Aaron Smith has revealed the special measures taken by the All Blacks to respect the Japanese and their culture as the clock ticks down on their World Cup opener in Yokohama on Saturday.

Last week, when the All Blacks were training in Kashiwa just north of their current Tokyo base, those with tattoos had to cover up when using traditional onsen, or spas. It is something they have done on previous trips here.

Tattoos can offend in Japan because of their association with criminal elements in this most traditional of societies.

"We've got an onsen, or a spa, at every hotel," halfback Smith said. "In Kashiwa that spa was a public one so we had to wear skivvies or tights. And that's okay, we're in Japan, we have to embrace their way, their culture.

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All Blacks sullback/wing Ben Smith and halfback Aaron Smith during their press conference at the team's hotel in Tokyo, Japan. Rugby World Cup. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
All Blacks sullback/wing Ben Smith and halfback Aaron Smith during their press conference at the team's hotel in Tokyo, Japan. Rugby World Cup. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

"Most people with tattoos were happy to cover up. This hotel don't mind. Every hotel we go to we get a little message around that [from manager Darren Shand]. The only other thing that is similar to the tattoos are shoes. At the gym we're going to today we have to take indoor shoes. The ones you walk to the gym in you can't wear [inside].

"We've just got to respect that and adapt as All Blacks. We're grateful to be here and we don't like to act like we're anything bigger than we are."

Lock Patrick Tuipulotu, who is attending his first World Cup, said: "One thing I do enjoy is the culture here. There are a lot of respectful people and you could see that by the welcome we got in Kashiwa that the All Blacks play a big part in the rugby supporters' lives here."

The cultural question came after Smith, and his fullback namesake Ben, looked as uncomfortable in public as they have for a long while when they were asked by a reporter to reveal what they thought were their own personal strengths.

In the end, and after the question was repeated, Ben said: "I'll do Aaron because I'll feel a bit more comfortable. I'd say his speed of pass [which allows] the backline to have heaps of time in the way he gets the ball out. I think he's got a pretty solid kicking game."

A light moment for All Blacks fullback/wing Ben Smith and halfback Aaron Smith, after a Japanese journalist asked them to descride each-other's onfield attributes. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
A light moment for All Blacks fullback/wing Ben Smith and halfback Aaron Smith, after a Japanese journalist asked them to descride each-other's onfield attributes. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Aaron said: "What a great question. I've waited 10 years for this."

Ben, gamely keeping his focus, added: "I just think he's a smart footy player and that holds this team in good stead."

Ben added: "It's like a counselling session."

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Aaron replied: "Bender's strengths are his ability to create opportunities for others but also himself. He's an X-factor player. You don't know what he's going to do. He can do anything on the field. He's one of the best open-field runners I've seen. Every time he gets a half break you get really excited. Plus his leadership is a big strength. Behind the scenes he's a leader through actions."

Question satisfactory answered, or dodged, the pair were free to escape.

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