When you think of traditional sports of Japan most likely things like sumo wrestling or karate will come to mind. But anybody who has ever seen Mr. Baseball knows that actually baseball 野球 is one of Japan's most popular sports. I'm not entirely sure why baseball has captured Japan's hearts so thoroughly- though I suspect it has to do with the sense of community and team spirit the game cultivates. Baseball was introduced to Japan in 1878 and the first Pro League started in 1920, only 19 years after the American League got going in the states.
Given this long history and great popularity, I wanted to see what a baseball game in Japan would be like. So last weekend Ian, Alexis and I traveled to Hiroshima for my first professional baseball game (I've never seen one in America either). Hiroshima's "Mazda ZOOM ZOOM Stadium" is home to the Hiroshima Carps, whose mascot is named Slyly and is inexplicably some weird bird kind of thing. He looks like the Philadelphia Philly's evil yellow twin. I digress.
Japanese baseball games are pretty fun. First of all, you have to stand the entire time your team is up to bat. Even though we were in the home of the Carps, I found out we would be sitting in the visitor's seats as Ian is a Chunichi Dragons fan. This turn of events didn't really phase me, as I am willing to cheer for whoever. But it's a good thing Alexis and I didn't buy any of the Carps souveneirs we were eyeing while waiting for Ian, as the opposing team's merchandise is strictly forbidden in the seating. Fans buys these plastic bats and beats the hell out of them while cheering for their team. In fact, each player has his own specific cheer that you have to memorize and chant while they are up to bat. This is aided by a small band that sits in the stands and leads the commotion. In front of us sat a really cute couple- they got so excited when we scored a point that they would turn around and high five us (although the woman's genkiness definitely wore down in the eigth inning after three large beers).
Another interesting note: Japanese baseball games can end in a tie. This result would never fly in America.
The food was also an adventure. Ian and Lexi especially were looking forward to some good old-fashioned concession nosh, and as always Japan gave them its own weird take on it. Ian had Japan's version of a Philly Cheese Steak, which turned out to be a piece of beef jerky with nacho cheese in a breadstick. Lexi had some nachos, which were more like nacho chips with cold nacho cheese and ketchup. I stuck to some traditional Oden, and was not dissappointed. However Japanese Churros were a big success- apparently fried dough tastes good the world over.
Oh, and the score? Although the Dragons had it in the bag with a 7-2 lead in the fourth inning, the Carps pulled out the stops and stomped us by scoring a game winning point in the ninth inning.