Back in 2019 when Japanese residents could enter ballots for tickets to see the Tokyo 2020 Olympics I applied for over a dozen different sports but ultimately (and rather inevitably) failed on most fronts. It mattered not too much as due to the pandemic spectators were unable to attend pretty much everything apart from a select few events in Miyagi and Shizuoka Prefectures.
That disappointment got me thinking that I shouldn’t just need the Olympics to see some different sports in a country where there’s far more live sport than just baseball and football. Sure, it’s not the same level of competitiveness but is still something I’m interested in experiencing at least once.
Admittedly, it’s taken longer than expected (mainly down to strict and ongoing Covid_19 measures in Japan) but after a few failed plans to see table tennis and volleyball I finally got round to attending the latter by way of a live women’s match, and I was even accompanied by a friend for it as James joined me for our first live sport since watching Olympic cycling at Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka in August 2021. It turned out to be one of the loudest and noisiest experiences of my life!
The match I chose was held at Ota City General Gymnasium in Kamata as I thought the architecture looked pretty impressive. I certainly got to admire it whilst waiting for my accomplice to turn up!! It was built in 2009 and opened in 2012 at a cost of ¥6.85 billion!!
The arena, which can hold around 4000 people, is mainly used for baskeball but Hyogo-based volleyball team JT Marvelous were playing a home game there last Sunday afternoon.
No sooner had we taken our seats in the corner and it was under way. When I went to see basketball a few years ago I found the action was incredibly fast-paced, pretty much non-stop and a little overwhelming for someone who usually watches slower, low scoring games of football! It was the same for volleyball too!
The fabricated matchday atmosphere has become more and more common at live sport over the last couple of decades with hype-music increasingly used in the build-up, when the teams come out and after goals/points are scored. This took it to the next level though as every time the home team scored a point the incredibly loud sound of rapid gun fire was blasted out for a few seconds over the sound system followed by loud JT chants and music. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was occasional but with points scored every 30 seconds or so it really was never ending!
Furthermore, JT is actually short for Japan Tobacco so this is basically the sponsorship being bellowed out, and of course tobacco is not exactly one you’d want your kids to be chanting! James and I could hardly hear ourselves think and it really was worse than the majority of the items mentioned in my annoyingly noisy Japanese sounds post from way back, mainly due to the excessiveness of it. By comparison, the cheerleader show after the first set was less noisy which surprised me!
The green wall of support along the side of the court throughout the match did look impressive though.
One major problem for us was that we didn’t really know the scoring system or how many sets would be played! The 4th set certainly provided us with a talking point!
Thankfully a quick check on our phones was all that was needed to find that it was the first to 25 points for the best of five sets. Simple! Division One league leaders JT were indeed marvelous (it had to be done!) for the first two sets but then got pegged back to 2-2 by the underdogs. Time for a fifth set decider.
It turned out to be a thrilling end to the match as it went right down to the wire and beyond! Little did we know though that the final set in volleyball is only up to 15 points and that you have to win by two points! As a result, it was a more sudden end than expected for us and we had no idea till later that Rivale had actually snatched a defeat from the jaws of victory in dramatic fashion having been 14-9 up and needing just a single point for the surprise win. Not only that but an important challenge point turned the tide during the sudden death part.
When I went to my first F1 Grand Prix in 2012 the noise of the cars was so loud (no longer the case now) that earplugs were essential. I would actually be happy to watch another live volleyball match as I really was impressed by the porting skill and game play itself but I’ll be sure to bring some earplugs!
Final Score: JT Marvelous 3-2 Hitachi Rivale (25-19, 25-22, 20-25, 15-25, 18-16)
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Click here to read ‘What It’s Like To Be A Spectator At The Tokyo 2020 Olympics’
Thanks for this article! Great advice about bringing earplug 🙂 my kid is nuts about volleyball and we will be in Japan when the VLeague is on this year. Am hoping to take her to see at least one game in Kyoto. Silly question; Did you just need to buy tickets on the day and find yourself a place to sit?
Hi there Novi. Thanks so much for your comment. We just turned up and bought unreserved seat tickets on the day for this match but I am not sure how popular other teams are so couldnt be certain it would be ok elsewhere. Have a great trip and enjoy the VLeague!
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