Da-re o o-en shi-te i-mas ka? (Who are you supporting?)

True Tales of a Japanese Adventure

Part 1.

I am in Japan with my Pokémon, Anime and Manga loving daughter Rachel Articuno, my 25 year old, Japanese speaking eldest on her 5th voyage here.  She is showing her mother the place that she feels truly at home.  The two years of Japanese lessons have paid off and she is complimented constantly on her great language skills, and as she said, she only knows 2000 words and not the 20,000 needed to be proficient.  At the age of 18, Rachel changed her name to a Pokémon. This journey and her choices were all inevitable from there.

On our second day here, in Sapporo on the Northern most island of Hokkaido, we spent the morning at a Shrine and then went to hit a chocolate factory. The Shiroi Kaibito Park was a chocolate and chocolate cookie factory like no other I had ever seen, I felt like I was in an English Tudor Village rather than a suburb of Japan.  The gardens were spectacular, and we stopped to get a professional photo taken in two different sites before heading through the roses and wonderful gardens. There was a small train line, an engine and carriages probably used more during peak tourist seasons, it wasn’t running today. There were lots of little houses that would fit children in them, a wonderland, beautifully done. We found the entrance, left our extras at the cloak room, bought tickets and received a passport with photos of the Park and went on the tour.

The ornaments and collections were extraordinary. It was a museum of everything to do with chocolate making. There was an Aurora Fountain, beautifully tiled, with a famous Japanese image by a Swiss painter Jean-Etienne Liotard, and the repeat of that image on crockery and other items around the room.  There were stain glass ceilings and artistic floor tilings, many perfectly painted chocolate milk cups, for that special hot chocolate before bed, there were old chocolate boxes and wrapping papers and even a chocolate tunnel that looked good enough to eat, where little models of people making chocolate, a mechanical display, educated us with a hologram explaining the story, thankfully with English subtitles. I don’t eat sugar but I sure wanted to bite that wall and eat some by the time we could see the factory, workers and chocolate making machines through glass windows up above.

And then magic happened. The kind of magic that seems to be happening to me more frequently these days.

A young man, perhaps in his late 30’s, approached us and began to speak English. He asked where we were from, (Australia), then he asked which city (Melbourne) and then, God bless his heart, he asked which football team we barracked for.  We were taken aback when he immediately said, he supported St.Kilda.  Rachel and I were shocked and surprised and laughed. Rachel pointed to my scarf and glasses and nails and earrings and said, we barracked for St.Kilda too.  Perhaps he was tricking us, seeing us come up, two women tourists, but before we could let our Aussie scepticism slip in, he started talking about trade week and the Western Bulldogs coaching dramas and we were off, analysing the season, talking about the players, and Lenny, I was showing him pictures that I painted, and learned a little about him. He worked in New Zealand six years back and made good friends in Wellington, and since, a Bombers supporter from Tasmania, and was then pleasantly surprised when St.Kilda started playing in Wellington, and took on St.Kilda to be his team.  And he then told us he watches games at a sports bar not too far from our hotel.  He loved it when the Saints beat Fremantle (who didn’t?).  He hopes the Saints do well.  I gave him my card, immortalising my Saints tragic-osity, and cementing our connection.  Subarashii means wonderful, and meeting Yoshi was subarashii.  We said farewell, having his email and he mine and Rachel’s, and then we parted.

He was at the Museum to learn more about it, he wanted to be involved in tourism (having worked at hotels in New Zealand), and spent his spare time learning about special places such as Shiroi Kaibito Park. We met again when I saw him at the restaurant upstairs, and we asked if we could join him and there went another hour, looking out at the view of the Sapporo Soccer ground, the hills with blended autumn colours, the rain, the rainbow, and the Park we were in. We shared the rest of the museum together after he and Rachel sampled the special desserts.  No sugar-free here.  Sugar sugar everywhere.

The museum walk then became more general, old sound systems, really old to modern, record collections, records, tapes and digital, older furniture, toys areas with Astro Boy and every other comic or cartoon character both from Japan and from the world, baseball equipment, football and soccer equipment and uniforms, David Beckham’s signed Guernsey, model cars, aeroplanes, dolls, everything imaginable. No longer did it feel like a chocolate factory, but memorabilia collections like no other I have seen.  I found some artistic postcards, we bought some little tokens, and of course, chocolate for gifts back home.  Talking all the way, and then some more as Yoshi and I discussed 1966, the Grand Finals of 9/10 and our young team. I talked of the Almanac and how he needed to tell his story.  It is a wonderful, funny and utterly charming story. He showed me his SEN 1116 App, his St.Kilda App, and his AFL App.

