Friday, October 31, 2003
Take me out to a Japanese baseball game
Dave and Natalie Ives recently returned from a three-week visit to Japan. One evening, they attended a baseball game in Hiroshima with their guide and interpreter, Keiko Odagawa, and two other couples.
Hiroshima has had a vivid place in our minds since August 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay B29 bomber dropped the first atomic bomb, destroying the city and instantly killing tens of thousands of people. The death toll rose to 180 - 200,000 over the following years as after-effects took hold. There will be much solemn reflection over the next few days, but for tonight, Keiko suggests, "Let's go to the baseball game!" This is a special treat, as we were advised by a friend back in Carlisle to "make sure you see a Japanese baseball game." How can it be that different? we wonder, as we head to the local supermarket to buy sandwiches and bottles of soft drinks. Keiko brings several boxes of Japanese fried chicken to share and we hop on a trolley and head for the ball park. We disembark in front of the stadium and directly across the street is the symbol of death and destruction that I've seen pictured all my life — the A-bomb dome building.
Tickets 3,200 yen apiece
The home team Hiroshima Carp is playing the Chunichi Dragons tonight and we buy seats in the front row off third base for 3,200 yen (c.$32) apiece (you only go around once in this life — buy the best seats). There's no visible security as we walk through the gates loaded down with our picnic supplies. The first thing we notice after taking our seats is there's no infield grass — it's black dirt. "What's infield grass?" Keiko asks. The game begins immediately and we ask Keiko why they don't sing the Japanese National Anthem. "It's too sad," she says. "They don't sing it at festive occasions." Meanwhile the stands have erupted with bugles, trumpets, police whistles, drums and chanting. One group of fans is shaking pom-poms and others are waving huge team flags on long poles. The trumpets synchronize into songs and bass drums echo from one side of the field to the other. Can you imagine showing up at Fenway Park with a bass drum? The fans chant and jump up and down in time with the drumbeats, and it sounds like when someone has just scored a touchdown at a college football game. All this and the first batter hasn't stepped up to the plate yet! How long can they keep up this frenzy, we wonder. As it turns out, this cacophony continues throughout the entire game! There is never a time when "the crowd quiets down" like we see at Fenway and we wonder where the fans get all that energy.
Soup between innings
A giant TV screen hovers over the stadium and a roving camera picks out some of the fans between innings. Suddenly Keiko yells and we look up to see ourselves on the giant screen. "Look at the funny Americans!" as one member of our group stands up and does the shimmy. There's a Japanese father with his young son sitting next to us and he goes off for some food between innings. We expect him to return with a couple of dogs and some fries, but instead he brings back two bowls of steaming noodles, which they proceed to eat with chopsticks as the game continues. The seventh inning stretch comes, and the fans all stand and join in singing "The Carp Song," after which they release hundreds of untied balloons that fizzle their way into the sky and drop back into the stands. It all ends happily with the Carp (don't laugh — we have fish teams too, like the Marlins and Devil Rays) beating the Dragons by a score of 5-4 and the players bow. The wicked Dragons have been vanquished and it will seem downright tranquil the next time we attend a Red Sox game (except during the playoffs).
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito