Rugby players from Tonga and Japan competed in a charity match Saturday for Tonga's reconstruction in the wake of January's undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami that devastated the island nation.
Japan-based Tongan-born players suited up for the Tonga Samurai Fifteen at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground against a team that included candidates for Japan's national team, the Brave Blossoms.
Around 8,000 fans attended the game that ended with players from both teams gathering in a circle and offering their prayers for Tonga and its people. Over 2.9 million yen ($21,000) in donations were collected at the stadium.
At both the start and conclusion of the game, won 31-12 by the Japanese, the Tongan players performed their nation's Sipi Tau traditional war dance. This finished with the players gesturing as if to draw and wave a sword, while screaming "kansha! (thanks)."
Befitting a match between players from nations whose rugby bonds have been strengthened over a period of more than 40 years, the fans got into it as the action approached the try line, with their rhythmic clapping reverberating through the venue.
"Tonga is really a small country. We wanted to put on a good show," said 32-year-old Tonga-born prop Isileli Nakajima, who played for Japan at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The Tonga Samurai were managed by 56-year-old Sinali Latu, a Tongan trailblazer in Japanese rugby, who attended Daito Bunka University and represented Japan at three World Cups.
"I'm so appreciative of the deep relationship between Japan and Tonga," he said.