Sean McMahon reporting from Hamamatsu.
One of the most interesting aspects of visiting Japan is the sheer environmental contrast between different parts of the country.
When Ireland first arrived to these shores, they based themselves in the rather uninspiring but radically functional Prefecture of Chiba. An area 40km south-east of Tokyo which consists of endless blocks of hotels, conference centres and shopping malls or as I described in my previous letter, “Las Vegas without the craic.”
In the five days building up to Ireland’s excellent win over Scotland, the squad moved to Yokohama, the second-most populous city in Japan and the capital of the Kanagawa Prefecture which lies south of Tokyo.
Now, this was more like it.
Bright lights, neon signs, streets teeming with people, alleyways brimming with bars and the mouth-watering aroma of Yakatori and Ramen restaurants.
You wouldn’t go hungry or thirsty that’s for sure.
To someone not used to large crowds, it could be an uncomfortable experience initially but as ever, despite a lifestyle which seems to be 24/7, the politeness and the hospitality of the locals shine through.
The product of Ireland situating themselves amid the hustle and bustle of Yokohama was a dominant bonus-point win over Scotland to get their World Cup campaign off to a fantastic start.
On Monday, they took the bullet train down to the Shizuoka Prefecture where they are currently residing themselves in a secluded countryside resort – think the Japanese version of Carton House.
The players have already spoken about the benefit of seeing another side of Japan and this will no doubt help keep the minds fresh as they prepare for another big week where they meet the host nation at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on Saturday.
For the travelling Irish media contingent, we have based ourselves in Hamamatsu, the largest city in the Shizouka prefecture.
It’s not as manic as Yokohama or Tokyo but there are still plenty of interesting places to visit and sidestreets to aimlessly explore.
A positive to staying in this relatively quiet city is the lack of tourists – it’s a nice opportunity to observe and understand how the locals go about their everyday life.
The players are currently enjoying a much-needed down day as they branch off into various groups to experience what Shizouka has to offer.
It’s important that they immerse themselves as much as they can into the culture of this fascinating country and with their World Cup schedule bringing them further south-west through the Honshu island, they will get to see so many different sides to Japan.
Before that, however, is the not so small matter of the Brave Blossoms on Saturday.
A win here and Ireland’s quarter-final meeting with the Springboks on Sunday, October 20 is all but guaranteed.
With South Africa and Ireland providing some of the largest travelling supporter contingents to this World Cup – the experience will be special both on and off the pitch.