Baseball may be America’s favourite pastime but since the 1950’s, the Japanese have taken the game to their hearts and it has become a big part of their culture. The Japan Pro Baseball league consists of 12 teams, with two of the most popular teams being Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo and the Hanshin Tigers from Osaka. Their rivalry matching the New York Yankees and the Boston RedSox of the American Major League.
A holiday to Japan during the months of March to October should include a baseball game even if you’re not a baseball fan. The crowd will keep you enthralled till the end, especially if you attend a Hanshin game. Their fans are known to be the wildest, sometimes fighting with the oppositions and even amongst themselves. In 1985 after winning their only Japan Championships, fans jumped from a bridge into the toxic Dotonbori River. Tiger fans often out number the home team fans at Tigers “Away” games.
During August Hanshin Tigers games are moved from Koshien Stadium to Kyocera Dome because of a month-long high school baseball tournament that grips the nation, similar to March Madness in America. Recently, we attended the Hanshin Tigers vs Hiroshima Carps game at Kyocera. Having been to Koshien numerous times there seemed to be a different atmosphere even though the crowd was buzzing with excitement. it wasn’t electrifying like you feel at Koshien Stadium. We’re not the only ones to think like this as Tomoaki Kanemoto, a former Hanshin Tiger player has said “That it feels like we are playing in a gym when we play at Kyocera”.
The game started off with an eruption of singing, chanting and the beating of fans clanking two batten like plastic sticks together, for a first timer at a Japanese game, it would feel like you are watching a soccer game in Europe instead of baseball.
The game didn’t start so well with Hanshin’s starting pitcher Minoru Iwata giving up 5 runs in the first inning and then Mathew Murton, a former Chicago Cubs player going absolutely ballistic arguing with the umpire over balls/strikes calls before getting ejected in the 2nd inning.
Baseball in America have their rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game at the bottom of the 7th innings, while in Japan balloons of their team colours get blown up and released, deflating in the air, thousand’s of balloons come falling down. The crowd sing in their raucous voice their clubs theme song.
Though Hanshin Tigers went down 7-1, the crowd fully supported the team to the end with only a few leaving before the game ended. Baseball in Japan for the fans is just not about winning or loosing. It’s about having fun and that’s exactly what it will be singing, chanting amongst the die-hard Hanshin fans.
How to Buy Tickets.
The best way to buy tickets for a baseball game in Japan is through ticketing agents PIA, similar to Ticketmaster. They have branches throughout Japan. You can also buy tickets through convenience stores such as Lawson, Familymart or 7-11.
It is possible to purchase tickets on the day at the game but most Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants games are sold out so I can’t guarantee you’ll get a ticket but other teams it shouldn’t be too difficult to get tickets for at the game.