Yakyuuuuuu! (Or Japanese Baseball)
On the scale of hardcore baseball enthusiasts, Japan probably comes in at a clear second place in the world. These guys are serious. I have at least five boys per class who want to be professional baseball players when they grow up. Everyone’s got a favorite team, and every player has their own song and chant. It’s an experience to go. If you visit Japan during baseball season, make time to go to a game. Seriously. It’s awesome and totally fun.
To finish off our Golden Week experience, Sabsy, James, myself, and five other intrepid Nagasaki-ken ALTs went to a Softbank Hawks game. Despite living in Japan for three years, I hadn’t been to a baseball game before this. (What is wrong with me, for serious?) We played against Rakuten, a Tohoku team.
And let me tell you, it was madness.
But madness nonetheless.
Like everything in Japan, there’s a ritual to each part of the game. Before players step up to bat, the stadium plays a little song to get them pumped. And, as said, each team member has a chant that the Intense Fans dictate to us casual fans. (For lesser-known players, it’s mostly “Ganbare NAME!” with some thwaking of noise makers inbetween. The favorites have particular chants, dance moves, and beats.) There are also a number of foreigners on Japanese baseball teams, just like in America. Softbank has players from America and Cuba, including their starting pitcher, DJ Houltman. But the most famous guy on the team has got to be Honda–he has a .391 batting average. Wowzas.
Hawks were rocking enough to get a three-run lead in the second inning, which Rakuten closed later by racking up two runs. By the seventh-inning stretch, things were intense. Roars from the stands as the relief pitchers rocked in, ready to close the deal.
One of the “rituals” in Japan involves this seventh-inning stretch. When your team comes up to bat, to pump them up, all the fans release these special balloons into the air. (Really, I don’t know if it pumps up the team. But it looks SUPER cool.) And then, whichever team wins at the end does it again with their secondary color.
Softbank ended up winning the game that day. (Wooo! HUZZAH! Go Hawks!) But in the last of the three games versus Rakuten the next day, Hawks lost. (Sad face.)
Still, I had a super wonderful time, and I’ll definitely be going again either in June or next year. Fukuoka is a pretty easy trip from my town. And who knows, maybe I’ll even cough up a few thousand more yen to get closer to the action.
And, ah, yes, those very athletic players’, ahem, assets.
So do you enjoy baseball? What team do you support? And do you want to go to a Japanese baseball game now?