Day 8 – Visit to Tsukioka Onsen, Lunch and Boat Ride at Agano-sato Roadside Station, Visit to Big Swan Stadium, J.League Match
An onsen is a Japanese hot spring which contains water that is filled with minerals beneficial to the body. The Tsukioka Onsen, famed for its hot spring that contain sulfur, was where Danial and Yuhen first visited today with the Yuhua Football Academy (YAFA) volunteers. Both boys had the opportunity to soak their bodies in a hot spring pool. Danial said, “due to the weather, I felt that soaking in the onsen is not easy as the water temperature was quite high. However, the water really helped my body to feel so relaxed.” Yuhen added, “the onsen was really enjoyable for me. When I got out of the pool, my body felt lighter and very comfortable.” After dipping themselves in the water, the two boys had the opportunity to taste the hot spring water at the place where the water source originates from. Danial remarked, “the water tastes like boiled eggs and there is a bitter aftertaste to it.”
Everybody then went to the Agano-sato Roadside Station. Danial and Yuhen took the opportunity to buy fish feed and fed the carps in the pond. Thereafter, everybody had a chance to take a river cruise down the Agano River. The Agano River flows from Fukushima Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture and is counted as one of the 100 most beautiful sceneries in Japan. During the cruise ride, one could see nice greenery, mountain ranges and onsen hotels along the river. Danial commented, “during the cruise ride, it was intriguing to see a building that was once used as a castle.” “The cruise ride was so relaxing and with the beautiful scenery, there was no stress at all”, said Yuhen.
Next up was probably the main highlight of this trip, a match day visit to the Denka Big Swan Stadium where Albirex Niigata took on Sanfrecce Hiroshima in a J.League match. Everybody was first taken around for a stadium tour. Places visited included pitch side, press conference room, and the home team locker room. The stop at the home team locker room was longest as everybody had the opportunity to take photos of player jerseys and the football boots that were neatly laid out. Before the match, the two boys and YAFA volunteers were invited to pitch side where they were introduced to the crowd. Everybody waved back in acknowledgement as fans in the stands cheered and warmly applauded. The match eventually played out to a goalless draw.
Both boys were asked to describe how they felt about their first match day experience overseas. Danial said, “The stadium tour taught me something interesting that if a player exchanges jerseys, he will have to pay for a replacement if he exceeds the exchange limit. The fans in Japan enter the stadium very early before the match and they are always in full voice regardless of what is the score. I think this support is very important as it can motivate the players and remind them to never give up. It is also the first time that I see the fans wave so many big flags in the stands. The sight of it is fascinating.” Yuhen said, “The stadium is very big, clean and well-maintained. I enjoyed the tour which brought me to many different parts of the stadium. In particular, I loved the visit to the locker room where I got to see many pairs of boots laid out for each player before a match. The fans in the stands were loud and great as they continued to cheer on for their team throughout the match. This created a positive atmosphere. It is just a pity that Albirex Niigata could not score a goal.”