This is the fifth in a series of blog posts describing my experiences as part of the 2011 Keizai Koho Center Fellowship Program.
|My new favorite Japanese Baseball player|
|Poster promoting the game we attended|
One of the things I hoped to have an opportunity to do while in Japan was watch a major league Japanese baseball game. This ultimately was a reality because of the generosity of my host family. A week prior to visiting Japan my host family contacted me to see what I would like to do during my homestay in Japan. I replied to Noriko, my host, and explained that if possible I would love to attend a game. She said it would be possible to attend a game on July 3rd at Osaka.
Noriko, Mizuki (Noriko’s niece) and I took a combination of subways and trains from Kyoto to Osaka to watch the Osaka Orix Buffaloes and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks play at the Kyocera Osaka Dome. The teams in Japan are sponsored by companies and the corporate names are included in the name of the team – Orix sponsors the Osaka team and SoftBank sponsors the Fukuoka team. The Osaka Orix Buffaloes are the team Ichiro Suzuki played for in Japan before coming to the United States to become an All-Star with the Seattle Marines. Ichiro is one of my favorite players to watch and there were a ton of advertisements in the stadium featuring him promoting a Japanese brand of beer.
|I met these super fans for the Osaka team prior to the game|
|The couple which sold us our tickets to the game|
We arrived at the Osaka Dome looking to get tickets for the game. We wanted to get some cheap tickets so we went to the area of the stadium where the general admission seats are sold for the game. We were just walking up to the ticket booth to buy some tickets, which cost about 1,500 yen each, when a family approached us and asked if we were looking to buy tickets. Noriko explained that we did want to buy some tickets. The family explained they had some extra tickets since their friend was unable to make it today. He offered to sell us two tickets for 1,000 yen – about $8 in U.S. currency. We agreed and then when he saw we needed a total of three tickets he gave us the third one for free and then handed me the jersey the team was giving away that day. I was so thrilled to get the tickets and the free jersey that I told him thanks in Japanese repeatedly and asked to take a picture with his family. We were in!
|Enjoying the game with my host family|
We entered the stadium and found it to be very much like any domed stadium in the United States – fans milling around, concession stands and places to buy souvenirs. I went to the souvenir stand to get some items to take home. I saw many fans walking around with a large towel they wore around their neck which had the team name and featured the name and number of their favorite player. I decided I needed one of these so I bought one with the name of my new adopted favorite player in Japan – #9 Tomotaka Sakaguchi of the Osaka Buffaloes. I also found a team autographed baseball with Sakaguchi’s signature. I also picked up a couple of game programs for free. The programs were really cool and even gave directions for specific team songs and chants as well as directions for waving your towel in a certain manner.
|Shopping for souvenirs at the game|
|View from our seats in the upper deck, slightly right field|
The concourse was full of food options included a hot dog stand, traditional Japanese cuisine (including octopus and sushi), a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a McDonald’s. I had not yet tried a burger at a McDonald’s in Japan and the other options didn’t appeal to me so I decided this was the time to do a taste comparison. I got a Big Mac, fries and a Coke. The Big Mac tasted pretty close the same as in the states with the exception of maybe a little more pepper on the patty. My hosts also got burgers at McDonald’s.
|McDonald's concession stand inside Osaka Dome|
We reached our seats, the first row of the upper deck of the Osaka Stadium just to the left of center field. It was much like an American game except for the dressed up samurai warriors running around the field and the chanting from the fans. The fans for the opponent were louder than their home counterparts. They had a band with drums and trumpets while waving several very large team flags. The fans also did a unique celebration using different colored balloons. At the end of the 6th inning half of the stadium blew up large yellow balloons and then between innings on cue half of the stadium let them go, causing them to fly in the air a short distance and then fall to the ground. The action was repeated in the middle of the 7th with the opposite side of the stadium doing the same thing with pink balloons. I had never seen anything like it at an American stadium.
|Fans prepare for the pink balloon launch at the game|
The game was a defensive battle with the score at 1-0 in favor of Osaka when we had to leave in the 8th inning to catch the train back to Kyoto in time. The game itself wasn’t really all that different than one in the states with the exception of a more bunt attempts. Each team had a couple of American players each and the starting pitcher for Osaka was an American. It was fun day at the ballpark and I’m glad that I can say that I was able to attend a game in Japan and I have a new favorite player to follow in Japan.
|Enjoying a ice cream helmet sundae at the game|