Things This American Learned About Going To A Japanese Baseball Game
A few years ago, I had the distinct displeasure to be visiting Tokyo during the hot, sticky, humid summer months. This did, however, give me a chance to see a professional baseball game in Meiji Jingu stadium, where the Giants played against the home team, the Swallows. Here’s what I learned about pro Baseball in Japan.
Japanese Professional Baseball teams are named after their corporate sponsors (mostly).
Instead of the San Francisco Giants, it’s the Yomiuri Giants, owned by the Yomiuri Corporation (a media conglomerate). The Swallows, whose uniforms are vaguely reminiscent of the Mets, are owned by Yakult, the people who make that weird yogurt drinky-type thing in the tiny plastic bottles that people sometimes freeze and are all the rage now that pro-biotics are hip.
The Yomiuri Giants are like the Yankees of Japan, and everyone seems to hate them as much as everyone in the US hates the Yankees. Except Yankees fans.
I had a conversation with a very well-spoken English speaking Japanese man after the game, whose face screwed with disdain when the Giants were mentioned. He explained that you either love them, or you hate them. Nothing in between. Yup, pretty much like the Yankees.
Meiji Jingu Stadium was built in 1926
It’s also one of the few remaining professional stadiums in the world that still stand that Babe Ruth once played in!
Seats in a Japanese Baseball stadium are tiny.
I was extremely uncomfortable in these seats. I mean, I get it. I’m a fat gaijin. I’m broad-shouldered, 6' tall. I tower over these folks in the subway and in crowds, but man. These seats humbled me. I literally could not sit back in the seat- I had to sit up at the edge so I didn’t cause my neighbors discomfort. But the good news is, the vertical rise between rows was so good, I wasn’t blocking the view of the people behind me!
They serve beer at the seats!
Okay, so I’ve heard that there are indeed ballparks that do this in the US as well, but I’ve only been to the Oakland Coliseum and AT&T Park. If you want a beer, unless you’re in the nice, expensive seats with seat service, you get up and get your damn beer. Here, they have women running around with like, pony-kegs on their back, serving beer at your seat. Score one for Japan.
The away-fans sit on the 3rd base side. The home fans side on the 1st base side.
No, really, no bullshit. In fact, this became a point of embarrassment when we arrived! See, we can’t read Japanese, and the tickets had 3 numbers. The first, we gathered, was a section. The second was a row, the last a seat. But apparently the part we missed is the Japanese bit that describes “Home” or “Away” side. We didn’t notice there was duplication of the section numbers, and we ended up on the “Home” side when we had “Away” side tickets. After getting the Japanese X-arms of Death (bonus: this explains the emoji), we were told “Away side!” and pointed in the direction of the opposite end of the stadium.
The rabid hardcore fans bring their own instruments, play fight songs, and sit in the “bleacher” sections.
I’m not bullshitting you.
There’s some finer rules about when to cheer and when to be quiet depending on which side you’re on, and from what I’ve seen of European soccer matches (Sorry Europeans, it’s soccer to us Americans), it’s vaguely similar. I didn’t figure out all of the rules, but it basically seemed to boil down to a side only being allowed to cheer when their team was up to bat.
They sell away-team merchandise!
This was lucky for me, since I was there to see the Giants. I scored a few wacky trinkets for the fiancée, the child, and myself. Go Giants!
Everyone has a goddamn towel around their neck.
And there’s a reason. Holy shit is it humid in the summer in Tokyo sometimes. We were hitting the low 90’s at night with no sun, 100% humidity, and off-and-on sprinkling. That towel comes in handy to wipe the waterfall of sweat that’s going to pour off of your forehead.