Both of yesterday’s matches turned out to be strolls in the park in the end; Italy and England showed very few signs of weariness as they picked up seven tries apiece whilst conceding just the one. The US in particular were delighted to get on the scoresheet in the final action of the second half. For the victors, tougher tests lie ahead.

Climbing Mount Fuji is not such a stroll in the park. Unfortunately, climbing season coincides with typhoon season and the two are not happy bedfellows. If you were thinking about going up this year, I’m afraid the mountain officially closed on September 10th.

Mind you, that didn’t stop somebody I know with an ‘adventurous’ spirit (who will remain nameless) from waltzing up to the summit solo with a tent on his back and camping overnight out of season. Don’t try that at home folks. Seriously. People die up there.

The first time I tried to go up myself was as a Japan newbie. By the time I got to Fujinomiya fifth station and started up in zero visibility, strong wind and pounding rain, I was the only person ascending and everybody was telling me to go back. So I did.

Funnily enough, I bumped into some teachers from the same company as me who had made it up to the eighth station before being beaten by the weather gods.

Even more peculiarly, I met one of them on Japan’s second most famous volcano, Sakurajima, also by chance, a few months later. Small world!

My second attempt at Mount Fuji was in glorious weather. I went up with relatively little fuss wearing a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and trainers and wielding a climbing stick . I’d forgotten the sunscreen though, so I had to tie a towel round my head and neck.

Coming down, I realised I had gone up a little too fast and felt a bit giddy. It’s advisable to rest overnight in a hut rather than go straight up and down, but the prices are fairly exorbitant for what they offer.

Although I went up the Fujinomiya route, I came down the Gotemba trail. The latter features the ‘Great Sand Run’. This section of the mountain consists of a steep slope covered in black sand and the easiest way to negotiate it is by running.

It was far easier on my knees than standard descending, but it did destroy my trainers. I could barely get them off my feet afterwards and when they did finally come off they went straight in the bin.

Mount Fuji lies on the border of Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures and Shizuoka, my adopted home, will be hosting the big game tomorrow, Japan vs Ireland.

I could hear plenty of Irish accents on the streets heading home this evening and I’ll definitely be heading to the fan zone tomorrow for the match. I’m hoping the Brave Blossoms keep it respectable.

Where will you be watching?

Yesterday’s Matches
Italy 48-7 Canada (Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka)
England 45-7 USA (Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe)

Tomorrow’s Matches
Argentina vs Tonga (1345 JST) (Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka)
Japan vs Ireland (1615 JST) (Shizuoka Ecopa Stadium, Shizuoka)
South Africa vs Namibia (1845 JST) (City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota)

Expression of the day
富士山を登ったことありますか? (fuji san wo nobotta koto arimasu ka )
Which means…
Have you ever climbed Mount Fuji?

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Uruguay shocked everybody with a performance full of heart to take their encounter with Fiji 30-27, but the islanders were the architects of their own downfall as their kicking badly let them down.

They outscored Los Teros by five tries to three (which would normally be enough to win a game), but their conversion and penalty kicking was woeful, leaving them facing up to the likelihood of an early exit from the competition.

Kicking a rugby ball is not easy. If you get the chance, try to placekick through the posts of your nearest rugby field. The technique needs to be perfect and on top of that you need an enormous amount of power in your legs.

Dropkicking is even harder, as the ball can bounce in all manners of directions off an uneven field. That’s why having a master of the art is so important to any side harbouring ambitions of progressing to the latter stages of an international tournament.

Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking technique was key to England’s 2003 World Cup victory and his methodical, controlled build-up routine revolutionised the art. Exceptional kicking has now become the rule rather than the exception, which is why Fiji were punished so harshly for their waywardness.

In Japan, what you do with your feet is also important. I once heard a story of a teacher who was dismissed from a kindergarten for using their feet to move heavy boxes around, which I learnt is a big faux pas. Doing so is considered both disrespectful and rude.

However, that faux pas is nowhere near as big as wearing shoes in the house, a custom which Japan shares with many other Asian countries. Japan goes even further by having special bathroom shoes, which you should change into when using the facilities.

I’m fully on board with the no shoes indoors concept and now it seems positively weird to me when I see Western shows in which people wear their shoes indoors. Leaving aside the debatable health benefits, it’s simply more comfortable.

So why not go barefoot for today’s matches? Italy vs Canada is the antipasto, which Italy should take comfortably, assuming they’re not too tired. The main dish is England vs USA and there’s always a lot riding on this historic rivalry, whatever the sport.

Will North America shock Europe today as the USA and Canada make their tournament bows? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Yesterday’s Match
Uruguay 30-27 Fiji (Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Kamaishi)

Today’s Matches
Italy vs Canada (1645 JST) (Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium (Fukuoka)
England vs USA (1945 JST) (Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe)

Expression of the day
靴を脱いで下さい (kutsu wo nuide kudasai)
Which means…
Please take your shoes off.

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