JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when in crowds.

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Saitama Stadium is a large soccer stadium built for the Soccer World Cup in 2002 and now home of the Urawa Reds. Way to Saitama Stadium 2002 from the train station.
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These photos were taken during the Vodafone Cup with the Urawa Reds vs. Manchester United on July 30, 2005. Over 58,000 fans attended.
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Vodafone Cup with the Urawa Reds vs. Manchester United on July 30, 2005.
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Stadium entry
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Saitama Stadium 2002
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Urawa Reds fans. Also see the video at YouTube.
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Attendance number
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Sea of Red
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Manchester United vs. Urawa Reds
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Good save
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Someone injured
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Crowd heading for Urawa-misono Station on the Sai-no-Kuni Stadium Line. It was a stop and go process.
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Getting nearer to the train station.
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Urawa-misono Station with soccer fans going home. Also see the video at YouTube.
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Only four of the 12 floats have karakuri puppets which perform. Takayama Matsuri, Gifu
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The karakuri puppets first appeared on the Takayama Matsuri floats in the 18th century. They were handcrafted by artisans in Kyoto.
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Japan has three basic types of karakuri puppets based on the region: Kyoto, Nagoya, and Kanto (Tokyo area). The Takayama karakuri are the Nagoya-type.
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The puppets come out on a plank sticking out of the float and perform in a mini play with various stunts.
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Ryuujintai Karakuri 龍神台からくり
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Sanbasou Karakuri 三番叟からくり
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Sanbasou Karakuri 三番叟からくり
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Ryuujintai Karakuri 龍神台からくり
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Ryuujintai Karakuri 龍神台からくり
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Ryuujintai Karakuri, Takayama Festival, Gifu 龍神台からくり
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The karakuri perfom one float at a time.
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Shakkyoutai Karakuri which transforms into a lion dance. See the video at hidanet.ne.jp. 石橋台からくり
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Ryuujintai Karakuri 龍神台からくり
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Ryuujintai Karakuri throwing confetti. See the video at hidanet.ne.jp. 龍神台からくり
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Floats are displayed on the street. Takayama Matsuri, Gifu
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Moon
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Hokusai-style cherry blossom waves.
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Back on the hilltop ridge. That's the Takizakura on the lower left.
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View of Mondecool from Nagahama Station.
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Second floor entrance to Mondecool (Heiwado), a new two-story shopping center that opened in Feb. 2015.
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Mondecool supermarket on 1st floor.
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Mondecool 2nd floor shops include a shop selling local products.
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Ibukiyama coffee shop on 2nd floor.
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First floor of Mondecool has the restaurant, Joyfull. Right next to Nagahama Station.
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Joyfull is new and pleasant.
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Joyfull menu. Very cheap.
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Lunch at Joyfull. Food is good.
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Old Nagahama Heiwado store being torn down in Jan. 2016.
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Old Nagahama Heiwado store being torn down in Jan. 2016.
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A low-rise shopping-restaurant complex will be built on the old Heiwado site.
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National Bunraku Puppet Theater. Bunraku is over 370 years old, even older than kabuki.
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Inside National Bunraku Puppet Theater. Photography is not allowed during the plays. Bunraku puppets can perform feats which human actors cannot. This can make it interesting. Bring binoculars though.
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National Bunraku Puppet Theater Museum
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National Bunraku Puppet Theater at night.
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My short video of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Kumagaya, Argentina vs. USA
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Rugby World Cup 2019 was held at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture. Argentina vs. USA on Oct. 9, 2019. Kumagaya Station greeted visitors with festival music played on ornate floats.
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Two Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri floats were parked outside JR Kumagaya Station to delight rugby spectators. Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri is held in July with 12 ornate floats with musicians.
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Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri float drummers. For this day, eight of the twleve Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri floats greeted visitors.
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Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri float drummers.
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JR Kumagaya Station with banners for Rugby World Cup 2019 nations that will play in Kumagaya.
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JR Kumagaya Station notice to train travelers.
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Information booth inside JR Kumagaya Station was very busy.
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Volunteers at Kumagaya Station give local information to foreign visitors.
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Volunteers give local information to foreign visitors.
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Volunteers at Kumagaya Station show the way out of the train station. From the station, it ws a 15-min. walk to the bus stop to ride free shuttle buses to the rugby stadium.
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Volunteers at Kumagaya Station show the way to the shuttle buses and fan zone.
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Statue of famous warrior Kumagai Naozane (1141–1207) in front of Kumagaya Station, North Exit. 熊谷直実
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Rugby Town monument in front of Kumagaya Station.
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USA rugby fans.
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Argentina rugby fans.
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Rugby ball monument in Kumagaya.
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Volunteers show the way to the shuttle buses and fan zone.
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Volunteers show the way to the shuttle buses and fan zone.
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Volunteers show the way to the shuttle buses and fan zone.
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Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri float on the way to the bus stop and fan zone.
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Kumagaya rugby fan zone entrance. 10-min. walk from the station.
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Matches to be shown at the Kumagaya rugby fan zone.
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Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri floats in front of the fan zone.
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Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri float in front of the fan zone. Anybody could pose with the float.
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Walking toward the shuttle bus stop near the fan zone.
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To shuttle buses.
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Shuttle buses to the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium came and went continuously. Hardly any waiting. Very smooth.
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Inside the shuttle bus.
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Some of the shuttle buses had local RWC liveries.
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Bus stop near the rugby stadium.
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A short walk to the stadium.
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Sakura design rugby T-shirt
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Kumagaya Sports and Culture Park
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Kumagaya Sports and Culture Park map showing walking route from the bus stop to the stadium.
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Before entering Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, there was a security check of bags. Couldn't bring in any drinks.
