Japan Ball

Trip Start May 08, 2005
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11
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Trip End Aug 16, 2005


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Flag of Japan  ,
Monday, May 23, 2005

Spring is in the air and with the changing of the seasons comes baseball...Should I miss out on our nations pastime simply because I choose to travel? Of course not. The pursuit of freshly cut grass, the cheer of the crowds and the gnawing desire for a good peanut led me to Tokyo Dome for a game between the Yomuri "Giants" (in english) and the Nippon Ham "Fighters" (at first, i thought they were the Nippon "Ham Fighters" and i was anxious to see their graphics!).

Though I couldn't tell if they were playing by National League or American League rules, the game is pretty much the same. In the end, its the fan experience that makes it Japanese, and fun.

Tokyo Dome is your average run of the mill domed stadium. Astro-Turf. Sterile concrete. Its everything the american sports experience was until a couple of architecture firms in Kansas City brought the shopping mall to the ballpark. Since you can't walk 1 block in Tokyo without seeing a huge LED screen attached to building, I was quite surprised by the lack of electronic techno wizardy inside the stadium. Not even an electronic ribbon board on the front edge of the upper-deck. I guess they wuld rather focus on the game.

Though the stadium lacked visual oomph, it was certainly not at a loss for noise. These fans are loud and unrelenting. Every player has 2 or 3 specific cheers that are chanted continuously throughout their time at bat. During the Giants at bat, only the home fans cheer, and though the visiting team had a full section of boosters and flag-wavers out in left field, they sat patiently and quietly while the Fighters played defense. I don't think we would ever concieve of using eerie silence as a type of home field advantage. Make no mistake, audience participation is a must but woe to he gets caught uttering an unsanctioned chant. A warning and then, ejection is his fate.

I of course rankled a few feathers trying out the old 'Here we go Giants, here we go'...wasn't makin too many friends with that one.

We went to a sold out, standing room only, game; not uncommon because the Giants are Japan's version of the Yankees. I was surprised however by the fact that most fans came in ordinary clothes. One would think that fans of a team with such national gravitas would represent their affiliation with pride. Inside the park, people bought noisemakers and other chaserei with the team logo but in general, I showed more spirit than most by sporting my newly purchased Giants hat.

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When I think of baseball, curry doesn't come to mind, but the people sitting in front of us were scarfing down pork filets with Japanese curry. The smell was maddening, I wanted it bad. Concession stands had great variety, you could get american fare of hot dogs and hamburgers and coke, but I was much more partial to the curry, noodles, boxes of sushi and fresh crepes (stuffed with yur choice of either ice cream and strawberries or tuna and mayonaise). The shock of all shocks was when i found a beer vendor who was also sold cups of fesh vegetables...never seen that at a baseball game.

Though the quality and diversity of stadium foods in the US has improved greatly in the last several years in the US, one Japanese concession innovation is screaming to be imported, the beer girls. No overweight, sweaty, unshaven swill hockers here. All in-seat beer and snack delivery was performed by cute young girls in brightly colored uniforms. Strong women, who for nine solid innings trudged the seating bowl, laden with big vats of beer strapped to their backs and spigots hanging on their suspenders. What a sight.

Some body call Aramark....
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