Hanshin Tigers!

Baseball time!

Not just any baseball. Baseball at Koshien stadium in Osaka Hyogo prefecture.

Just look at the crowd! Everyone decked out in their Tiger gear, chanting together, staring at the crazy gaijin facing the wrong direction with his camera… I LOVE THIS PLACE!

I know a Canadian guy who has been to every single MLB stadium in the US, and most of the stadiums in Japan. He says he likes Koshien the best.

This place is positive energy pure and simple. I love it! This is my third time to Koshien. I came once for another Hanshin game a few years ago, and once again for high school baseball. High school baseball is a big deal in Japan, and the final games are played at Koshien. Getting to Koshien is the pinnacle of a high school baseball players career. After the matches are over, the high school players will scoop up the dirt from the stadium and take it home… It’s big.

This time I went with my wife and her dad, and her little brother. Her dad managed to get us 3rd row tickets out by left field. Not the best location to view the pitching or the batter… But perfect to view the Hanshin Tigers fans.

This guy is a friend of my wife’s dad. He happened to acquire this old school Hanshin Tigers Happi-Jersey and was showing it off for the camera. I’m not sure exactly what year this particular design is from, but he says it must be 10 or 20 years old. Ballpark figure it seems. (I’m too funny.)

By the way, if you plan to come to Japan and check out a Hanshin Tigers game, be sure to pick up some Hanshin gear so you’ll fit into the pre-defined Hanshin fan mold that is so prominent here.

If you need to pick gear up before you get to the country… you can buy Hanshin Tigers baseball hats and Tigers T-shirts on Amazon! This is surprising. I don’t know why they’re available there… But they are. Who in the US knows the Hanshin Tigers? Any Japanese person from Osaka, or otherwise Hanshin fan who saw a foreigner wearing one of these shirts or hats abroad would probably flip.

There was a grandmother sitting beside me with her two grand kids. She told me that she has been coming to Koshien from a time soon after the war ended, and said that back then, things were not this lively. When the home team scored, she said you were lucky if you could get the crowd clapping. I can’t imagine what it must have been like “back in the day”, a bunch of kimono clad women and their husbands calmly watching the game perhaps? (update: A friend tells me that Dave Barry Does Japan mentions Japanese baseball games are eerily quiet… Could this change from rush hour train silence to Hanshin-style euphoria be so recent??)

At Koshien, “the wave” is not allowed.

I have heard two theories for this…

Stadium Structural Integrity Theory:

Koshien was not built with the wave in mind. The sudden stress on the stadium structure from the crowd doing the wave might break the stadium. Hrm…

The Noise Theory:

Koshien is a bit close to residential areas it seems. The noise from the wave is too much, and residents would complain. To support this theory… At Koshien after 10pm, the trumpets that the cheer-boys use are put away, and they must resort to their plastic cones and more conventional noise-makers. However, of course the crowd is still going full on…

Despite this, apparently occasionally you can see the wave being performed at Koshien… Though it is very rare.

The fans! This girl is the daughter of my wife’s… dad’s… friend…. Long connection. The point is, I don’t know her. Yet she gave me some extra Hanshin Tigers clappers so that I could join in on the cheers! What a sweet kid!

Her bratty brother on the other hand, spent most of the time trying to shine that annoying light in my face… Heh.

Of course, I wasn’t totally unprepared. I had a Hanshin Tigers towel, and I bought balloons at the door, which I shared with the kids in return. Excellent. Nothing like a little give and take huh?

The famous 7th inning balloon… thing.

Oh, I almost forgot, there was a baseball game going on too.

Hanshin tied the Hiroshima Carps 3-3… They lost when they played them again the next day. Defeat… Argh.

The paper on the ground in the aftermath there is a script which details the specific chants that are assigned to each player. I’ll look them up and post about them later. A Japanese lady sitting in front of us had printed the paper off the internet and brought it along so she could chant with the rest of the fans. Is that hardcore or what?

Related posts, I was at doutonbori when Hanshin won the championship in 2005. Here is a post from the high school baseball event at Koshien.

I want more tickets. They’re fairly hard to come by though… Maybe some day I’ll get season tickets and become a true Hanshin fan.

– Harvey