THE irony wasn’t lost on anyone, but the friendly fire booming out of Fort Scratchley on Sunday was a fair reflection of how far we’ve all come.
The fort’s guns, once aimed at a Japanese submarine at the mouth of Newcastle Harbour were on Sunday put in the hands of Japanese football fans which have begun flooding into Newcastle ahead of Monday night’s Asian Cup match at Hunter Stadium.
It was a special moment for Fort Scratchley Historical Society president Frank Carter.
‘‘It’s very very important that Japanese people are actually here firing the gun that was once used to fire on them,’’ he told the crowd of tourists huddled under umbrellas.
The fort’s guns fired on the I21 Japanese sub on June 9, 1942. More than 70 years later, football fan Sorry Maeyama from Nagasaki was pulling the same firing wire.
‘‘It was very big honour,’’ Mr Maeyama said. ‘‘I love Newcastle, thank you.’’
Mami Fujimura from Osaka and Yuri Nakagawa from Ishikawa also got a chance to fire the fort’s famous six-inch Mk VII guns.
They were among dozens of Japanese visitors who toured the fort and the city’s other attractions on Sunday.
Joining them was one of the city’s Asian Cup ambassadors, Taiyo Namba whose family owns the Nagisa Japanese restaurant at Honeysuckle.
‘‘It’s really fantastic,’’ Mr Namba said. ‘‘This is what the tour companies should be doing more of. They should be bringing more Japanese people into Newcastle because those who come here love it - it shouldn’t be just about visiting the wineries.’’
Hundreds of Japanese football fans flowed into the city on Sunday ahead of Monday night’s match against Palestine. They’re expected to be joined by several thousand more on Monday who are catching buses and trains to Broadmeadow from their base in Sydney.
Decked out in their blue team shirts and scarves, they are expected to vastly outnumber those supporting Palestine, although the latter will likely be the sentimental favourite among Hunter fans who see the Japanese team as the biggest threat to Australia’s chances of winning the tournament.
Despite some reports to the contrary on local radio, plenty of tickets to Monday’s match at Hunter Stadium are still available.
Organisers said good seats could still be purchased at the gate before kick-off.
‘‘We are very excited,’’ Mr Maeyama said, adding the rain had not hampered their visit to Newcastle.
As for the football, no prizes for predicting the outcome.
‘‘We wish Japan win,’’ he said. ‘‘And [Japanese football superstar Keisuke] Honda kick goal for us, from spot kick. That is our wish we want to see.’’