Today is the third round of the Emperor's Cup, and they're down to 32 teams. Of the 48 clubs that appeared in Round One, only Fukuoka University and Matsumoto Yamaga FC remain. I'm watching:
Match 62: Montedio Yamagata v Kyoto Sanga FC. As of last weekend Montedio Yamagata stand 17th in the 18-team J-League Division 1 and mathematically they cannot avoid relegation. Kyoto Sanga are 8th in Division 2, but they won the Emperor's Cup in 2002.
Match 65: Gamba Osaka v Mito Hollyhock. Gamba Osaka are 2nd in J1. They won the Emperor's Cup in 1990, 2008 and 2009, the first time as amateurs. Mito Hollyhock, whom I may just have decided have my favourite Japanese club name, sit 16th in J2. Both clubs wear blue and black stripes.
Match 67: Sanfrecce Hiroshima v Ehime FC. Sanfrecce Hiroshima were one of the eight original clubs of the JSL, playing under the corporate name Toyo Industries. They were JSL champions five of the league's first six years, and won the Emperor's Cup in 1965, 1967, and 1969. Ehime are 15th in J2.
Match 69: Cerezo Osaka v Fagiano Okayama. Cerezo Osaka were another original JSL club, known as Yanmar Diesel back then. They won the Emperor's Cup in 1968, 1970 and 1974. Currently they're 11th in J1. Fagiano Okayama stand 14th in J2.
Match 70: Vegalta Sendai v Avispa Fukuoka. It's North versus South. Vegalta Sendai from Tohoku are 8th in J1. Avispa Fukuoka from the island of Kyushu are 16th.
[Japan is 13 hours ahead of Nova Scotia, so the scores come in early. Mito Hollyhock, Matsumoto Yamaga FC, Kyoto Sanga, Vegalta Sendai, Cezero Osaka, Ehime FC advance. Mito Hollyhock 3, Gamba Osaka 2 (aet) is a major upset.]
Did they teach us anything at school? Here am I, far enough over the brow of the hill that I can see on all directions, and I'm only just finding out about Yatagarasu, the three-legged crow, who was sent in a sun disc by Amaterasu to guide the Emperor Jimmu to Yamato around 600 BC. There are Shinto shrines devoted to Yatagarasu, where you can hang ema addressed to Yatagarasu, or purchase omamori to carry around for good luck. Yatagarasu has been adopted is the symbol of the Japan Football Association, the Japanese national football team, and the Emperor's Cup, the Japanese equivalent of the FA Cup, so presumably there are all sorts of people petitoning this three-legged kami on behalf of their local club, though how these conflicting requests are sorted out I do not know.
This weekend is Round One of the 91st Emperor's Cup. As in the Scottish Cup, the opening round is contested by amateur teams that have little or no chance of making it past the middle rounds of the competition, let alone winning the trophy, but whose participation ensures that it's a truly national contest. The first round of the Emperor's Cup features 47 winners of prefectural (roughly county) qualifying cups, plus the winner of the university qualifying cup. Many of the prefectural winners are university, factory, or even high school clubs. Here's the schedule in Japanese. Sony Sendai FC receive a bye as a result of the tsunami preventing the Miyagi qualifying competition. The official university representative is Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences. (You have to think that being a university of Sport Sciences they win that position a lot.)
[Wow. All four won. Blaublitz Akita defeated Yamagata University School of Medicine 13 - 0. Sagawa Printing beat Arterivo Wakayama 5 - 0. Zweigen Kanazawa beat Hiroshima University of Economics 5 - 0. And, most impressively, Hokkaido University of Education Iwamizawa Campus upset Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences on penalty kicks. Thank you, Yatagarasu. Sony Sendai also won. Round Two will be played October 8 - 12.]
Ilha do Corvo is the northernmost member of the Azores, the mid-Atlantic archipelago stretching west from Portugal. It is home to four or five hundred people, some stone windmills, a huge extinct volcano, and, to judge by the name, crows. Corvo and its hydrangea-speckled neighbour Flores are so far out from the European mainland that they actually rest on the North American Plate. Consequently they are edging away from the rest of the country by several millimetres each year. Already Corvo is a few miles closer to St.John's, Newfoundland, than to Lisbon.
Why crows? Probably my father's fault since he liked to claim he was going off to shoot crows when he and his buddies were headed into the woods to drink beer. And if it wasn't crow shooting, it was porcupine shooting. And when porcupines or crows weren't to hand, there was beer can shooting or floating bleach bottle shooting. The advantage of beer cans and bleach containers, I suppose, was that people wouldn't complain that the kids where murdering animals. (Um, yes, lots of target practice. Um, yes, lots of different types of guns. Um, yes, we were all pretty good shots by the time we were 10. And, um, yes, it's not that hard to make your own ammunition.)