Rugby World Cup 2019: Japan's volunteers impress visiting fans with relentless hospitality

The scene on the Yokohama Stadium concourse is like no other.

It's 10pm, loud, and full of unfamiliar tunes and noises, but it's not all drunk fans and it's certainly not a messy sight.

It's the noise of hospitality and the anthem of this Rugby World Cup.

"Arigato gozaimasu! Arigato gozaimasu!" - translated to "thank you very much" - rings out on repeat, as hundreds of volunteers line the edges of the concourse, waving, high fiving, smiling and thanking the 48,000 fans who packed out Yokohama Stadium for the All Blacks v England semi-final.

Fans love it too. Some are hugging the volunteers, others simply exclaim they just "love this country".

The 13,000 volunteers who have been shepherding tired and lost fans for weeks are called 'Team No-Side' -, an old term that reminds players to put aside their differences and catch up for a beer after the match - and you'll find them in the stadium, on the concourse and at railway stations, doing their bit to ensure everyone gets home safely.

rwc playoffs
Photo credit: Newshub.

About half speak English, while for many, an enthusiastic wave and a big smile says plenty.

Trying to talk above the chaos, some say they do it because it's fun. Others, who live in the small suburbs around the stadiums, are excited the Cup is in town.

Volunteer Masumoto says it's because he played rugby all of his life.

"I'm too old now, so it's good to give back," he says.

But ultimately, they have given up their spare time and commitments because 'omotenashi' is extremely important in Japanese culture - a deeply rooted value, which refers to 'the act of hospitality'.

"It's about going beyond what the fans expect," volunteer Parthasarathy Prasanna tells Newshub. "There's no skill for it, you just need to go above and beyond."

But Prasanna is quick to clarify that it wasn't a case of 13,000 people applying to be a volunteer and 13,000 getting the job.

"There are interviews and there is a criteria… we were given some basic training, three to four levels of e-training," he says. "We had to understand what we wanted to achieve."

He believes the 'omotenashi' approach has a wide impact on the fans and children too.

"The kids are important to bring fresh blood into rugby and after the first match - Japan versus Russia, and Russia was defeated - I think a lot of kids started to think about playing rugby in school. They wanted to show up for rugby classes the very next day."

The Rugby World Cup is the showcase for next July's Tokyo Olympics and if the volunteers at this Cup are anything to go by, you can expect one of the friendliest and most welcoming Games ever.

"When you embrace the omotenashi culture, there are many more smiles - you don't see frowns," Prasanna beams.

Their enthusiasm has left thousands of defeated and deflated All Blacks fans saying 'arigato gozaimasu' to Japan.

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Join us at 10pm Friday for live updates of the All Blacks v Wales Rugby World Cup playoff for third-fourth

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz