I know almost nothing about baseball (or any sports for that matter) but one of the things I wanted to do in Japan is go to a Japanese baseball game. Baseball is HUGE in Japan. People are serious about their team. Very serious. And I don’t think anyone loves their team more than Osaka loves the Hanshin Tigers.
Tigers fans are known as perhaps the most fanatical and dedicated fans in all of Japanese professional baseball. They often outnumber the home team fans at Tigers “away” games. Tigers fans also have a reputation for rough behavior and a willingness to brawl with other fans or with each other, although long fights are rare. A famous Tigers fan tradition is the release, by the fans, of hundreds of air-filled balloons immediately following the seventh inning stretch and the singing of the Tigers’ fight song. This tradition is carried-out at all home and away games, except at games against the Yomiuri Giants in the Tokyo Dome due to the Giants’ notoriously authoritarian and heavy-handed rules for controlling behavior by visiting fans. The Tigers-Giants rivalry is considered the national Japanese rivalry, on par with the New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball.
So the obvious choice was to go to a Tigers vs Giants game at the famous Koshien Stadium! We bought tickets from the kiosk at Family Mart, but it’s all in Japanese so your mileage may vary. I think you can also buy them online. If you’re going to a game, I’d also make a stop at the Tigers shop to pick up bats and balloons. You’ll have a much better time if you do!
Like everything in Japan, the Tigers have cute mascots.
As we headed to our seats, we got some food and beer. Japanese stadiums have regular American-style stadium food (hot dogs, french fries), but also stuff like yakitori and sushi. I noticed a lot of people had brought their own bentos and I was kind of jealous.
That section across the stadium where everyone is wearing orange is the very small collection of Giants fans.
Flag-waving before the game started. The stadium ended pretty much 100% packed. People are hardcore about their team.
Even Rilakkuma is a Tigers fan!
Bats = more fun than clapping. Why mine are leopard print instead of tiger, who knows. It’s insane (to me), but every player on the team has his own song and somehow EVERYONE KNOWS ALL THE WORDS TO IT. For example, here’s the song for Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and the one for Kosuke Fukudome. Everyone will chant the song and bang their sticks the entire time a player is up to bat. Once the guys beside us realized that I wasn’t actually Japanese, they tried to teach us some of the cheers. Some of them are pretty complicated, but enthusiasm matters more than accuracy in Japan. OOOOOOO NI-SHI-O-KA! OOOOOOO TSU-YO-SHI!
Wearing my Tigers ears!
A packed Koshien Stadium.
Balloons: very important.
Another Tigers tradition is the 7th inning balloon release. Everyone blows up Tigers ballons and lets them go all at once.
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee! It’s pretty cool to see.
And then all that’s left is a million balloons for someone to clean up. And they do this at EVERY GAME.
Poor balloon clean up people.
Here’s a video of the Tigers song, which is apparently popular enough in the Kansai area that people sing it at karaoke.
Yeah, so the score was 0 the entire time and the game finally ended after TWELVE INNINGS in a tie. At least the Tigers didn’t lose…
I still don’t really understand baseball, but I totally want to go to another game before I leave. The fans are just so into it, it becomes fun even though I usually find sports extremely boring. I’ve been to baseball games in Canada and they’re nothing like this. Plus, how can I not like something that involves wearing fuzzy ears and eating Japanese food?
If you ever find yourself in Japan during baseball season, definitely check out a game — even if you don’t like baseball or fuzzy ears. (And remember to buy balloons if it’s a Tigers game.)