Laidlaw, who ended his 76-cap Scotland career after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, has signed a two-year deal to play for the Top League side, whose squad also includes Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx and Wallabies stand-off Christian Lealiifano.
And the 34-year-old scrum-half said he had a brief conversation with new Glasgow Warriors Head Coach Danny Wilson about the possibility of making Scotstoun the next stop on his rugby career.
“I liked Danny when he was Scotland coach and I think he trusts me, so going in to be a new Head Coach, he talked to me briefly,” Laidlaw said.
“I was pretty much over the line in Japan anyway, and he had a couple of signings already lined up, so it was probably never going to happen.”
Scotland’s second highest points scorer of all time was “delighted” to be able to share news of his next step, with the move to Japan coming after three years at Clermont Auvergne.
“I’ve known for a fair bit of time but I wanted to respect the wishes of NTT and the way they do business in Japan and wait for the right time, and this is when they wanted to announce it,” he said.
“I’m delighted and we can start to put the logistics in place to get moved out there.”
Laidlaw has experienced Japan twice before, with Scotland in 2016 and then again at last year’s Rugby World Cup, and he’s earned cult hero status with the Japanese public.
He’s not sure why they adore ‘Mr Greig’, but is looking forward to running out for his new club when the Top League season gets under way.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out there and experiencing the new culture and everything that will bring with it.
“They seem to like me for whatever reason, so it’s going to be nice to play in front of the supporters.
“I’m just looking forward to playing rugby again, because it’s been some time, and it’s still a few months off yet.”
Laidlaw acknowledged he is coming to the end of a professional career that started with Edinburgh and also saw him play for Gloucester before his move to France with Les Jaunards, but believes the COVID-19 enforced break has been good for him.
“This is the longest break I’ve ever had in professional rugby,” he continued.
“It’s been brilliant to let the body recover, and when I do get back playing, I’m going to be excited and ready to go.
“It’s definitely helped. You’re not getting the bumps and bruises and needing to recover, and even more important for me is the mental side, you can just get a good break away from the game.”
And when asked what he expects of the Top League, Laidlaw is under no illusions it’s going to be a challenge to his fitness, but as he’s done throughout his career, he’s keen to roll up his sleeves and give it everything he’s got.
He said: “They’ll try to play the game very quickly and I’m going to have to be very fit to play out there. They base their game on the New Zealand style of Super Rugby.
“The skill set might not be quite as high, but that’s what they are aiming at and they’ve got good coaches, so I’m sure they can get close to that.
“I expect it to be good rugby.”
And looking to the future, Laidlaw admitted this is likely to be his last playing contract – he’ll be 35 before he kicks a ball in Japan, and after signing a two-year deal, he’s keen to look to life after he’s hung up his metronomic kicking boots.
“If I can stay injury free and get through the two years, I can’t see me having much more in me off the back of that,” Laidlaw said.
“I’ve got a couple of years to define where I want to place myself.
“I’ve got a couple of things in the game, and a couple of avenues out the game, but I’m passionate about the game and I’d like to stay involved.
“I’ll be ready in two years time to take on whatever my next challenge is.”
“Main photo credit”