Land of the Rising Fastball
Take . . me out to the ball . . game, buy me some soba and taco . . .yaki!?! You may not know this, but the “Land of the Rising Sun” is also the land of the rising fastball. Japan is coming up in the baseball world. I know it’s an American pastime but ever since a Japanese studied in America and returned to Japan in 1878 he introduced it to his fellow countrymen. AND now it’s a part of their pastime as well. Only . . they throw their own curve ball into the game. Some stuff comes way out of left field. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the puns.
The Hanshin Tigers a famous baseball team in Osaka have the craziest fans in all of Japan. They are known to be unmatched with their wildness and dedication. A trip to Osaka wouldn’t be complete without experiencing Japanese baseball. The stadium is a lot smaller than an American one which is good because it’s always full. The tickets always sell out, so every seat is occupied with a crazed fan.
So my friends and I decided to check out Japanese baseball and go to a Tigers game. Unlike the over the top, secret agents of American security of sporting events, Japan allows you to bring in your own food and beverage(s). Our beverage of choice . . . beeeeer! They wouldn’t allow us to enter with the aluminum can, but they provided the plastic cup to pour it into! Never in America, how very nice of them.
The crowd is going crazy THE WHOLE GAME! Before the first pitch the chanting starts and doesn’t stop until the last one. This is going on even if their team is getting killed! All the fans know every chant and they use specific ones for certain situations. Most times it’s a madhouse. The fans also use plastic bats that they hit together to keep beat as they scream at the top of their lungs. To add to the chaos the stadium has employees that stand in strategic locations around the stadium with a big bass drum. The employees help keep the beat of the chants and fire up the crowd, not that they really need it.
There’s one specific fanatic that every Tigers’ fan knows. There is a “crazy” lady at every home game that is in right field screaming with the best of them. The 60 something year old lady is the pinnacle of Tiger fans. She is dressed in head to toe with Tiger paraphernalia. She dyes her hair and never sits down or leaves a game early. The definition of a true fan or maybe and most likely a crazy one. This behaviour is strange in Japan where conformity is the norm. But in this stadium with this conforming/non-conformist crowd she fits in just fine.
The seventh inning stretch we Americans stand and sing the classic baseball song. This isn’t the route the Japanese go, this is when the Japanese take a break from singing. All their fans in the crowd bring their own official Hanshin Tiger balloon. The balloons are the long skinny kind for making balloon animals. So everyone blows up their own balloon and sets it free into the air, all at the same time. So literally thousands of these balloons are flying every which way as the air escapes through a whistle and makes a loud noise. It’s a great photo opportunity.
The last fun and unique trait of a Japanese baseball game is the food. They have some awesomely different vendor food. You won’t find a hot dog or peanuts vendor anywhere, just like you won’t find an empty seat. Ever try little pieces of squid fried in a gooey ball of dough? It’s called taco yaki. There’s also yaki nikku which is fried pieces of beef or chicken on a stick. Delicious! Or the weirdest looking one is called tamago senbei. It’s an egg on a large salty cracker with some fish flakes and a special sauce. Try the local flavour! So conform with the non-conformists and chant on the Tigers to victory, oh and don’t forget your picture with the famous crazy Tiger lady. GO TIGERS!