Lots of stuff has happened in a short period of time recently so I'm going to be writing about some things a little after the fact. First up — our first trip to a Hiroshima Toyo Carp professional baseball game.
The beloved Carp are playing their last year in Hiroshima Shimin stadium in the heart of downtown. A new stadium is under construction near Hiroshima Station. I wanted to make sure we caught a game before the old stadium met the wrecking ball.
So on Sunday, July 6, we packed up some sunblock and a couple beers in a soft cooler and headed downtown to see the Carp take on the Yakult Swallows from Tokyo.
I expected it to be a strange sort of de ja vu. You see, the Carp have the exact same red uniforms and "C" logo as the Cincinnati Reds back home. And, in some sort of hilarious cosmic joke, they are also huge losers just like the Reds. My first thought was, "Well, is it any wonder they're not vicious fighters when they're named after a big icky fish?" Turns out that in Japanese culture, the carp is actually a symbol of strength and perseverance. Rather fitting for a team that formed five years after the atomic bomb obliterated the city. So I guess blame for the team's losing nature will have to be placed elsewhere — like the players.
As it turned out, the Swallows' record was about as bad as the Carp, so there was some hope the Carp might just flip its bad karma the bird and pull out a win for the home team. That's what I was hoping for when Joe and I trooped into the stadium with my supervisor and a couple new friends we've recently been hanging out with, Katie and Jason. Through some blog networking, I found Katie's blog and discovered she lives downtown and moved here a few weeks after me, she's my age, and she's also from the Dayton area. We got together a few weeks ago for the first time and saw Indiana Jones (the first movie Joe and I'd seen in Japan — the theater was really nice, basically the same as back home) and we've gotten together a couple times since then.
We'd planned to get seats in one area behind home plate for 2000 yen (20 bucks) but they were sold out, so we ended up forking over 3500 ($35) a piece for the tickets, which made me cringe a bit because it hurt our wallet but also because it practically doubled the price that I'd quoted to Katie and Jason.
The silver lining was that we actually were seated below the second deck, which meant we spent most of the game in the shade while everyone else roasted in the afternoon sun. It was over 90 degrees when the game started at 1:30, and I'm sure it just got hotter. The sun in Japan is really brutal. You can feel OK in the shade, but as soon as you step into the sun, it feels like you're in an oven. So we lucked out with the seats. Here's the view from where we sat:
The cool thing about Shimin stadium is its small size. It is actually the smallest professional baseball stadium in Japan, which is probably why it sees more home runs than any other stadium. It rather reminded me of the stadium that the Dayton Dragons play in. We felt really close to the field and players even though our seats were almost at the back of the first deck.
The fans seated in the outfield were the liveliest, always participating in coordinated cheers with standing and sitting and chanting of players' names. Our section was pretty tame, though. There was no heckling or obnoxious behavior, but they still did their share of cheering, especially when the Carp scored, which prompted everyone to pump their fists and cry "Bonzai!!!"
And instead of the traditional "Take me out to the ball game" song, they sing a traditional fight song during the seventh inning stretch. Everyone blows up these long pink phallic looking balloons and waves them around during the song. At the end they let go and the balloons go spiraling up into the sky and rain back down onto the crowd. That was pretty cool.
I forgot my video camera, but I found someone else's video on YouTube:
They also played the Chicken Dance and that obnoxious Black Eyed Peas song, "Lady Lumps." I had to roll my eyes at that. Actually, I was really hoping to hear the Japanese sing along to that one, given the trouble they have saying R sounds instead of L sounds, hehehe. No such luck.
Here's the Carp mascot leading the YMCA. No, the mascot isn't a carp. It's some sort of blue dinosaur named Slyly. Ronald McDonald also made an appearance to rally the crowd.
Prices were pretty reasonable at the game. A draft beer went for 400 yen ($4). If memory serves correct, a beer at the Reds game I attended in 2003 was $6.50.
They had beer girls wandering through the stands with mini kegs on their backs. Pretty nifty, huh? They need to adopt these in the U.S.! I wish we had these in college. I would've been the most popular person at parties.
Fans also have the option to buy nomihodai (all you can drink) rights when they purchase their tickets. Not sure of the price but I believe that adds somewhere around 2000 yen ($20) to the cost of your ticket.
I didn't see anyone munching on hot dogs or peanuts, but Joe did buy a cup of popcorn while we were there. I saw other fans eating udon (Japanese noodles). This cute little truck made the rounds marketing ramen noodles between innings, though I can't imagine they were selling much of it given the heat.
The Carp ended up losing 5-3, so I guess I had the true Carp experience. It was a good one.