Yumiko Yasugi recalls United’s last visit to Japan and anticipates a huge welcome this year…
It’s nearly five years since Manchester United last visited Japan, for the Club World Cup triumph over Liga de Quito in Yokohama in 2008.
I still remember the passion of Japanese supporters during the Reds’ stay. Hundreds came to Narita airport (though it's almost two hours from the centre of Tokyo) to welcome the heroes they had been dying to see.
And that was just the beginning. They were outside the team hotel every day, if only to say "good luck" or "you guys are the best" and glimpse the Reds getting on and off the bus. It was during a freezing mid-winter but fans were so happy to see the players in person, even for a second, as so many are unable to fly over to Manchester to watch matches.
The Reds seemed impressed by the support and respect Japanese supporters showed and signed many autographs, before going on to win the prestigious tournament in spite of a tough domestic schedule in December.
The players were incredible off the pitch, too. Lucky schoolchildren who won a competition saw the team training in Yokohama, after which the Reds stayed to sign autographs. Wayne Rooney stayed until the last, signing as many autographs as he could even as he was being called to board the team bus back to the hotel.
It is not difficult to see how excited Japanese supporters are to welcome the team back – this time in mid-summer for Tour 2013 presented by Aon. What’s more, we have a Japanese player this time in Shinji Kagawa.