It’s No Game
“I really don’t understand the situation, but it’s no game.” –David Bowie, ‘It’s No Game (Part 1)’
I realize the lateness of this post, but with finals and my trip to Tokyo and getting ready to leave Japan, I must confess that I have not had much time to update. But as promised, I will talk a bit about my Japanese baseball experience!
Earlier this month I went to a Hanshin Tigers game at Koshien Staduim in Nishinomiya. A friend of mine lives within walking distance of the stadium, so he got us tickets and accompanied me and another friend to a Friday evening game.
For those of you unaware, Japanese baseball, and in particular the fans, are viewed by most outsiders as…enthusiastic? Insane? If you think you know crazy sports fans, I implore you if you are ever in Japan to go to a baseball game. You have seen nothing. Every time the Hanshin Tigers win a game, it is tradition for fans to jump off of a famous bridge near Dotombori into the not-so-sanitary water flowing through the city of Osaka. Local officials have tried to prevent this behavior to no avail.
My experience at the game itself was loads of fun. We sat right in the thick of yellow and black jersey-wearing fans (myself included), and even though we were foreigners and didn’t know the ropes, we had some noisemakers and were welcomed by the masses. When up to bat, each player has his own unique theme song that everyone sings together, and the woman in front of us was kind enough to give us a sheet with the lyrics. During the seventh inning stretch, everyone blew up special balloons and released them at the same time, providing for an exciting (but admittedly phallic) experience. What really surprised me was that everyone was allowed to bring food and drinks into the stadium! And not only were we allowed to bring in our own beer, but they opened it and poured it into cups for us before we entered the stadium. I love it! Even though the Tigers lost by a point, the game was still exciting and unforgettable.
The rules of Japanese and American baseball are very similar for the most part, but I find the overall feeling at a Japanese baseball game to be very different from that of its American counterpart. There is a strong feeling of group unity, which is likely derived from and reinforced by Japanese collectivistic society. It felt like the act of being in the stands with all of the fans was more of an event than the game itself! I wish I had had more opportunities to go, but baseball will definitely be on my to-do list when I return to Japan in the future.