumbling old stadium and I thought it could make an interesting article for J-Soccer magazine. Thankfully issue #14 arrived in my mailbox the day before I left Japan last Christmas which was a relief as I wanted to be photographed at the Al-Ahli Stadium (formerly known as Hamad Bin Khlifa Stadium) with a copy of the latest issue in my possession. Also, in my bag ready for some quick photo-shooting was my Samurai Blue shirt which I put on for a couple of pictures (below) of me clutching the magazine.

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On my return from Qatar I informed the editor of my intention to write about the “Agony of Doha” (ドーハの悲劇 Dōha no higeki) which some newer fans of football in Japan may still be unaware of. He said he’d put something together to accompany it regarding the whereabout of the 11 starters and two substitutes who played on that fateful day in 1993. Anyway, that all appears with my part titled “Doha Revisited” and this time it’s made it onto the cover in the preview of the content at the foot of the page.

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This follows hot on the heels of the last time I wrote something for the magazine back in September. That was about the Japan World Cup Museum and a review of Japan’s World Cup showing in Brazil last Summer. As I mentioned on here in September I am keen to contribute to this publication but lack of knowledge about the J-League could be a hinderance so I will have to stick to things like museums and stadiums. What will come next I don’t know! Maybe another trip to the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama for a tour of the stadium and its World Cup connections could be in order but other than that I am fairly limited!!

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The other contribution is a minor one and involves a 10 year old girl I teach every weekend. She often talks to me about football, particularly the national team, and she likes to predict the line-up and formation for each upcoming game. Around the time that the Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki was being linked with a move to Leicester City she said she had the Japan shirt with his name and number on the back so I said I’d like to see it. The following week she wore it and I just happened to have the latest J-Soccer magazine with me which she had a quick look through. She saw the ‘Look At Me’ page which is your typical photo page of readers being photographed with the magazine in all kinds of places. I said that if she wanted I could use all my might and persuasive power to get her in a future issue by taking a photo of her reading the magazine. She agreed and the rest is history!

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JSoccer magazine is available in print or as a Pay-What-You-Want PDF from jsoccer.com

You can read ‘Doha Revisited’ in full here

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New Hachikō Statue In Tokyo

A new Hachikō statue was unveiled at the University of Tokyo in Bunkyo-ku very recently but unlike the statue outside Shibuya station, this one also features his master. Professor Hidesaburo Ueno was a professor of agricultural engineering at the University for over two decades hence its location.

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The statue resembles the rejoice and excitement the two had when they were reunited each time and the love and affection people have could not be missed when I visited the statue very recently. It’s quite a moving scene for some as anyone who has ever seen any of the adaptations will know. Perhaps the most internationally known one is ‘Hachi; A Dog’s Tale‘ (2009) which moved the story to the USA and starred Richard Gere.

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Hachikō was born in Ōdate in 1923 and was raised by his master with great care but sadly they only shared 17 months together before Ueno suddenly passed away on campus in 1925.

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It’s been a while since I was last at a University in Tokyo and it actually took me a fair while to find the statue and that’s not because it’s hidden away in a secluded area but because I wasn’t too sure on which one of the multiple campuses it was located. The “University of Tokyo” has featured on Tokyo Fox before but that one was faked in ‘The Grudge‘ (2004). For the record, the statue’s on your left as soon as you enter the (real) University through the gates of the Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences/Faculty of Agriculture.

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There was a steady trickle of visitors during the ten minutes I spent there and the love and respect that many of them had for Japan’s most loyal dog was just as rewarding for me as seeing the statue itself.

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Bonus: For anyone wanting to further indulge in Hachiko nostalgia there is of course the statue outside JR Shibuya station (below) which is a hugely popular meeting place. Hachiko would wait outside this station every day for his deceased master to come home from work. Even after Ueno’s death, the Akita dog continued to wait for him every night for nine years and it is this sad story which really struck a chord with the public.

