The visit lasted just five minutes, but it was enough to draw hundreds in Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya district on Thursday afternoon.
In Tokyo to celebrate FC Barcelona’s new global sponsorship deal with Rakuten, soccer megastars Messi, Neymar Jr., Pique and Turan made a surprise stop at Shibuya’s Rakuten Cafe to sign larger-than-life displays of their likenesses. The FC Barcelona imagery decorating the cafe’s facade had been added that week to mark the beginning of Rakuten’s historic multiyear contract with Barca, which will see it become the club’s Main Global Partner and first-ever Official Innovation & Entertainment Partner.
Once passers-by noticed the TV cameras setting up, crowds began to form. It wasn’t until the last moment, however, when a fleet of large black vans quietly pulled up at the scene just after 4:30 p.m., that the crowd’s suspicions were confirmed.
As cheers erupted, the players made their way to front of the cafe, sharpies in hand. Messi, Neymar Jr., Pique and Turan waved and smiled, as fans scrambled to catch a glimpse of the signing and a photo of the stars.
After leaving their names on the building and waving to the fans, the players made a quick exit, perhaps to the relief of the 40-plus police officers and security on scene.
The Shibuya visit made news headlines in Japan but it wasn’t the day’s only special event for fans. Less than an hour earlier, the players had visited Rakuten’s headquarters 10 kms away for a Q&A with Rakuten employees – a group who consider themselves some of Barca’s most passionate supporters. 10,000 members of the Rakuten family viewed the session, 2,000 in the room with the stars and the rest joining via live broadcast from 30 locations worldwide.
Though their stay in Japan was brief – the players are now back in Spain, training for their upcoming tour of the U.S. – there is no question that they left their mark on Tokyo.
In fact, you can still see it if you visit the Rakuten Cafe in Shibuya.