The overlaps between the United States and Japan are far and few between. Luckily, one of those overlaps is baseball! With the help of my cousin and her friends, we were able to secure tickets for the Yomiuri Giants against the Yokohama Baystars during our time in Tokyo.
The day leading up to the game was filled with excitement and anticipation. We took an early JR train to the Suidobashi station, so we could peruse the Tokyo Dome City. After checking out a few shops and grabbing a quick bite (why do we keep buying takoyaki when its not even that good), the gates opened and we were inside the Tokyo Dome!
I’d never been inside of a baseball dome, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the Tokyo Dome was a pretty nice venue. Although Tokyo Dome isn’t as large as the American ballparks I’ve been to, the fans more than made up for it with their cheers and energy.
One thing that immediately struck me was the ballpark food. The quality and variety of food available was amazing. The food ranged from traditional Japanese bento to hot dogs and fries. The beer…. oh and the beer.
Every ballpark should and does serve ice cold beer. The twist that Japanese ballparks introduce is the method of delivery. The preferred method of delivery in Japan is beer girls.
At the start of the game, a fleet of girls with kegs strapped to their backs exit the tunnels and spread out across the stadium. For the rest of the game, they patrol the rows serving ice cold beer to fans for 800 yen. The girls are even color-coded by the brand of beer they’re serving. The girl in the photo above was an Asahi girl. Beware of which one you order from, you might just end up with a cup full of fruity chuhai, as Kerr found out the hard way.
Let’s just say Asahi goes down very smoothly, and stacking cups became a thing of pride.
The game itself was a blast. Fans are extremely prideful and there are fight songs chanted throughout the game. The hometown Giants got out to an early lead, but the Baystars fought back to tie it up and send the game to extra innings. Jetlag and copious amounts of beer had me on the verge of falling of sleep, but before I could completely make a fool of myself, the Giants ended the game with a walk-off homerun. This was easily one of the highlights of our trip.
A week later, when we arrived in Hiroshima, the first thing we did was check to see if the Hiroshima Carp baseball team was in town. We immediately headed to Mazda Stadium to purchase tickets. After a brief conversation with the cashier, we purchased tickets on the first-baseline for only ~$60.
As we walked around the city prior to the game, we were able to see the sense of pride the city had for its team. There were children and elderly wearing Carp gear and doing the Hiroshima equivalent to shouting “Go Bears” to a stranger.
Finally, the game started, and it was even better than our experience at the Tokyo Dome. There was a similar feel to the game, but the Carp game felt more intimate and personal. The Hiroshima fans were more spirited than the Yomiuri Giant fans, and we began to bond with the people around us. A middle-aged couple even offered us some dried squid to snack on! Arigatou gozaimasu!
We soon were informed that the game was even more special, as it was the final game for a fan favorite, Ken Takahashi. American baseball fans may recognize Takahashi from his brief time with the New York Mets, but he is an established figure in Japanese baseball. As the end of the game drew near, fans were on their feet and showed their appreciation. The love and pride the fans had for their team and players showed as they looked on with eyes welling with tears and emotion.
At the end of the game, Takahashi made a speech and circled the stadium to bid his fans farewell. I was glad we had gone out on a whim and attended the game in Hiroshima. We were able to share something with the locals that we had a fondness for and the locals had an intense pride in.
Just as you can experience another’s culture through its food, I believe we learned just as much through our shared experience in sports.