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Not so many know of the memorial (below) to the faithful dog as well as his master’s grave. Hachikō died in March 1935 and the graves can be found at Aoyama Reien (cemetery) in area 6 #12 and is the 3rd left lane once you leave the main office.

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Tsukuda – Going Beyond Tsukiji

Living very much in the shadows of its close neighbours Tsukiji and Tsukishima, the town of Tsukuda is not exactly on the map when it comes to tourism. However, it can make a pleasant half day trip for anyone wanting to extend their morning tour of Tsukiji fish market or just simply to get away from the well-worn touristy places in Tokyo. It was a windy day when we went there by bicycle crossing the Kachidoki Bridge which was ripped up and spat out by Godzilla in the 1954 original.

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Arriving in Tsukishima we stopped to sample some of the areas most famous dish; Monjayaki, at ‘Monkichi‘ (3-8-10 Tsukishima) which was a very busy place where pictures of Japanese celebrities don the walls giving recognition of their visit. With our stomach’s full on the mix of pan fried batter and finely chopped ingredients we headed over into Tsukuda.

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This sleepy little area is situated on reclaimed land and was formerly a small fisherman’s village over 300 years ago when 33 fishermen left their homes in Osaka and moved to Edo (the former name of Tokyo) to introduce the latest fishing methods at a time when Osaka was more developed than Edo. Tsukuda was the name of their village and thats how this place in Chuo-ku got its name.

Japan may be considered to be a bit of an isolated country and likewise Tsukuda has always been a bit secluded from the rest of the capital which means its been left relatively unspoiled and is one of very few places in Tokyo which still offer glimpses of the city in a bygone era. Our first stop was the rustic, wooden building of Tenyasu (1-3-14 Tsukuda) which is the oldest of three tsukudani (seafood boiled in sauce) boutiques in the area.

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The shop is open between 9am – 6pm and has been open for over 170 years and actually features, as does much of Tsukuda, in the ridiculously silly low budget movie ‘The Toxic Avenger Part II‘ (1989) where Japanese food critic Go Nagai makes a cameo appearance in a mock TV interview where he says the food has magical powers and can attract beautiful women and before you know it the Toxic Avengers latest antagonist is hit over the head by a fish moments after her clothes all fell off and she stumbles into the interviewers lap and he thinks god has answered his call to meet a pretty lady. The only ladies we saw there were the steady stream of middle-aged housewives making special trips to pick up the long-lasting speciality that can be bought by measure. There are over a dozen different types of tsukudani ranging from 350 yen to 1200 yen for 100 grams.

The next stop was Sumiyoshi-jinja Shrine (1-1-14 Tsukuda) which is situated among the towns quiet back streets featuring rows of old wooden houses. Once every three years though the place comes alive for its festival held on the first weekend of August. An enormous gate covered in copper plate welcomes you to the Shinto deity of fishermen and ocean travellers and is protected by foxes.

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The striking red Tsukudakobashi bridge is just round the corner from the shrine and is an area of boat moorings and decrepit fishermen’s dwellings. There is even a half submerged boat in the canal and its banks are lined with nagaya – long wooden structures divided into independent houses separated by narrow alleys  – which date from the Edo period and Tsukuda is among only a handful of places in Tokyo where you can still see such row houses. How long they’ll be around for is uncertain as they’re considered to be something of a fire hazard these days. Tsukuda Namiyoke Shrine is back by the canal and was built to pray for the safety of fishermen. This small shrine has stones lying around its tree which are used in strength competitions.

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On the riverfront near the floodgates is the memorial tower which is a replica of the 1866 hexagonal designed lighthouse although its prime use these days seems to be as  toilets!! This landmark can be reached by ambling through the pleasant Tsukuda-koen; a pond and fountain as the centrepiece surrounded by bricked paths and many park benches.

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Walking over the Tsukuda Ohashi Bridge will take you in the direction of Ginza district but before the bridge was built in 1964 the residents of Tsukuda had to rely on ferries.

