Saturday, October 3, 2009

Silver Week :: I Went to a Baseball Game

I love baseball. I swear I really do. My passion has waned a bit over the years due to the A's being embarrassingly horrible, living in New York being sandwiched between pompous Yankees fans and depressed Mets fans, and the overexposure of SportsCenter at my former job. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go to a Japanese baseball game and the season is winding down. During Silver Week, roomie and I headed to Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo to watch the Yakult Swallows play the Yomiuri Giants. The Swallows are the less popular team in Tokyo, but I'm kind of a fan. The stadium is small and intimate and this being Japan, had the NICEST outfield scoreboard I have ever seen.

Some Japanese Baseball 101:
  • Baseball teams in Japan are owned by companies. Yakult makes a weird yogurt drink that is very popular in Japan. Yomiuri is a newspaper company. Unlike college bowl games (I'm looking at you Chik-Fil-A), you have to be a pretty legit company to own a baseball team.
  • The Yomiuri Giants are the Yankees of the East. They play at the Tokyo Dome and pretty much have all the good players. The Hanshin Tigers are the Red Sox of the East. They are from Osaka (nemesis of Tokyo) and it pretty much comes down to these two teams for the Japan Series.
  • Japanese baseball fans are super passionate but also respectful. Organized cheering and chanting from the bleachers NEVER stops. It is actually very impressive. More impressive is their following of an unspoken rule that only the batting team's fans chant during the inning.
  • Beer servers run like the wind, wear beer backpacks and are mostly all cute girls or pale skinny pasty guys. We were told by our beer girl that we were "best couple!!!".
The trend in The States right now is gourmet food at stadiums. I can't speak for all of the stadiums, but Meiji Jingu keeps it real. Hot dogs, beer, french fries - check, check and check. You can also get some Japanese staples like Yakisoba, Udon and Octopus Meatballs. Missing were peanuts, cracker jacks and cotton candy, but I'll let it slide. The french fries were pretty much the best I've had EVER - hyperbole intended. Salty, crispy, and oily.

It was a great night at the ballpark. The Giants won, but the home team scored a few runs. Apparently the Swallows' version of the Terrible Towel are tiny pastel umbrellas that they open and lift up and down anytime the Swallows score a run. This was quite a sight for someone that is not in the know. As was this:

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