Last Friday night, we went to our first baseball game here in Japan. Baseball, yasu as the Japanese call it, is the National sport here. I had heard many things about what to expect at the game, but hearing is one thing, seeing is another. The stadium we went to holds 55,000 people and I'm pretty sure it was sold out, in fact, I think they may be sold out most nights- not that hard in a city of over 3 million people I suppose. The fans are very involved in the game. My husband read a book about Japanese baseball and he was telling me that the fan clubs (pep band and cheering squad) have regular weekly practices and that if you miss a certain number, you can actually lose your season tickets and be kicked out. One day at a local park, we heard the "fan practice", it was for a minor league team- but even they take it seriously.
The team we went to see, the Hanshin Tigers, is the home team for Osaka city and they play in Koshien stadium. It is about 45 minutes via train from our house. I have read online that the team's fans are one of the most enthusiastic in all of Japan (they were compared to Yankees and Red Sox fans in the US). Now, in fact, this summer, I took my oldest son to his first Red Sox game, and while there were your typical fans all dec'd out in Red Sox gear, it was no where close to what I saw in Osaka.
Almost all of the fans at this game had some type of Hanshin apparel on. The most popular garb I saw was a Hanshin Tigers towel or scarf tied around their necks. I'm not sure why this was- but given the humidity, plus high summer temps, and super crowded area, I don't think I could bear to have had anything tied around my neck. Here is a guy in front of us sporting his towel:
We decided to sit in the left field bleachers to get the true crazy fan experience. Behind us was the special section reserved for the opposing teams fans. This day, they were playing the Yakult Swallows, a team from Tokyo. They kept pulling out these blue and green umbrellas and twirling them over their heads, it was odd to us. I later found out online that the umbrellas are used after their team scores a run to tell the opposing team's pitcher to head for the showers.
Here is a photo of the umbrellas going up:
This is the Swallow's cheer leader- he even brought his whistle:
How do the Tigers fans cheer for their team? From what I could tell, this is where their band sat. You can see the flags going up and waving whenever the Tigers were up at bat.
Here is one of their "cheer leaders", sorry for the fuzziness of the picture, I had two sweaty whiny kids moving around on my lap the entire time.
During the game whenever a Tigers player was at bat, there was LOTS of chanting and bat beating. By bat beating, I mean these noise makers you buy in pairs- bat shaped of course. They are hollow, so when you bang them together, they make a nice noise, you can also use it as a megaphone to chant through. Everyone seemed to be perfectly in sync, it was incredible- well, not Addison.
There are even kawaii things to wear at the game: (unfortunately I missed the kids with the tiger costumes and the lady in the Tigers kimono)
For the seventh inning, there is no stretch, but balloons. In the seventh inning, right before the Tigers get to bat, everyone releases a balloon and they whiz up into the air making a whistling noise. Incredibly not one landed on the field that we could see.
Here at the beginning of the seventh inning, you can see they are starting to blow them up:
Uncle Seth was such a sport blowing them up for all the kids: (he was even more of a sport in his non-breathable Tigers yukata he bought)
Auntie Liz is demonstrating just how big the balloons actually are:
Look at this, they are all blown up and ready to go, this was such a cool sight - I think everyone in the stadium had them:
Here they go:
Towards the end of the game, there was a lot of player changes. The new player was driven out onto the field in this baseball shaped car, which was definitely Owen's favorite part of the game:
Buying beer at the game was pretty funny too. The only people we saw selling the beer were girls and they had portable kegs on their backs, with a hose coming around their shoulders to pour it.
In case she lost her balance, they all had knee pads on:
I'm pretty sure glass and aluminum were not allowed in the game because on the way in, the only thing they were searching bags for was glass or cans. If you wanted, you were allowed to bring in your own beer from outside, but they asked to pour it into their own paper cups- could you imagine having that happen in the US?
Here is a sign from one of the food vending places- yes there were hot dogs, but not ball park beef franks like you'd expect. How about some curry rice to enjoy the game?:
It was so hot, I got the kids an ice cream- soft serve in a squeeze bag- how cool- maybe that's why the name of it was "Cooly's":
Here's a picture of the field being cleaned off, we thought it was interesting how the field was all dirt, not just the baseline:
The only thing I missed getting a picture of was the train station at the end of the game. Unfortunately (not really) I left early with three whiny, sweaty kids, so I missed the crowds. But, later on Seth showed me a picture and it was wall to wall people in the train station- it was a mob, worse than Fuji for sure.