I am not the only person who thinks that a great way to understand the culture of a place is by seeing local sporting event. You can learn a lot about a place by attending just one event. Since it is usually filled with locals and not tourists, it is a great way to see what a place is really like. Music, food, beer, etc. If you can see a sport that an area is famous for, that they don’t really play in your country, even better.
I have always wanted to see a sumo tournament. You used to be able to stumble across it on cable TV in the off hours years ago. It was fascinating to watch. Sadly, I booked my Japan trip without consulting the sumo schedule. Oh well. Guess I’ll have to go back.
As I have gotten older, my love of American football has been transferred to baseball (go Cubs!) and I jump at the chance to see as many professional games as possible. Last summer, my father and I (mom too) went to many Major League games out on the US West Coast. So when I learned that the baseball season in Japan was beginning about the time of my trip, I made up my mind to try to catch a game.
I was lucky that while I was in Tokyo a Central League series between the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp would be taking place. I hopped the metro one Sunday evening to Meiji Jingu Stadium and was lucky to get a ticket. There was a good crowd and it was a little more than half full of red clad Carp fans. The rest being Swallows fans and a few neutral tourists.
Without a doubt the two biggest differences I saw during the game were the beer ladies (and one guy), and the cheering.
The beer ladies walked the stadium with small kegs on their back in coolers and smiling and waving the whole time, as if they were in a parade or beauty pageant, sold beer to you at your seat!
They wore uniforms indicating the brand of beer they were selling. They also did not scream out “beer!” like the beer guys in the States do. I have to admit, I like this retail scheme much better.
Hiroshima fans travel well apparently. They were vocal doing coordinated cheers and movements. I have never seen anything as involved like it at an American game.
These are the away team fans! They were like that the whole game, which their team won 7-4. I later learned they are the defending Central League Champions. They were cheering during their team’s at-bat, which I would imagine might be a bit distracting to the batter. Apparently not, since the runner leading off on second base scored.
When it came to ballpark snacks the selection let you that you were in Japan with the exception of the BBQ place named for Jack Daniels whiskey. Being from Tennessee, it was easy to feel some home state pride in seeing that 6,000 miles away.
I also spotted this awesome Cup Noodles vending machine at the park. I was too self conscious of my noodle eating with chopsticks to get any. I know, I know, I may never have the chance again. I will practice at home and the NEXT time I’m there, I’ll slurp away.