The rainy season in Japan is well underway and for many people it can be a frustrating time with constant wet conditions for weeks on end. Certainly not ideal for watching or playing football, especially when many grounds in this country are municipal stadiums meaning that they often have no covered seating (assuming there are even seats!) and can also be far from the pitch with a running track in between too.
The ND Soft Stadium Yamagata, built in 1991, is home to current J2 leaders Montedio Yamagata. It holds 20,315 people, has a running track and pretty much non-existent protection from the elements. Not so great for watching a football match during the rainy season but sports fans are a passionate sort and rationale often goes out the window when it comes to seeing their team in action.
My weather app said the chance of it raining on the Saturday evening of the match was 100% but still I remained slightly optimistic (overly hopeful!) that it would be ok as it had been for the previous days of my trip when similar conditions were forecast. From the beautiful Yamadera, I took a late afternoon bus for about ten minutes and then had to walk for 40 minutes where the rain got heavier and heavier. In very little time my trainers and socks were absolutely soaked.
Luckily I had bought a rain jacket AND a poncho (I already had waterproof trousers) earlier in the day from the ¥100 shop and going double-bagged proved to be a very wise decision! I also had a big umbrella but with my feet sopping wet I was not feeling too comfortable.
My route to the stadium was completely devoid of any people and very few cars passed by either but once on the main stand side of the stadium it was suddenly a sea of umbrellas and blue, white or yellow rain jackets.
Despite what some people have since asked me, the idea of backing out never entered my head and I straight away went to purchase my ticket (¥2600) for the away end and then walked around for a bit checking out the food stalls, the fans, the stadium itself and I also found out where the buses back to Yamagata Station were to leave from, and at what time.
One has to admire these Japanese football fans who sit/stand in the rain without any cover at all! And still they manage to jump and sing constantly throughout! Respect. It was probably the first time since the early 1990’s that I’ve watched a game in the pouring rain without any protection overhead! Taking in such an event did kind of remind me of some UK music festivals and concerts I went to in the late 1990’s when the heavens opened up on us all too often. Insert your own “rain didn’t dampen spirits” cliché here!
Of the 30+ stadiums I’ve been to in Japan this has to be one of the worst vantage points with the closest goal nearly 40 metres away! The Reysol goal was scored two minutes into injury time at the end of the first half but it was so far away from me that I couldn’t really tell how it had ended up in the back of the net! Jiro Kamata was credited with it and the highlights, which I’ve seen since then, reveal that he glanced a header in from a corner.
Edited highlights can often make any game look mildly interesting but not the ones below as it was a fairly poor game due to the torrid conditions. The Reysol defence was solid and yet another clean sheet was the reward but they (I think I’ve been following them long enough justifiably say ‘we’ but it still doesn’t seem quite right!) are really struggling to score though!
As the match went into injury time, I made my way over towards the exit ready for a quick get away at full time.
Final Score: Montedio Yamagata 0-1 Kashiwa Reysol
The moment the final whistle blew, I ran (or rather hobbled due to my leg injury) to get one of the special supporter buses back to Yamagata Station. It cost ¥600 and I arrived a few minutes before my train to Yonezawa Station departed. There can be no disguising that it was a substandard match but it was of course made all the more tolerable by the win and I can’t deny that the weather did add to the memory of the occasion.
BONUS: Here are some pictures from other Reysol games I’ve been to this season…
Sunday 2 March 2019: Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 Machida Zelvia
Sunday 14 April 2019: Kashiwa Reysol 0-0 Tochigi SC
Sunday 12 May 2019: Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 Tokushima Vortis
Click here to read ‘On The Road With The Kashiwa Reysol Fans Twice In Five Days’
Click here to read ‘Day Trip To The Toyota Stadium!’
Click here to read ‘Attending Two J-League Matches In One Day Pt I’
Click here to read ‘Away Day Travel To Ibaraki Prefecture’
Click here to read ‘Friday Night Football’
Click here to read ‘Football Match Held Up By An Earthquake!’