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a gracious loser

 I’ve thought that I can update this English-language column on once a week or so pace. Now I know it’s beyond my capacity. It is already almost 2 weeks from my first one.
 It is a bit too much for me perhaps. Traveling virtually every new week to a new destination, which I have no idea of what kind of place it is. Before the departure finding a comfortable accommodation with a reasonable rate (in this case meaning fairly inexpensive one). On arrival getting to know the place very quickly, walking around the town and wishing to bump into a good Samaritan generous enough to share with me some time, enlightening me with some precious information about the place I had landed. Then, writing several articles on the writer I chose for the visit.
 And of course doing some quick sightseeing and if possible some pub or bar crawling at night. Of course without any extracurricular expectation. Those things are bygone days. Then thinking my next destination and finding out the way how to get there with a public transportation, which is not so easy to find in this vast country, which depends exclusively on personal vehicles. I have got an international driving permit before this journey just in case. But I do hope there never come a day when I need to drive a rental car here in US. I’m a lousy driver, let alone maneuvering to drive the opposite lane of the road from Japan.
 Yesterday was a very good day for Japan. Our women’s soccer team won the World Cup. Incredible! To be honest, I’ve never thought it’s possible for us to defeat USA team. When I watched the early parts of the first half, dominated by taller and more powerful USA players, I was afraid the game might turn out to be a massacre for our physically inferior “nadeshiko” players. Nadeshiko means Japanese girls with not only delicate beauty but also strong willpower. I thought if they could have lost the game with a score of something like 1 to 3 or even 4, it would be regarded as a blessing.
 How I was wrong! I was just thrilled by their dramatic comeback at the very last stage in the overtime zone. Even before that equalizer by the team captain, Homare Sawa, Japan team threatened with a cool and well-coordinated plays in the later stage. Yes, it was a very good game. Penalty shootout was quite exhilarating for me and also, I’m sure, for very many Japanese people who had been glued to their TV screens without any sleep until early Monday morning without any sleep.
 USA TODAY newspaper wrote on July 11, the next day of the USA team’s also miraculous comeback victory over Brazil in the quarterfinal: “If Americans don’t fall in love with soccer after this, well, maybe they never will.” It could be true in Japan, too. Soccer is trailing far behind baseball in the popularity. I mean here men’s soccer. I’ve myself never taken any interest in the women’s game. Except Sawa, I don’t know the names of other players. I suppose it was the same with many other people in Japan, up until the small hours of Monday morning or at least recently.
 One last and nonetheless significant thing. I was very impressed by US players’ reactions right after the game. Notwithstanding the devastating defeat, they did not forget to praise Japanese players’ spirit and resilience. US star forward, Abby Wambach congratulated the Japan team, saying something like “I feel devastated…I give Japan credit. They just never gave up.” Hope Solo, a solid goalkeeper said fighting back her tears, something like “Japan played a great game. It was fun to watch. If we had to lose to somebody at the final, I’m glad that it was to Japan.” What a gracious loser and what a sportsmanship! They deserve the biggest praise.
 The first name of the Japanese captain, Homare, means honor or glory in Japanese. I’ve never met any Japanese with this name. It’s that rare. What an apt name their parents named their daughter 32 years ago.


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