Hadleigh Parkes column: Japanese culture and World Cup excitement

Hadleigh Parkes column
Rugby World Cup: Wales v Georgia
Venue: City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City Date: Mon, 23 September Kick-off: 11:15 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on every Wales game across BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

In his latest BBC Sport column, centre Hadleigh Parkes looks forward to Wales' World Cup opener against Georgia on Monday and reveals how he and his team-mates have been enjoying the culture in Japan.

Everyone's so excited for our World Cup campaign to start. Now that we're here in Japan, we just want to get stuck in.

We've been building towards this for a very long time, not just pre-season but the last two years, building a lot of strength in depth and training hard.

We watched the opening game on Friday and we just can't wait to get started with our first game against Georgia on Monday.

We're some of the last teams to get started in the tournament, so it will be nice to kick off, and then it's all about building momentum so we're here for as long as possible.

That's why we're here, to have a successful World Cup, but it's also been great to take in the culture of Japan.

I was looking forward to trying some Japanese food before coming here, and it's been amazing to finally sample it for real.

There's a stat doing the rounds that Foxy, Jonathan Davies, and I are the centre partnership who've played the most games together in international rugby since I made my Test debut two years ago.

We've got a great relationship on the pitch and, luckily, it's a pretty good one off it too.

Culture trip with Foxy

Foxy's great at finding good places to eat and, like me, he's always keen to learn about the traditions and cultures of different countries.

On one of our days off during our training camp in Kitakyushu, a group of us - Foxy, Dan Biggar, Wyn Jones, Tomas Francis and me - caught a bullet train and went to Hiroshima for the day.

I enjoy looking into the culture and history of places, and that was a place I really wanted to visit.

We got there and had a look at some of the remnants of the atom bomb which went off there, and then we went to the museum as well.

It was very interesting but very intense. It was all very humbling.

Having a look around and thinking about what all those people went through, it was a really powerful experience.

Afterwards we decided to take a look at the city of Hiroshima, and it's a really nice place.

While we were there, Foxy found a traditional Japanese restaurant which served okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake which can be layered with an omelette or pancake, noodles, meat, veg - everything!

It was really tasty and it was great to eat the Japanese way, gathered around a little bar, sat in front of the food as it was being cooked, and the restaurant was really bustling, full of people coming in for a meal after work.

Tomas Francis' Instagram shot of Hiroshima restaurant
Tomas Francis posted this picture of Wales' players in a Hiroshima restaurant

Japan turning red for Wales

It was like we were back in Wales when we were in Kitakyushu because of all the flags and Welsh messages around.

The Welsh Rugby Union did some fantastic work over the past couple of years setting up that relationship between Kitakyushu and Wales, and we could really see the benefits of it.

Everywhere we went, people were stopping us in the street and shouting "rugby players! Wales!" to us.

The people here have been so nice. They're so respectful, always bowing - it almost throws you.

It was pretty amazing to be in that city as they really embraced Wales and Welsh rugby.

The open training session was incredible - I don't think I've ever been involved in anything like it before.

That crowd of 15,000 people was bigger than a lot of the crowds we get in the Pro14, and that's not taking anything away from the Pro14, it was just an amazing reception.

Everyone's away from home so a lot of the boys have been getting homesick, but I'm used to living away from home.

I went to boarding school and moved away from my parents at quite a young age, so I'm a bit more used to it than others.

It is a long time for people to be away from their children, wives, girlfriends, parents.

People do actually say "you love touring, don't you, so you know where to go for nice food", and I do, and luckily I've got Foxy as well who's very good at that.

He's taken the lead on that so far, so it's been nice to take a back seat sometimes.

Hadleigh Parkes was speaking to BBC Sport Wales' Dafydd Pritchard.

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