Fourteen million people live in Tokyo, but there may be no bigger Richmond fan in the city than 10-year-old Nonosuke.
Widely known as 'Nono', the boy proudly wears Yellow and Black daily to school, such is his vigour for the Tigers.
Nono lived in the AFL heartland of Melbourne from 2016 to 2021 due to his father's work and fell in love with the team from Punt Road Oval.
Footy Day was held at his kindergarten when he was only three years old, which was his first exposure to AFL.
At that time, Nono's favourite animal was a tiger, so he knew he had to barrack for the Tigers. Little did he know that a young cub would grow up as a Richmond Tigers fanatic, even from thousands of miles away.
Nono still remembers the first time he went to the MCG. The size of the stadium, the sound when the ball meets the boot, intensity of the game, people sledging, cheering for the goals, it all burns into his brain.
For the 2019 Grand Final, Nono witnessed one of the biggest wins by the Tigers at a public viewing space near the MCG, surrounded by Richmond fans – he knew he belonged.
Despite Auskick coming to a halt during COVID, Nono's love for football and the Tigers did not stop. He watched every game at home and decorated his house in yellow and black.
In 2021, he returned to Japan, and life without Richmond (nearby) began. There was no AFL on the television, and of course, he no longer saw any children playing footy in the park.
"I love AFL because I can kick the ball hard," Nono said.
"Everybody played footy in Melbourne, but here in Japan, AFL is unknown to them."
Once back in Japan, it was to Nono's delight that his parents found out about a football game being played in Tokyo.
Nono's parents decided to take their AFL-loving son to the game, and after the match, he could have a quick kick with one of the AFL Japan staff members.
"It had been a while since I kicked a footy on the ground with goalposts. It was so fun," he said.
Soon after, football days started again for Nono. He attended football events in Japan and attended footy training every Wednesday.
It takes about one and a half hours to get to training, meaning Nono's family spends much time on the road with him fully kitted in Tigers gear.
Nono loves having fun with other Japanese friends who play footy, and at AFL Japan events, he also reunites with the only pie, Four'N Twenty.
On weekends, Tokyo's biggest Tiger watches the games at home. He sings the club song with his family after a win.
Dustin Martin is Nono's favourite player, it is a question he does not even need to think about.
"Everything he touches turns into gold. He's the GOAT," Nono said about Martin.
While in Japan, Nono also spreads his love of the AFL and Richmond. He introduced AFL to his schoolteacher and proactively sent highlight videos of the Tigers to the AFL Japan official YouTube channel. Although, only when Richmond wins.
"I want to be an AFL player; my sister wants to become one, too," Nono said.
Of course, since he is still in Junior School, Nono heavily depends on his parents.
His father has to juggle between work and Nono's football training, a balancing act he does not want to affect the family.
Nono's mother said watching the AFLW's Making Their Mark', (Amazon Prime documentary) brought tears to her eyes as it reinvigorated fond memories of the family's Melbourne days.
"I am so grateful for the Tigers and the AFL culture in Melbourne," she said.
"I think by Nono becoming a Tigers fan, life in Melbourne became easier, and our family could enjoy Melbourne and all it had to offer."
Tigerland does indeed exist in Japan, because a little Tiger is kicking a footy somewhere in Tokyo.
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