One night in Osaka we set off to watch a game of baseball, as you do. The local Buffalos were playing the visiting Hawks – and by all accounts, it was a great game. Not that I am in any way knowledgeable about baseball, even with the helpful crash course delivered on the fly by my trusty in house tour guide! But the experience of a Japanese baseball game is something not to be missed, particularly if, like me, you’re a regular attendee at other team sporting events.
The stadium was a giant covered in dome, only about 20% full on this a school / work night. Supporters seemed to be naturally grouped around two different sections of the ground, though not in a confrontational way. Each team had a core group of supporters complete with drums, trumpets and an assortment of other brass instruments – but rather than create a competing cacophony, each support crew limited their cheering, chanting and clanging to when their team was batting… using their pitching time to top up on food and drink, visit the toilets or simply regather their energy for the next batting round.
Supporters had what seemed to be a fairly standard set of gear…
1. A baseball shirt, only to be donned once you reach your seat, often over the top of your work clothes. Amazing the number of salarymen who arrived interior standard dark suit, white shirt, conservative tie “uniform” and simply replaced their jacket with the baseball shirt over the top of their collar and tie, tie knot still firmly and neatly in place. And then reserved the process at the end of the game, leaving their seat in salaryman uniform again!
These two out on a date night right in front of us – note his tie still on!
2. A team neck towel and pair of plastic cones or sticks, both to be used in the choreographed supporter chants, the cones for banging together and waving in the air.
3. Balloons, not just any balloons but large long ones in your team’s specified colour, with a big bulbous head…. All on cue (but only one team at a time – in our case the Hawks at the end of the 6th inning and the Buffalos at the end of the 7th) supporters start inflating their ballots until the whole stand seems to be filled with waving sperm shaped blossoms….
And as the innings ends, they all let the balloons go whizzing up into the sky as they deflate en masse!
No ballgame would be complete without the obligatory food and beer, and this too was a revelation. None of the limitations on how much alcohol one person can buy that has become commonplace back in NZ. In fact, each of the mainstream breweries appears to have a team of pretty girls, each with a 25litre keg on her back and a holstered pourer, dispensing at your seat for those who don’t want to miss a pitch. Even whisky was available “on tap” off the girl’s back!
We tried a range of fast food on offer… The famous Osaka octopus dumpling balls, hot dogs (of course, after all it was a baseball game) and the most delicious deep fried salt chicken. Healthy stuff!
In the end, the Hawks won easily – setting off another ejection of sperm-like balloons (you need to carry a spare white one in the hopes of a win, apparently). And the crowd briefly went wild. Before changing back into the orderly throng of mostly business attired workers, heading home (or maybe to a karaoke bar to celebrate).
(Photos and video courtesy of Pip Gilbert – my camera battery died of over-use syndrome!)