Japanese captivated by their Brave Blossoms’ historic run to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals are suffering a new form of bereavement — “rugby loss” — after their team fell to South Africa.
Fans were still feeling bereft days after cheering the Blossoms in their 26-3 loss to the Springboks on Oct. 20.
It was the end of a brilliant campaign, which saw Japan beat traditional rugby heavyweights Ireland and Scotland to get to the quarters for the first time, proving to the world how far the game had come in a nation trounced 145-17 by New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup.
The tournament, the first RWC held outside the heartlands of the game, has created an explosion of interest in Japan, including from many who had never watched the sport and had little if any understanding of its rules.
“I’m so sad that I can’t see the Japanese players anymore,” said Hiroko Kudo, 59, at a sporting goods shop in Tokyo.
“The day after they lost the players were on television so I watched them, but I didn’t see them yesterday and today, and I’m sad,” said Kudo, who had tickets for Japan’s winning first-round match against Russia.
Fans struggling with rugby deprivation supported each other through the Twitter hashtag #rugbyloss.
“For one month, they excited us and gave us courage, but now it’s over and I’m so sad. I’ve got ‘rugby loss,'” said one tweet last week.
“There were lots of kinds of ‘loss,’ but now ‘rugby loss’ has joined them,” tweeted another.
Ayaka Toyoda, 38, said watching the matches had been a learning experience for her sons, aged 11 and 8.
“Japan matches are finished, but we got strength from the team. I think my sons learned discipline and respect for opponents … and the importance of trying hard,” she said.
Shozo Niwata, 48, who traveled to Oita to see Wales beat France on Oct. 20 and then watched Japan lose to South Africa at a public viewing that evening, was upbeat.
“There are players who are retiring but there are also a lot of young players, so I’m looking forward to the next World Cup,” he said.