GO! GO! GO! Hanshin TIGERS!
We grabbed the train to Osaka and then hurried to make it to the ballpark in time to catch the first pitch of the Hanshin Tigers playing the Tokyo Swallows (really? There wasn't a better name than that, Tokyo?)
There is no parking lot at the stadium, only a train station, and all together we forced ourselves off the car, down the platform, and into the ballpark. I had been excited for this since I heard of it. I wanted to catch a game last time I was in Tokyo, but it was not to be. Now here, just outside of Osaka – at one of the most important stadiums in the country – I was ready to watch two teams I'd never heard of duke it out.
As soon as the first pitch was thrown the crowds started to scream. When Tokyo was up to bat their supporters screamed out at the players, and when the Tigers were up, the staudium errupted with the voices of over forty thousand people screaming things I could not understand.
Stew found a noise making bat for me, and I made my own fun slapping it in my palm along with the songs. This was baseball as it should be. Loud, noisy, with everyone involved. While there was no announcer to say who was up next, there didn't need to be. Every player had their own chant, and it was instantly obvious.
When one of the Swallows came up to bat the supporters all pulled out Canadian flags and started to wave them in the air, some members playing Oh! Canada on the brass instruments they'd brought.
Each time this Canadian player walked up to the plate they repeated this. Except the one time I tried to film them. That was one time they let it go. Ugh.
They played like a AAA team, meaning things happened. There were errors, exciting plays, and you were never sure what would happen next. Out on the grass, under the bright lights, I knew I was seeing baseball as I'd imagined it as a small child.
There was another way that they perfected baseball here. You could not do the Wave. Signs were up. Anyone attempting the activity could be removed from the ballpark. I think we need to add this to North American rules to. And while you couldn't do that during the 7th inning, everyone blew up giant phallic balloons and shot them off into the sky. Wave bad, flying erections? Just fine. Oh Japan!
Once the Tiger's won the game, fans stayed in their seats, taking part in the post game karaoke ritual. It was fantastic and wonderful. But that's when it hit me – all this fun was regimented and structured. Everyone chanted the same cheers, yelled the same thing. It was only I who broke from that to scream other things. And during the clapping chants, everyone stopped clapping at just the right second. Only or group let loose an awkward after-clap.
Perhaps this was not baseball at its best. Everything that seemed so random and strange and exciting was really predetermined long before we took our seats.
I'll have to think more on this.
On the way to the train to take us back to Osaka we passed KFC. A very special KFC. Inside a magic life-preservation tube is a statue of the colonel all white and chipped. You see, it is protected as it carries a terrible curse. True story.
After the Tiger's took their first championship fans got rowdy, stole the colonel and threw him in the river. They never won a championship again, except for the year someone tried to fish it out and died in the process. That death allowed them a win that year. Recently it was pulled out, and the championship winning can continue. But the people here know not to mess with that statue now.
Back in Osaka we headed out to explore the nightlife. This is a city that is made for tourists – but domestic ones more than foreign I think.
Large lit up objects put Shinjuku to shame. There were dancing crabs, angry chef faces, people running that played music on the hour. It was a fantastic wonderful place, which also offered a Disney Store (Tonia and I squealed in glee – becoming crushed to learn it had already closed.)
Bright lights, big city. This was the location where we would leave our friend Stew behind. He was off to catch a flight to Shanghai, China. And he would be missed. Before we left, I set my camera to take a group shot, saying I needed to wait until no one was around to steal it. I joke of course, as there is so little crime in Japan. Of course that's when a bunch of bikers started to hang around. Sigh. Why do I bother talking some time?
We took our Christian Rock photo, all looking different directions, and then Stew made his exit.
For us, Osaka still offered tasty treats, and far too many bright lights than we could ever grow accustomed to.
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