The other option for exiting Tsukuda is to head to Tsukishima station but not before you’ve stopped for one more snack. Hisagoya Abe (3-1-12 Tsukuda) is a tiny place selling delicious takeaway liver katsu (140 yen) at its window and its well worth crossing the highway to sample this liver cutlet at a shop which was founded in 1949 although it has moved locations in that time.

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Tsukuda can be reached via Tsukishima station on the Yurakucho and Toei Oedo lines.

* This article was originally written for publication in a local magazine and is actually the sum of a few individual trips to the area rather than one cycling adventure as it seems like here. Hence, the different clothes I’m wearing!

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Cemetery Junction Filming Locations (2010)

It’s very rare that I visit any movie locations beyond the nations capital when I’m back in Britain but earlier this year I went to the Great Central Railway in Loughborough which has been used for countless TV and film productions. One of the movies to have been shot there was ‘Cemetery Junction‘ (2010); the coming-of-age comedy-drama about three lads written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Both of those guys do appear in the film but their parts are mere cameo roles.

WARNING: May contain spoilers!

Set in a small town in 1973, Freddie, Bruce and Snork are the three main characters and all of different stock and character. The latter is the loveable loser who has a habit of saying the wrong thing and he works at Cemetery Junction railway station which in reality is the restored heritage railway in Loughborough. It first appears on 37 minutes with a brief shot (below) of the stations exterior.

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That is then followed by a sweeping shot (below) of the far end of the platform.

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Next, we see Freddie (Christian Cooke) and Bruce (Tom Hughes) descending the steps of the station and walking along platform 2 (below) where they pop in to see Snork (Jack Doolan) and engage in some rude banter over the public address system.

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The Great Central Railway appears again towards the end of the movie between 81-89 minutes. At the far end of the platform under the sign (changed accordingly for filming) on the bench (below) is where Snork and Louise (a girl who has feelings for him that works at a café he frequents) form a relationship.

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Soon after that, Freddie arrives at “Cemetery Junction” station expecting to begin his travels with his two mates but finds himself alone after Snork has changed his mind and is ready for work. He later announces over the public address system that Bruce also won’t be accompanying Freddie.

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Filming took place mostly on Platform 2 (below) and as I saw this film after my visit I didn’t know which angles I needed for match up shots! My shot of the platform were sadly taken from the other end to that seen in the movie.

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You can read ‘Trainspotting On The Great Central Railway: Loughborough’ here

You can read ‘Trainspotting On The Great Central Railway: Rothley’ here

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Clubcall: How We Got Our Club News In The Past

I was recently teaching a group of 8 year old Japanese kids the fascinating art of giving your telephone number in British English. A redundant feature of the modern world but the powers-that-be think they need to know that oh is said rather than zero and that numbers are broken down into small groups or pairs with use of the word double when necessary.

A decade of teaching this kind of function can be a pretty dull activity when it appears in the text so to amuse myself I call out famous numbers from TV and radio such as the old ‘Live & Kicking‘ Saturday morning kids TV number and the kids write the number out on the whiteboard. One day I came out with a number that really took me back to my childhood and brought memories flooding back of a British football information service from yesteryear.

What young children are looking at on their computers is a prime concern for parents these days but back in the late 80’s they were more worried about what phone numbers their kids were dialling up without permission. Yes, I’m talking 0898 numbers but nothing sexual here. In fact what you’d hear on the other end of 0898 12-11-85 couldn’t have been any further from being a turn-on (even on the best of days!) for this was the Leicester City Clubcall number.

Back in 1986 this telephone news service was launched and the numbers for each club were all advertised in ‘Match‘ and ‘Shoot‘ magazines. Some football fans even rang the number of more than one club! This was in an era long before the blanket coverage seen and heard on the likes of Sky, 5 Live, internet and mobile phones, and it enabled us City fans to “find out” what was going on at our club. I use the term loosely as I don’t remember hearing that much news. It was probably of similar note to that other service of the time; the now defunct teletext service.

