Halloween starts in Japan pretty early. As soon as you flip the calendar over to October, pumpkin flavoured drinks and cakes start popping up. Orange decorations adorn most shops and the weekend before Halloween itself means costumes and photo calls with random people you’ll never meet again on the streets.

Costumes don’t have to be scary. Wallys/Waldos of Where’s Wally/Waldo? fame, Marios and Luigis and Sailor Moon cosplayers are always out in force. For kids, Disney princesses and Minions are perhaps the biggest hits. Tokyo and the surrounding cities have megaevents and parades for children and adults alike.

Leaving Halloween aside, the All Blacks will be having nightmares about their semi-final loss to England for a long time to come. I have seen New Zealand take England apart on numerous occasions in the past, but this was the first time I’ve seen England do it to New Zealand. It was a repeat of the All Blacks win over Ireland, only this time they were on the receiving end.

England’s back row were rampant and the tone was set from the very beginning with England bundling over for an early Tuilagi try. New Zealand couldn’t even get on the board in the first half, the first time this had happened since the 1991 World Cup. They wouldn’t have in the second half either if not for the misthrown line-out that gifted them their only score. England’s defensive performance was simply breathtaking.

The second semi-final was more breathless than breathtaking, as South Africa and Wales traded punch for punch. The scores were still level with just a few minutes to play as Wales answered every score that South Africa made with their own: first one penalty, then two penalties, then a converted try.

In the passage of play around 60 minutes that eventually resulted in the Welsh try, you could almost feel every tackle the Springboks were putting in as the Welshmen lined up in seemingly endless waves to be the next one carrying the ball into the try line melee.

After an ambitious late Welsh drop kick attempt had fallen short, South Africa got the penalty they needed and man-of-the-match Handre Pollard made it a perfect 5/5 with a kick that was never in doubt. South Africa were through to meet England in the final, a repeat of 2007.

There has been a little of an after the Lord Mayor’s show feeling about the World Cup here after Japan’s loss last weekend, but that was almost inevitable. On the other hand, some of my students wrote in their weekly essays about how impressed they had been watching rugby for the first time. Memories have been made at this tournament that will last long after next weekend’s grand finale.

Saturday England 19-7 New Zealand (International Stadium, Yokohama)
Sunday South Africa 19-16 (International Stadium, Yokohama)

Bronze Final
Friday (1800 JST) New Zealand vs Wales (Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo)
Saturday (1800 JST) England vs South Africa (International Stadium, Yokohama)

Expression of the day
恐ろしい! (osoroshii)
Which means…

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