Suzuka was very much the centre of attention for sport this afternoon with the most eye-catching event being Round 18 of the 2022 Formula One championship. However, 400 kilometres away the local football team, known as Suzuka Point-Getters, were playing a match against Shinjuku Criacao at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo.
This stadium has been open for nearly three years now and I finally got to go inside it but not for a cup final or an international match! Teams occasionally decide to play a home match at the stadium (FC Tokyo and Shimizu S-Pulse have done so already this season) and this time the hosts were from the fourth tier of Japanese football known as the Japan Football League (JFL). That mattered not to me as I was just happy to experience some live sport at the stadium.
The stadium’s initial plans were very impressive and something of an architectural wonder. However, they had to be abandoned due to their extremely high cost. Consequently, architect Kengo Kuma created a new design at a cost of $1.4 billion. It was built between December 2016 and November 2019 which meant that it was too late to be used for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final as was originally planned. Instead, the stadium’s inaugural sporting event was the 2019 Emperor’s Cup final (on 1st January 2020) which saw Vissel Kobe win their first ever trophy!
As there was no rain forecast till late afternoon, I decided to cycle down to the National Stadium from the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre in Itabashi-ku which took about 45 minutes.
After parking my bike, I first went over the road from the stadium to the Japan Olympic Museum where the iconic rings are displayed outside awaiting photo opportunies.
As is the norm for Kuma’s designs, there is a heavy focus on wood with the timber being sourced from all 47 prefectures of Japan. There are some very environmentally friendly measures in place too if I can be so vague!
Getting into the stadium was straightforward and really didn’t take long at all. The stadium can hold 68,000 people for athletics events but it was mainly just the lower stands which were open for this game. I tried a week before to get a ticket in the home end but they’d gone so I got one for the away stand instead which was fine with me.
Whilst the aforementioned F1 race in Suzuka was a very, very wet affair, the cloudy conditions for the Suzuka-based club in the Japanese capital were far more favourable.
There were about a dozen half-decent chances to score in both halves with the better opportunities falling for the Point-Getters. It did have the look of a nil-nil game about it though!
Thankfully the crowd was spared a goalless match and the deadlock was finally broken on the hour mark after a good save from the keeper at point blank range ricocheted to Shunnosuke Matsuki for a simple tap in.
It was announced much earlier in the year that this particular match would be played at the National Stadium as part of Shinjuku Day (October 9th) celebrations. Another reason for the selection was presumably due to the opposition including one very famous player.
That man is Kazuyoshi Miura (a.k.a. King Kazu) who is something of an icon in Japan and has had a very, very long club and international career starting off in Brazil way back in 1986. He has also played in Italy, Croatia, Australia and of course Japan.
There has been some debate in recent years about whether having a 55 year old playing in the J-League is good publicity for football in Japan or whether it makes people take it less seriously! The question of him playing and perhaps “devaluing the league” has been a little less in question this season though as he’s gone out on loan to a JFL team.
Back in April when I previously saw Suzuka Point-Getters, he failed to emerge from the bench and I was expecting a similar situation this time. However, on 75 minutes he made his appearance and gave the crowd something to get excited about as it drew to a conclusion. It can not be underestimated how many extra bums on seats his presence added to the total attendance which was an impressive 16,000+.
Final Score: Shinjuku Criacao 0-1 Suzuka Point-Getters
The majority of the crowd stayed behind after the final whistle to hear the interview with King Kazu as well as the lap of the stadium which both teams did.
Overall, it wasn’t the most interesting of spectacles but that wasn’t really the point for this match where nothing too much was at stake. I was just happy to have the opportunity to experience the stadium for a fairly cheap price. Hopefully the next time I visit it’ll be to see a football or rugby match with a bit more riding on the outcome.
Click here to read ‘A Rainy 2-Hour Cycle Ride In The Hope Of Seeing An Appearance From The World’s Oldest Professional Footballer!’
Click here to read ‘Fun & Excitement Are Never Too Far Away When Watching This Non-League Japanese Team!’
Click here to read ‘Reignite Your Passion For The Olympics At This Tokyo Museum (Before The Games Are Probably Cancelled!)’
Click here to read ‘At The Velodrome For Two Days Of Live Track Cycling At The Tokyo 2020 Olympics’
Bonus: My J-club Kashiwa Reysol played in the delayed 2019 Levain Cup Final against FC Tokyo in January 2020 but my wife and I were going to be away then. As it turned out, we had to return to Tokyo sooner than expected so I was around for the match and went down to the stadium on the morning of the game hoping to miraculoulsy get a ticket.
I was there to savour the pre-match atmosphere (there wasn’t any!) before the hilarious reveal of where I was really watching the game!
Sadly it wasn’t to be for Reysol though and we lost 2-1 as FC Tokyo claimed their third league cup victory in three attempts.