In the days of having Bryan Hamilton and David Pleat at the helm, Clubcall was the only source for getting information at an expensive premium rate. People of a certain age may remember the number and it will almost certainly send a shiver down the spine of any parent who recalls being asked (if they were indeed asked at all!!) if they could dial up this number and listen to an automated male voice speak slowly amid an annoying buzzing noise in the background. I can remember my mum hovering over me with a close eye on the clock making sure that I didn’t go over my allotted one minute as at  this service was not cheap. More money was probably spent on Clubcall than season tickets by some fans I expect.

The announcer used to thank you for calling Clubcall, explain the service, describe the pitch conditions before informing us (finally) of some vague news relating to the likes of Alan Paris, Simon Morgan, Jimmy Quinn and co or if we were really lucky there would be news of a signing on the horizon which inevitably resulted in never hearing much of that story ever again.

BT sold Clubcall to Ladbrokes in 1991 and believe it or not the company is actually still operating though of course its evolved to become a sports website and international mobile content provider. The idea of a telephone football information service seems crazy in this day and age where its easy to access information at all times as we receive wall-to-wall coverage of the beautiful game in its modern form but back then it played an important role in keeping us informed.

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London Filming Locations: Four Weddings & A Funeral (1994)

When this Richard Curtis-written film came out in 1994 I had no interest in seeing it whatsoever as I was really sick of hearing the Wet Wet Wet cover of ‘Love Is All Around‘ which was the soundtrack song that dominated the UK Top 40 chart spending a ridiculous 15 weeks at number one.

Many, many years later though and having been won round by Hugh Grant’s performances in ‘Notting Hill‘ (1999), ‘About A Boy‘ (2002) and ‘Love Actually‘ (2004) I finally got round to watching this one and enjoyed it enough to bother seeking out some of the London movie locations from it….not that that kind of thing usually stops me!!

22 Highbury Terrace (below) in North London first appears on 33 minutes as Charles (Hugh Grant) leaves his place in a rush to make it to the second wedding. This is the only time when we see the outside of the house from afar as when it appears at the climax of the film on 106 minutes we only see the door up close and the street and its neighbouring houses. Drayton Park is the nearest station and Holloway Road or Arsenal (both on the Piccadilly Line) are the closest tube stations.

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Rowan Atkinson is the master of ceremonies for the second wedding, between Bernard and Lydia, which takes place around the 34 minute mark with ‘St Mary of the Fields in Cripplegate’ actually being the Royal Naval College Chapel. Greenwich is the nearest rail station and the chapel (below) is open to the public and free. It also featured as the interior of a ‘Venice’ church in ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider‘ (2001) and a fair few other films which are arguably of greater note!

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The reception for that wedding was shot at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa which seems to have been used in some way in many recent locations updates on Tokyo Fox such as ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ (1999) and ‘The World Is Not Enough‘ (1999).

Carrie (Andie MacDowell) gives Charles a show of her potential wedding dresses on 58 minutes at 1 Sloane Square (below) which used to be Albrissi, an interior design service.

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The fourth wedding of the film on 89 minutes at ‘St Julian’s’ is actually St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield. Farringdon or Barbican on the Circle Line are the tube stations within walking distance and it’s this church where Charles has his doubts about getting married having met Carrie who informed him that she had separated from her husband.

