Friday, May 12, 2006

Play Ball!

are you ready boys..?
are you ready boys..?
originally uploaded by transient worker.
Yes the All-American past time is also a fanatically followed sport in this little neck of the woods aswell. Hiroshima however, has been suffering from a case of "not-enough-money-to-keep-their-top-players-and-as-a-consequence-are-
permanently-at-the-bottom-end-of-the-table" syndrome, (and as there are only six teams in their competition, this is quite a feat). They can pull out the odd surprise of course as witnessed by yours truly and a few other thousand last Friday.

Picture, if you will....
An amazingly beautiful day, a clear azul sky, the sun beating down, people laughing, kids running, a general feeling of wellness... Then throw into the mix a handful of melting gaijin (non-Japanese)! Yes it was a beautiful day but... DAMN!! The humidity must have been about 200%!! (a slight embellishment but you get the idea) We decided late to go to the "ballgame" so by the time we arrived at round 1pm(ish) the line for tickets was about 30mins long (or more). And so began the tagteam line holding game. It was too hot to stay put for too long so the smart (or perhaps weak?) gaijin kept trading places in the shade. It was a good ploy as the locals in front of us dropped off one by one and the waiting time got shorter. We were joined by a Japanese doctor friend just before we reached the ticket window...

An aside here- it seems that in Japan the doctors are given a license to prescribe a certain amount of "MaryJane" for medicinal purposes, I'm not sure how often this is allowed but the silly boy (hearing a chuckle here) told us; a bunch of antipodeans!! As you can imagine he now gets the ol' nudge and wink and the hand out whenever he sees us, the poor boy- if only he'd known I don't think he'd ever have told us (picture rueful shaking of the head). Oh and he just informed us the same applies for morphine...! By gum! Will the wonders never cease!

But back to the baseball... All the cheap seats were gone so we ended up paying Y3200 (roughly USD32) which was met with a "what-the-hell" shrug of the shoulders attitude, and what do you know- our expensive seats were in the shade. Score!! As we had reached our decision to come late, we missed the first innings in which Hiroshima had scored a grand slam. Typical! We as fans were then subjected to a bunch of runs scored by the opposition. We were beginning to regret our cavalier attitude towards the ticket price and decided to partake in the liquid amber type of consolation. Then lo' and behold the 6th innings arrives and wonder of all wonders Hiroshima scores!! Hurrah! We were finally able to do some "in yer face" cheering!

A note on Japanese baseball fans cheering...
There is a chant that is "sung" whenever your team is up to bat; "Ka-to-ba-se (insert name here), (name), (name), (name), (naameeeee)", basically its saying your usual "C'mon!" "Hit the ball!", that type of thing. Example: Kimura- top player so... "Ka-to-ba-se Kimura, Kimura, Kimura, Kimuraaaaa!" This is done while beating drums are going, you are going up and down much like and out of time Mexican wave, and colourful implements of appropriate teams are being gesticulated wildly in front of you. Its fantastic!! And so polite! And so organised! In what would be considered the equivalent of the "terraces" in NZ, there is a band of 3 men coordinating the cheering efforts, timed to perfection, a spectacular sight to see! There's no heckling of the opposition players or fans, and you only cheer when your team is at bat. Believe me it has to be seen to be believed. Of course the lack of heckling stance doesn't apply to slightly inebriated gaijin who decide to liven things up by teaching their Japanese friends the afore mentioned art. Due to all the movie images you would imagine that "banzai" is a relatively common phrase. But the only time I've actually heard a Japanese individual say "Banzai!" was at the ballgame. And only after a home run had been scored. The run is celebrated by some Japanese phrases I don't know and then "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!" while throwing your hands up in the air. Who knew cheering was so complicated?

So onto the beginning of the 7th innings and the Hiroshima fans break into song- the team song. Of which we could only sing the chorus "Kaapu, Kaapu, Kaapu Hiroshima! Hiroshi-ii-ma Ka-ah-pu!" At the end of the song balloons are released into the air accompanied by wild squeals both from the crowd and the balloons.

In case you're wondering the Hiroshima team name is "Carp". Not "Hiroshima Carp", not "The Carp", not "The Carps", not "Carps", just "Carp". And they have an interesting yet strange mascot, not a fish, not a man, not anything easily discernible really. Fantastic!

By games end, we had downed quite a few bevvies, were feeling awfully happy and in need of a feed. So an "okonomiyaki" hunt was set in motion. In Hiroshima this is the equivalent to the Kiwis "McD's-after-a-hard-night-out" and the Pommy "curry-to-a-pisshead" solution to hunger pangs. A wonderful conglomeration of veges and other healthy stuff that tastes decidedly unhealthy due to the mound of mayonnaise and sauce piled on it. "Mmmmm... Okonomiyaki" (a la Homer Simpson).

With bellies full, we embarked on drinking hole search. I had been thwarted in my attempts to patron one establishment, but it was not to happen again! So with purposeful strides I marched our merry group towards a new hole in the wall with quite a stylely interior, and as luck would have it the more reluctant ones were persuaded by the cheap beer prices. They served very good food, put up with gaijin drunkards and their embarrassed Japanese companions and provided us with a perfect end to a perfect day. Marvellous!

Take me out to the ball game....


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