“I used my free days to visit my good friend Junichi Inamoto in London. We’ve known each other since we were both selected for the Japanese Under 15 team. He plays at Arsenal, so it was a nice opportunity to see one another again and discover a new city at the same time.
“What’s more, I was lucky enough to get a taste of that typical English football atmosphere, when I visited a game between Arsenal and Derby County. There was a great atmosphere at Highbury, but the Kuip is still better. Arsenal has a strong team. So it’s not so strange that Inamoto hasn’t played that much. But he is learning an enormous amount in London by training with players like Henry, Bergkamp and Pires.
“London has made it clear to me again that I made the right move by choosing Feyenoord. I’m playing here every week and that is really hugely important to my development. I’m also enjoying it immensely. And Inamoto will make it in time. He is a defensive midfielder with a lot of quality. He might be one for Feyenoord in the future. You never know.
“Those two rest days were very welcome after the full calendar we’ve had this last month by the way. It was hectic, but enjoyable. I’m especially happy about reaching the quarterfinal of the UEFA Cup. It’s something the whole team worked hard for. I was also very happy with my goal in Glasgow. I wasn’t really in the game and if you score a goal as important as that it does you the power of good.
“After the Ajax game I wasn’t really satisfied with myself either. I’ve noticed I still have some difficulty with the physical battles. In Japanese football I wasn’t used to that at all and it still takes some getting used to. That is a learning curve and a question of time. A player like Ebi Smolarek is also anything but big, but he shows that he is used to getting in there and battling. I have to learn to make better use of my body and in training I practice that. I put in a couple of tough challenges against Ajax. It was the biggest game of the season after all, so it must be possible to go in a bit firmer than normal. If it earns you a yellow card, then that’s all part and parcel of a game like that.
“We are now entering a stage of the championship that would appear relatively easy, but I don’t believe it is. We have to focus on every game and remain sharp so we don’t lose any more unnecessary points. Otherwise I would love to reach the UEFA Cup here in our own Kuip, so we’ll have to beat PSV as well. We’ve already met them twice this season and there are another three meetings to come … a bit too much of a good thing to be honest. So let’s make sure we make some happy memories by beating them.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be available for the game on 21 March in the Kuip. Japan is playing a friendly against Ukraine then and against Poland a week later, so I might be needed there. I understand that Feyenoord has asked the Japanese FA not to select me. I have no influence in that department so I’ll just have to wait and see.”