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For other London filming locations click on the links below:

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace    Trainspotting    Mission: Impossible    Lara Croft Tomb Raider    The Bourne Ultimatum   Harry Potter & The Philosophers Stone   James Bond    About A Boy    Quadrophenia    Bridget Jones’s Diary    Goodnight Sweetheart    Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels    Basic Instinct 2    Batman Begins/The Dark Knight    The Italian Job    Snatch    Rom-Com Special    Skyfall    Notting Hill    The World Is Not Enough    Paddington    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Re-Visited)    Entrapment    Sliding Doors    Eyes Wide Shut

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Qatar 2014 Pt II: A Day In Doha

Long before they won the chance to host the 2022 World Cup about the only thing I knew of Qatar was that it was the only country starting with the letter Q! As a teacher, this comes up quite often in lessons as a common activity which I do from time to time is the A-Z of countries that can only include one example for certain letters such as Oman for O and Yemen for Y.

The one and only other time I’ve visited the middle-east was Jordan in 2011 and that ranks as one of my favourite holidays ever so with that in mind I was keen to return to this part of the world and a layover on the way back to see my family last Christmas was the ideal opportunity.

I arrived very early in the morning and paid QAR100 ($28) for the visa and after I’d been to the place which featured in ‘Qatar 2014 Pt I‘ the taxi driver dropped me off at the Museum of Islamic Arts. Of course it wasn’t open at that time but my plan was always to leave it till the afternoon so instead I wandered up Al-Corniche; the very pleasant crescent which winds around the bay for 8km. I only followed this promenade under the palms for a fraction of its total length stopping along the way to admire the Pearl Monument below. An interesting photo stop but the nearby surrounding area was all a bit building site-like.

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As for the views across the bay of this oil rich state, they were lovely with the high-rise buildings stood across the dhow harbour (below) with the architecturally wonderful museum and hundreds of ships in the foreground.

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A little further along Al-Corniche I crossed the road which was a mission in itself as many of the main roads in Doha are so wide and with the traffic constant it took a while to get across as the lights don’t seem to stop too often. Once on the other side I could see Diwan Emiri; the government building (below) that houses a lot of the highest level decision makers in Qatar.

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The lush green turf surrounding the building as well as the clock tower and the Grand Mosque (below) had some mounted police on Arabian horses trotting up and down which would become quite a common sight throughout my short stay in the city.

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Lying across from that area were the horse stables (above) and just beyond that was Souq Waqif; the most important historic market in Doha and a window to the beautiful past and authentic history and culture for the community. It was pretty dead when I entered as it was still very early on in the day which in some ways was quite nice as I got to see the Falcon Souq (below) all by myself.

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Thereafter the sandy coloured buildings were far more prominent as I wandered deeper into the souq amidst a plethora of alleys, pathways, mosques, hotel apartments, markets, outdoor cafes, souvenir shops and so on.

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My mind turned to food after that and I wandered round for a bit before deciding on the most popular place which was Zaatar W Zeit; a place specialising in manakeesh (a pizza-like flatbread topped with thyme, cheese or ground meat). I think it’s more Lebanese than Qatari but who knows what food from the latter exactly is? Not me! I ate the traditional form of zaatar (dried thyme mixed with oil and sesame), batata (sweet potato fries) and mini fattoush which is basically a salad containing cucumbers, mint, parsley, tomatoes, lettuce, green pepper, cheese and oven-baked squares.

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Satisfied with my lunch I left and walked round the souq for a little bit more which was a far busier and atmospheric place by then. I was able to use my new-ish camera properly for the first time to zoom in on people and things from a distance which was quite nice.

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After a while I realised I was not going to get anything more out of my souq experience so headed back to Al-Corniche via the spiral shaped Islamic Studies Centre (below) and wandered on back to where I started at the museum.

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The museum was thankfully free and I wandered around but had no real strong interest in any of the exhibits on display. What I did enjoy though were the views from the museum, both inside and out.

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I left the museum and walked on down the road for a bit before calling it a day and catching a taxi back to the airport. Travelling to Qatar had taken me out of my way a fair bit and only saved a tiny amount of cash compared to a direct flight but I was very satisfied with what I had seen and done. The only downside was that I had to do a (far, far shorter) transit in Doha on the return leg when I’d rather have just flown directly between London and Tokyo without such a detour.

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