When Mills took the Raiders to Japan in December, the Americans were stunned by the number of Japanese football players who smoke. And they were astonished by the cost of land. No college in that island nation can afford its own stadium. Football programs must share fields with baseball, rugby and soccer. Some teams play on dirt.
The most glaring difference the Japanese found in America was in the locker room. "In toilet, no door," says Horiko, blushing. "We are ashamed when somebody find us." There are other dissimilarities. Japanese players have to buy their own equipment, which is made in the States; none of the coaches is paid; and there are no scholarships. In fact, almost no athlete gets a scholarship in Japan. "Some schools pay football players under table," says Furukawa. "Maybe tuition free, but cannot find out."
The Raiders don't hand out scholarships, either. The only free rides were the tours they gave the Kwansei players. One local attraction visited by Shibakawa and defensive lineman Hirokazu Murakami was the Ashland police station. There they were fingerprinted, had mug shots taken and got tossed into a holding cell. "It deepened my understanding of American culture," Murakami said.
But the best cultural exchange was transacted between Horiko and former Raider cornerback Tracy (Toast) Reeves.
"Are you called Toast because of color?" asked Magic Monkey.
"No," Toast replied. "It's 'cause I always get burned."
Horiko promised that the next time the Fighters meet the Raiders the outcome will be different. "We'll beat you, for sure," he said. "Then, maybe, Oklahoma. If not, Yokohama."