May 26, 2013
J-Hoppers Osaka Guesthouse
I’m not a huge sports fan when it comes to watching a game on television, but I love live sports and often tend to get really worked up and into it. I had heard that Japanese baseball fans are some of the craziest out there (especially the fans of the Osaka Tigers) so once we nailed down our dates I bought tickets for the homegame between the Osaka Hanshin Tigers and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. The game was at the Koshien Stadium, super easy to get to by subway, and it was packed. It was an exercise in patience when we popped into one of the gift shops to look around and pick up a pack of balloons, but more on that later. Through the help of a couple strangers we found our seats, tiny little hard plastic seats with no backs, completely Japanese style, and surveyed the packed stadium.
(click the image to enlarge)
Almost everyone was in the team’s colours, yellow and black, and each person had at least one more piece of Tiger’s merch – tshirt, hat, fuzzy ears, towels, plastic bats, bag – anything you could think of, the Tigers sold it. Everything I had heard about crazy fans was true, you could see that each person was totally passionate about their team and represented it in the stands. When the game started a brass band struck up and we noticed a small Nippon-Ham Fighters section in the crowd, dressed in orange and blue.
Though the Fighters fans were loud, they were no comparison to the Tigers fans, who also had their own brass band and even more flags.
Each player on the Tigers team has their own song that everyone in the crowd knows the words to. We caught on a little bit to the easier ones, but probably butchered the actual lyrics. In front of each section was a cheerleader, but not how North Americans imagine cheerleaders. These cheerleaders were like mega-fans, who roused the crowd and knew all the moves to the dances and all the words to the songs. This video has the song for American teammate Matt Murton.
Something that would be great at baseball games here is draft beer delivery to your seat, but how on earth would that happen? Well, by strapping a keg onto the back of a small Japanese girl and getting her to run up and down the stadium steps, smiling the whole time. We bought 2 pints (for $6 each!) and they were ice cold, perfect.
I wondered if the standard hotdog and popcorn would be the snack du jour at the game and while those were present, they also had noodles, squid fries, curry rice, fried chicken/fish and takoyaki – fried squid balls. So good!
One of the traditions at Tigers games is the seventh inning stretch and end of game balloon release. As soon as the seventh inning gets going you start to hear crinkling cellophane as everyone gets their balloons out and starts blowing. By the time there are two outs everyone has their balloon ready and waits in anticipation for the final out. It’s quite the site to see.
This was at the end of the game (Tigers won!). There’s a skip in the video where my finger slipped and stopped recording, luckily I got it going again just in time.
I LOVED watching the game. The energy was contagious and we had a great time cheering on the Osaka Tigers!
That evening, our last in Japan, we met up with a bunch of other people from the hostel we were staying at and went out for dinner with Mr Yano, the hostel’s manager.
Mr Yano was quite the character, hilarious actually. He gave us a brief lesson on the Osaka dialect, which is different than Tokyo and Kyoto, but similar to Hiroshima. After the lesson we were off to dinner at an Izakaya style pub, just a couple subway stops and a stroll down a dark alley away.
It was a nice change to be out with new people, some who had been travelling around Japan already and some who had just gotten here. Over dinner we shared our favourite parts of Japan, what to see in certain cities and our plans for what our next trip was going to be. Dinner was good, though limited on pescatarian options so I ended up with just veggie tempura.
With a looong flight the next day we said good night to everyone and turned in. Good night Japan, thank you for everything.