【NEWS】Dream Train "Verblitz Express"

On May 6th, Toyota Verblitz hosted Fan Appreciation Day at the Toyota Sports Center. Among the attendees were 1,700 lucky winners selected from regular fan club members. At the rugby field, long lines formed at each player's station as fans engaged in autograph signings and photo sessions. Participants hoping to take photos with Pieter-Steph du Toit, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, and Captain Kazuki Himeno were chosen through a lottery, with 200 fans each. Although long lines were seen at the field, every player happily posed for photos with fans. The training rooms and cafeteria used by the players were also opened for fans to visit. Following this, there was a sports event where both players and fans participated.
The event concluded with farewell speeches from departing players announced the previous evening. Captain Himeno expressed gratitude, saying, "We didn't achieve the results we wanted, and there were difficult times this season, but the cheers from the VOLTs fans pushed us forward. That's why we were able to finish the year strong. It's truly delightful to play in front of a packed home crowd. Our dream is to win the league. Let's continue to fight together." Afterward, the players lined up on both sides to bid farewell to the fans.
Prior to Fan Appreciation Day, a special train named the "Verblitz Express" ran directly from Meitetsu Kanayama Station to Toyota City Station. This was made possible by a partnership agreement between the Nagoya Railway Company and the Toyota Verblitz as their Gold Partner for this season. While the Nagoya Railway Company has run special trains in the past, this was the first time for such an initiative in sports. Tickets cost ¥5,000 and included light refreshments, beverages, and commemorative items. The 100 tickets were sold out within one minute of online sales opening.
Lucky fans who managed to acquire tickets gathered in front of Kanayama Station's ticket gate. Mr. Ando, the chairman of Meitetsu, also boarded the train. Chairman Ando, a former high school rugby player and avid rugby fan to this day, has been watching rugby matches from high school to university, League One, and even the World Cup. Regarding the partnership, he said, "The team expressed a desire to deepen ties with the local community, so we gladly agreed.”
The train ride was proposed by Meitetsu, and the team eagerly supported the idea. The main challenge was the date of operation, as fitting an extra train into the regular schedule, especially on a weekday, was difficult. However, Fan Appreciation Day was scheduled for a holiday, allowing ample preparation time, which made the operation possible.
A female fan who traveled from Saitama Prefecture remarked, "At first, I couldn't connect to the internet at all and gave up, but when I thought of trying just one more time, I managed to connect. It's like a dream to have the opportunity to take photos with the players."
Six players, including Tom Robinson, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Taichi Takahashi, and Shuhei Yamaguchi, boarded the train. Due to the players' conditions, the members were uncertain until the last moment, but all players kindly agreed. Inside the train, they were given station staff hats and uniforms, and they happily interacted with each other, taking photos and even attempting to make announcements over the train's PA system. After departing Kanayama, refreshments were served, and a toast was led by the players, divided into two groups per carriage. Captain Himeno even appeared in an advertisement for Asahi beer inside the train. Along the way, there were also photo sessions and a raffle, with winners receiving destination signs signed by the players.
The journey, including stops, lasted about an hour and a half. Upon arrival at Toyota City Station, the players bid farewell to the passengers at the ticket gate. Players then boarded buses to the sports center to join the Fan Appreciation Day festivities.
Chairman Ando expressed his desire to continue this initiative next year, suggesting that the annual "Dream Train" event seems likely to become a tradition.




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