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Find your gate on this map. Volunteer to help you. But no block numbers.
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In the stadium.
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USA rugby fans.
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Steps to the stands.
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Steps to the stands.
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"Where's my seat?" One moment, sir...
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"It's so nice to be a volunteer here, heh-heh! I'm happy with my assignment...."
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Kumagaya Rugby Stadium for USA v. Argentina on Oct.9, 2019. Rugby World Cup 2019
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Kumagaya Rugby Stadium for USA v. Argentina on Oct.9, 2019. Rugby World Cup 2019
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Lots of local kids came to cheer both teams/countries.
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Local kids loved to interact with foreign visitors.
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Lots of local kids came to cheer both teams/countries. Their uchiwa fans showed both teams' flags.
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Lots of local kids cheered both teams/countries. Their uchiwa fans showed both teams' flags.
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Good to see a beer girl selling soft drinks. For the those kids.
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USA fan
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USA fans
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Your seat is this way ma'am...
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Beautiful day for rugby.
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A lewd, half-naked fan attracts the media.
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Warm-up time for both teams.
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Argentina vs. USA
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The players appear on the pitch.
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US flag leads the American rugby players.
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Argentina flag leads the Argentinian rugby players.
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Singing the national anthem for both USA and Argentina.
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USA rugby team singing their national anthem at Kumagaya, Saitama.
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USA rugby team singing their national anthem at Kumagaya, Saitama.
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USA rugby team singing their national anthem at Kumagaya, Saitama.
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Argentina rugby team singing their national anthem at Kumagaya, Saitama.
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Argentina rugby team singing their national anthem at Kumagaya, Saitama.
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Argentina rugby team singing their national anthem at Kumagaya, Saitama.
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Argentina rugby team singing their national anthem at Kumagaya, Saitama.
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The local kids occupied the cheap seats.
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The local kids proved to be a great cheering section.
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Argentina's ball.
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USA ball.
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USA looking to pass the ball.
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During halftime, volunteers tended the grass.
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Beer girl selling beer to spectators. Same as at pro baseball games in Japan. Except that only one beer brand was availalble here.
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Argentina scores a try.
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Argentina scores a try.
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USA looks mean before the tackle.
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Stray ball in the stands. Kids are thrilled to catch it.
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Argentina rugby fan
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Sumo get-up
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The wave...
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End of game. USA lost.
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Players went around the stadium and bowed to fans.
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Time to leave the building.
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Easy to get out.
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Way to the shuttle bus stop back Kumagaya Station.
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Volunteers give high-fives to spectators leaving.
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Volunteers give high-fives to spectators leaving.
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Friendly volunteers bid visitors farewell. RWC volunteers were selected randomly from a large number of applicants. They got free uniforms and a backpack.
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Walk left for the shuttle bus stop or walk on the right to walk back to Kumagaya Station (50-min. walk or 3.5 km).
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First aid station not so busy. They probably had to take care of mostly drunk fans.
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Shuttle buses.
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Shuttle buses lined up six at a time. Very little waiting.
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Shuttle bus back to Kumagaya Station.
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Shuttle bus with Olympic livery.
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People walking back to Kumagaya Station. Good exercise.
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Volunteers on the street waving at buses.
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After getting off the bus, more volunteers saying goodbye with high-fives.
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Entrance to Kumagaya Fan Zone.
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Spelling error above the security checkpoint.
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Kumagaya Fan Zone to watch rugby games.
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Kumagaya Fan Zone to watch rugby games.
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Kumagaya Fan Zone to watch rugby games.
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Lots of beer and food at the Kumagaya Fan Zone to watch rugby games.
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Volunteer taking photo with a frame.
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Kumagaya Rugby Museum
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Inside Kumagaya Rugby Museum.
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Saitama Super Arena is right near JR Saitama-Shintoshin Station, about 40 min. from Tokyo Station on the JR Takasaki Line (30 min. via Ueno-Tokyo Line) and Keihin-Tohoku Line (42 min.).Very convenient because this train line runs between Saitama and Yokohama and passes through central Tokyo including major train stations.
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JR Saitama-Shintoshin Station heading out the turnstile.
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JR Saitama-Shintoshin Station outside the turnstile. Go left.
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JR Saitama-Shintoshin Station exterior view.
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Countdown to Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as of Aug. 25, 2019.
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Front side of Saitama Super Arena. Enter toward the left side. Looks like a complicated structure from the outside.I was here to see men's and women's basketball games were held on Aug. 25, 2019 as part of the five-day International Basketball Games event for men and the Mitsui Fudosan Cup for women. It was also an Olympic test event.
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Long line to buy basketball merchandise outside the stadium.
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Long line to buy basketball merchandise outside the stadium. Can well imagine what it will be like during the Olympics...
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International Basketball Games was held first, with Japan vs. Tunisia on Aug. 25, 2019.
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Entering Saitama Super Arena.
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Hallway after showing your ticket. Long line to pose with player cutouts.
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Posing with player cutouts.
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Corridor in Saitama Super Arena.
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When full, Saitama Super Arena has three tiers of seats.
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The men's basketball game was held first, with Japan vs. Tunisia. The stadium was packed with over 18,000.
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When full, Saitama Super Arena has three tiers of seats.
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When full, Saitama Super Arena has three tiers of seats.
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For smaller crowds, Saitama Super Arena can be adjusted to have only two tiers of seats. The ceiling is lowered to hide the third tier on the top.
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For smaller crowds, Saitama Super Arena can be adjusted to have only two tiers of seats.
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For smaller crowds, Saitama Super Arena can be adjusted to have only two tiers of seats.
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Introducing the players.
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Introducing the players.
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Introducing the players.
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