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Gareth’s Rugby World Cup blog – part 3

RNIB Cymru’s rugby guru Gareth Davies is one of the star players of the UK’s Visually Impaired rugby team currently competing at the World Cup in Japan. He’s keeping us updated about the team’s adventures.

“Hello, Gareth here with the third and final instalment of my rugby World Cup in Japan blog!

Last night the team were invited to watch the Japan vs South Africa match. As a surprise, it was announced to the crowd that our team was there, so the squad stood up and were given a huge cheer by the whole stadium. Sadly I missed out on this – instead I chose to stay at the hotel and watch the Wales game!

We’ve had a lot of time to explore over the past few days, and what has really struck me is that Japanese public transport is really accessible. The signage in stations is very clear and easy to read, and the train stations themselves are also a lot lighter than they are in the UK. As I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, I find this so helpful. It’s a real game changer. Needless to say, the tactile pavement everywhere is still blowing my mind! My teammates have taken to poking gentle fun at how enthusiastic I am about it.

The general vibe of Tokyo is very different to cities back home, especially when it comes to shared space. For such a hectic city with a population three times the size of Wales, it feels so much calmer than places like London. There’s the same volume of people but it’s so much more relaxed - no raised voices and beeping horns. This has such a positive effect on stress levels when navigating busy city streets.

Interestingly, people ride bikes on pavements here, but it isn’t as much of an issue as it is back home. This really surprised me. Pavement cyclists in the UK are one of my pet hates, but when people here cycle on pavements they pass you very slowly. It feels a lot more manageable and respectful. It’s all to do with the pace of life here, people are just a little bit slower when it comes from getting from A to B. It would be very difficult to replicate this culture in the UK but there are certainly lessons to be learnt. The fact the Japanese are gearing up for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics also helps as it has created a lot of opportunities for the country to learn more about both accessibility and VI sport.

Our trip to Japan has been both eye-opening and inspiring. We came to play rugby but ended up learning so much more about accessibility in public spaces and opportunities to improve back home. The fact that we won all our matches was a bonus!

Thanks for following my Rugby World Cup journey!