Any baseball fans out there?! I’ll admit I don’t know much about the game, but it’s the adopted national sport of Japan and well, when in Rome…!
My home country, Australia, is huge on sports. If you don’t play a sport yourself, you at least have a favourite team you cheer for. I don’t know how the sporting culture became so important… maybe it’s the camaraderie that’s formed when you play on a team, or maybe we are just plain competitive!
The first team sport I joined was softball when I was 9. I was hopeless at it. I think the only way I ever made it to the first base was when the pitcher bowled too many fouls and I was able to ‘walk’! Still, it must have been a good experience because it’s stuck in my memory all these years. After softball, I played many different sports through high school, university and as a working adult, basically up until I moved to Japan.
As well as playing sports, I loved being a spectator. I remember as a kid going with my dad to my brothers’ cricket and rugby league games on the weekend. One time I was given the honour of sounding the end-of-game siren at a local rugby game. I didn’t realise I had to turn it off as well! It went for about 5 seconds too long before the guy came rushing over to step in. Oops!
Being from North Queensland, naturally, I followed the most popular sport in that part of the country: NRL (national rugby league). When I moved to Melbourne for university, I loved going to the Melbourne Storm games and they quickly became my favourite team – and still are to this day!
So when I came to Japan, I had every intention of taking up a sport and going to sports matches. The trouble was, I found that the Japanese were not as keen on sports as I had imagined. It took 4 years before I finally found some friends who were just as curious about baseball as I was.
On a warm May day, we joined thousands of fans at Tokyo Dome to see the Giants take on the Swallows…
After scoring a run, the home crowd goes wild, swinging their orange towels above their heads like helicopters! I didn’t get the memo about the orange towel, dammit! I have to admit though, the away team’s supporters were doing a much better job at cheering and chanting. They even had a swing band busting out tunes throughout the game.
The cheerleaders got the crowd hyped up while the Giants’ main supporters waved their giant flag.
The drink girls were probably the stars of the show! They carried kegs on their backs and scurried up and down the steep stairs for the whole game selling cups of beer, coke and mixed spirits. You can see how she holds onto cash between her fingers – it makes for a quick transaction.
When I think of baseball canteens in the U.S., I think of hot dogs, French fries and pizza. But in Japan, it’s more like curry, rice, and noodles!
The final verdict: it was so much fun! I loved how each player has a different chant so that when they step up to the batting plate, the crowd gets behind that player and not just the whole team. I gotta figure out what they’re saying in those chants! In the meantime, I’ll just be yelling: GO GIANTS!