Japan finds reason to celebrate with World Cup win
Japan took a welcome break from months of tragedy on Monday, basking in its unlikely victory at the Women's World Cup.
Joyous fans decked out in the national team's dark blue uniforms hugged and sang in Tokyo as they watched their team lift the winner's trophy on live broadcasts from Germany.
It was a rare moment of joy for the Japan, which is still recovering from a killer earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11 and devastated its northeast coast. The disasters left nearly 23,000 dead or missing and caused a still ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant.
Japan became the first Asian nation to win the Women's World Cup, beating the United States 3-1 in a penalty shootout after coming from behind twice in a 2-2 draw. The team, tiny in stature compared to the Americans, fell behind twice but battled back to equalize both times, their final goal coming with just three minutes left in extra time.
''This is a chance to forget the nuclear disaster and everything else, to just to unite and celebrate,'' said Toru Komatsu, 22.
The bar where Komatsu watched the game with friends in central Tokyo was crammed throughout the game, with dozens peering in from outside through the windows. Restaurants and sports bars across the capital were full despite the early kickoff of 3:45 a.m. local time.
The women's team, long an afterthought to the men's side in Japan, had increasingly received attention from the national press as it climbed through the tournament, making up for the small size of its players with pinpoint passing and a swarming team defense.
Special newspaper editions proclaiming the victory were printed by the national papers and handed out to pedestrians in Tokyo on Monday morning, while scenes from the game were replayed constantly on television.
''It has been so scary with the earthquake and everything,'' said Miaki Tomiyama, 22. ''The team has given us happiness.''