By Rod Gilmour
Video recorder in hand, a Japanese hockey player hides behind a hotel doorway and menacingly jumps out in front of their foreign coach.
Thankfully, this is no Japanese sporting horror movie synopsis. In the land where Takeshi’s Castle was born, Japan’s Cherry Blossoms are taking the idea of fun to a different level.
And it’s working. After a hard-fought loss to Australia, they upset the seedings to topple New Zealand, the Commonwealth champions, with a brave defensive display.
It means Pool D is set up deliciously ahead of Saturday’s final group games where all four teams can still qualify.
And in the mean time, Australian-born Japanese coach Anthony Farry will continue to let his players relax in their own style.
“They love to scare each other,” Farry told The Hockey Paper, “be it someone hiding behind a wall or bursting into someone’s room.
“It’s something that’s a little unique. I’m not sure how many of the other teams do it, but it’s hilarious.
“I love it and for me, coming in from the outside, you don’t see the fun side of some of the Asian groups, but they are really wonderful.”
So the question was asked whether the players had also ‘scared’ their coach?
“Yeah, but I’ve got them back,” quipped Farry. “You’re never sure, you can’t always be thinking that somebody is going to scare you but they do it at a really good time.”
Mayumi Ono, the most experienced Cherry Blossom with two Olympic Games behind her, says Farry has given the side fresh direction, entwined with fun, since taking over last year.
“He gave us a lot of smiles and communication time. He is very kind and we can talk to each other,” she said.
Ono has a key role for Japan: managing the players, making sure her positioning is central with an aim to control the game.
But it didn’t go all to plan, according to the 33-year-old.
“My play was so bad! There were lots of mistakes but my team members supported me and I played in my own time. I appreciated that.”
No doubt, she can thank them back at the team hotel in the scariest way possible.
The Hockey Paper’s World Cup coverage is supported by St. Bert’s Clothing – SUMMER SALE