ShaneBlog

Stuff I write. Don't take it too seriously.

Japan's favorite pastime

May 6, 2013

the intensity in Meiji Jengu Stadium was palpable
the intensity in Meiji Jengu Stadium was palpable

After getting horribly lost, I sadly only had one night left in Tokyo.

I contacted Rogers, my friend and local guru, for some ideas on how to spend it. There was really only one good option – go see some Japanese baseball.

Tokyo Swallows: the Mets of Japan

Rogers is a die hard fan of the Tokyo Swallows. That night, I'd like to think of myself as an honorary die hard fan of the Tokyo Swallows too.

You might think that, being from Tokyo, the Swallows must be a good team. Well… the they aren't the only baseball team in Tokyo. They're the malnourished and unloved younger brother to their in-town rival, the Tokyo Giants. The Swallows are sort of like the Mets (or Clippers, we hope) of Japan.

Luckily, that night they were playing a more manageable opponent: the Hiroshima Carp, second worst team in the league.

Stadium food

Even in Japan, no baseball game is complete without some greasy, delicious stadium food. You won't find your standard chicken tenders and hot dogs here. They had some stuff that was a little more… Japanese:

octopus balls, topped off with Japanese bbq sauce, mayo, and seaweed flakes
octopus balls, topped off with Japanese bbq sauce, mayo, and seaweed flakes

this literally translates to "assorted wieners"
this literally translates to "assorted wieners"

Cheering section

Japanese baseball fans know how to cheer. If you thought learning the fight song for your college team was tough, try learning a separate cheer for each player on your team. Tack on a couple team cheers that resemble anime theme songs – and you have the cheering repertoire of a Japanese baseball fan.

I barely knew how to pronounce the cheers much less memorize them, so I just made up some English sounding gibberish to fill in the blanks. The regulars around us didn't seem to mind. I think partially because they appreciated our SEC style intensity.

Scrub in the MLB, hero in Japan

after a run, everyone pops out their umbrellas for a cheer
after a run, everyone pops out their umbrellas for a cheer

One of the most well used cheers was for their beloved player, Valentine. Valentine is a hefty black slugger on a team of mostly skinny Japanese dudes. He was the only guy who seemed to be able to hit home runs. He'd probably be a no-name player on any MLB team, but on the Swallows, he is a hero. He's a hero with his own theme song – sung loudly, over and over, every game.

If I was a struggling MLB player, I'd take a look at Japan. It's got its perks.

All for win! All for win!

all for win, all for win, all for win
all for win, all for win, all for win

To make things so much better, the game was a thriller. The Swallows were up early, but the Carp pounced back into the lead in the 7th. A timely homer by Valentine sent the game into extra innings.

It was the bottom of the 12th and the Carp were up by one. In Japanese baseball, the game ends in a tie after if it's still tied after twelve innings. So the Swallows needed two runs this inning to win. It was looking grim considering they hadn't scored a run in five.

But they weren't gonna give up that easy. Their motto is "All for win" after all. They scored one to tie it up. Now they had a man on second with Valentine up to bat. The stadium was cheered with passion (a little Japanglish, added for flavor).

BOOM! Valentine struck one deep out into left field. The man on second stormed in for a run.

The stadium exploded. In a haze of glory, Rogers and I were recklessly throwing out high fives and hugging all the fans around us. The whole time we were chanting "All for win, all for win, all for win!"

I couldn't have planned a better experience for my only night in Tokyo.

More Japan to come,
-Shane

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