Halloween is a very big deal in Japan, with ghosts and goblins and glowing jack of lanterns festooned all over Tokyo these days. Looking to get into the festive spirit is the guy standing right in front of me with a head the size of the Great Pumpkin. We’re shoehorned into the Rugby World Cup Fanzone in the middle of Tokyo to watch the last pool match between Japan and Scotland and while the view could not be any worse, the stakes could not be any higher. The winner will go on to the final eight, the loser is likely to go home. For a valiant Japan team that would be a bitter pill to swallow. Still, the drama on the pitch is nothing compared with what is happening off it and the fact the match is even taking place is beyond surreal. Less than 24 hours earlier, Typhoon Hagibis tore through the country, leaving in its wake at least 35 deaths and a litany of floods and landslides. Not far from the fanzone is Tokyo Bay, where a Panamanian cargo ship sank killing five people in Kanagawa Prefecture hours earlier. The area was one of the hardest hit by the storm as vast residential areas were left submerged when rivers flooded. Just south of Kanagawa is Yokohama, where the highly anticipated match-up the day before between England and France was cancelled. At the time there seemed no chance Japan vs Scotland would happen either one day later. The Scottish were so upset that they had actually threatened legal action against World Rugby. All of this brought to mind something a journo from the UK had told me earlier in the tournament when he was a bit disappointed the event was not front row centre everywhere in Japan. It’s an amazing country with incredible people. They live a way that we would like to live in our lives “The Rugby World Cup is happening in spite of Japan,” he said. But the truth is, Japan is happening in spite of the Rugby World Cup. Everybody needs to know their place, which is why despite more than 70,000 fans crammed into Yokohama Stadium for Japan vs Scotland, there was one media ticket left unclaimed. Being a media rep from a non-pool country, that seat would be in a place not even Sir Edmund Hillary on his most ambitious climb would try to reach. And that’s OK, because while I am grateful to be accorded any kind of status for this shindig, I decided that gauging the vibe amongst the hardcore fans would be far more revealing. The fanzone is actually little more than a glorified living room with a bar pumping out copious draught beer and a smallish TV on a table stand next to it supplying match images. The crowd is overwhelmingly foreign, including the Great Pumpkin who dwarfs one and all. The more he moves to and fro, the more the crowd behind him jukes and jives to catch a peek of the action. Rugby people are renowned for their good-natured banter never resulting in any sort of physical confrontation regardless of how much they have to drink. It’s part of the code and knowing this I can’t help piping up to no one in particular. “Pity a head that size doesn’t have enough room for some brains,” I say. “Because if it did he would be standing at the back of the room.” “Must be from England, mate,” comes a deep voice from over my shoulder. “They never give a toss.” Behind me are a couple of very, very large men wearing South African Springbok jerseys and all of a sudden I am feeling quite small. Wayne is from Cape Town and like virtually everyone else here he is pulling hard for Japan. He reckons it is primarily because of the remarkable hospitality shown by the Japanese. “It’s an amazing country with incredible people,” he says. “They live a way that we would like to live in our lives. In terms of how the bulk of the West lives, these guys are special. We have a very welcoming country in South Africa. But these guys are off the charts.” He is looking at this match in a historical perspective as well and thinks if Japan beat Scotland it could be the biggest game ever in rugby. Eh? How could it be bigger than 1995 with Nelson Mandela in South Africa and that huge victory in the final over the All Blacks that literally changed the country? “Not the most important game ever in rugby, but in terms of its context it’s the most important game as far as advancing the sport in areas where it needs to grow,” he says. And, of course, it means nothing to you that the Springboks will face Japan in the quarters instead of Ireland if they win? “Japan are playing awesome rugby and they have some good people, including South Africans, on their side. But yeah, we do fancy our chances much better against Japan than Ireland,” he says. “You can quote me on that.” Consider it done. At full-time, history was indeed made, but where it goes, nobody knows.