He’s a younger, Japanese, male ME!

He showed me a site that I didn’t even know about and I will ask him about that next time we meet. And lo and behold, by the end of the night, we have organised to meet tomorrow at the sports bar. I decided later that night that I am going to gift him my 2014 St.Kilda scarf I’d bought with me.  I just have to, there is a Sapporo man who will be my Saints brother, and he, Rachel and I will keep in touch.  We have already exchanged emails and the Almanac details.

After a second round of goodbyes, we picked up our items and taxied home, Rachel again impressing in conversation, and it was a relief to be back at the hotel, skyping and telling everyone about our latest find. A new Saints playmate.  Life can be wonderful.

Part 2:

Rachel and I spent another day sightseeing and shopping and finally met with Yoshi at night, at TK6 – Sapporo’s Favourite International Bar and Grill. And it was just like being in the States again or at the new SportingGlobe Sports Bar and Grill in Richmond, Melbourne.  It was a small, personal, buzzing bar, full of  Japanese, Americans, Canadians, Irish, English, New Zealanders and Australians, and lo and behold, the game between the All Blacks and the Wallabies was on all but one screen, the other being reserved for the local baseball finals.  The crowd were very involved in the game, when we arrived the Wallabies were ahead and the New Zealanders very quiet.  There was one spare table up back where Yoshi, Rachel and I settled, ordered food and drinks and took in the game and the atmosphere.  My one drawback was that smoking was allowed, but other than that, it was wonderful.  Smoking laws are being talked about but they haven’t been bought in yet.

Our fish and chips, and Rachel’s hamburger, were delicious, and I asked that the owner come so we could introduce ourselves. This is where Yoshi comes to enjoy some AFL, to keep up with his Saints boys and other games when he can make it.  Mark Schumann came to us when he could, and here is a man who has lived in Japan for 20 years, selling used Japanese cars to Australia and opening this bar, and he has other enterprises ticking along as well.  He was interested to hear about the Footy Almanac and how we met Yoshi, who he knows well.  Cards were exchanged by all.  He asked Rachel to keep in touch if she came to live here.  There was an upstairs bar as well, full of more patrons watching sport.  I learned that they have access to all types of sports which they then either play live or replay, and it is always buzzing, Mark said, with both locals and travellers.

Yvette Japan

The Wallabies led the whole game and were pipped by a last minute try and goal, and lost by 1 lousy point. The New Zealanders in the bar went nuts.  I cannot seem to barrack for a winner these days!  I will just have to back the incredible people that I am meeting instead.

So look out, Almanac community, for Yoshi is going to write his story and I’ll help him post. A Japanese St.Kilda supporting Almanac member has been enlisted.  He will be writing along with all the other Footy Maniacs from all over the world.


About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it's about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.


  1. Positive energy attracts positive energy. Negative attracts negative. Yvette attracts all the creative dreamers and lovers of life.
    Great yarn. Are you claiming the trip as a tax deduction as the Saints’ Japanese recruiting manager?
    Pity they’re not taller.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The magic scarf – if you think about it, there aren’t that many sports that have the team-coloured and named striped scarves like our game does. So they stand out when worn in another environment.

    But Yvette’s seems to be blessed.

  3. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Peter and Mark,
    I wasn’t wearing said scarf, not cold enough, so subliminally, I was only half identifiable – nails, earings, glasses and jewellery but it’s true about the scarves. Our teams change them regularly too. I can be a recruiting manager for the Saints membership department as well as the Almanac site and book. And it was only on day 2. Lets hope the scarf gives all good Karma!


  4. Dave Brown says

    Welcome Yoshi! Looking forward to reading of the experiences of a Saints supporter in Japan.

  5. Hi Dave,

    Thank you for your comment and warm welcoming. Sorry for the late respond. I hope you have found my first article and read it.

    Let’s share passions on footy!

    And I appreciate other comments and Yvette for introducing me into the wonderful community here.

  6. Barb Smith says

    Great article Yvonne. What were the chances of you and Yoshi bumping into each other on our planet? Sweet serendipity. Enjoy the friendship.

  7. John Ambrose says

    My friends and I met Yoshi when he worked in the ski fields of Niseko many years ago and we meet up every year. I hope he wears the St Kilda scarf when we ski and snowboard together in January 2015. He loves his AFL, is a fantastic guide and a genuine all round good bloke. He has been a great asset in appreciating Japanese culture and he loves western (particularly Australian and New Zealand culture and people). If you bump into Yoshi – he is a wonderful person – I believe he is a natural in the hospitality field and he is so willing to help. I am glad you met my mate and enjoyed his company.

  8. Hi John, thanks for your warm words towards me.

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