Baseball is hugely popular in Japan so Richard and I decided that we should attend a Chiba Lotte Marines home game. Since we live in Chiba Prefecture, the Marines are our home team and today they played the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks from Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.
We woke to a misty sky and a few drops of rain this morning so I packed our rain capes but by game time the mist had burned off and the day was glorious. By late afternoon, when the sun was low enough that our side of the stadium was in shade, we were happy for the respite.
Richard purchased our tickets electronically at one of our local convenience stores a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the young clerk who assisted him entered his request for two tickets as two separate transactions and so, while our seats were in the same section and the same row, they were numbers 157 and 172! Both were excellent seats overlooking first base. Obviously, though, we would have preferred to sit together and hoped that we might be able to find a way to do that when we got to the stadium. When the young usher who helped us find our seats realized that though we were together, our seats weren’t, he took it upon himself to contact some other members of the stadium staff and try to resolve the situation. After much deliberation, they were able to offer us two seats together but the location wasn’t as good as the ones we had so we thanked them and declined the offer. Before game time, we loaded up on a typical stadium lunch of burgers, fries and pop and prepared to settle into our separate seats. Seat 172 was just one seat away from an aisle and it was obvious that the man occupying that seat had come to the game alone. When I sat down and Richard passed me my food, it became obvious to the man that though we were together, we weren’t sitting together. He watched with curiosity as Richard made his way to seat 157, down the row from us. When Richard returned a short time later, showed the man his ticket and indicated that he was interested in trading seats, it was no surprise to me that the man swapped tickets willingly and we were able to watch the game together after all.
Since I’ve never been much of a sports fan and have never attended a professional ball game in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, I have nothing to compare today’s experience with but it was definitely fun. The locals are obviously passionate about their team and watching them was sometimes as much fun as watching the game. Lots of them were dressed in team jerseys, t-shirts and hats. Like pretty much everything else in Japan, the cheering was very organized. Led by loudspeaker, the fans clapped, cheered and sometimes sang in unison. Before long, we were joining in. Unlike in North America, where a hush would fall over the crowd during a pitch, the noise continued regardless of what was happening on the field. It made no difference which team was up to bat so it was obviously a cultural difference and not a sign of poor sportsmanship. When either team changed pitchers, which they both did several times, the replacement pitcher was driven onto the field in a little silver convertible! During the seventh inning stretch which took place midway through the seventh inning rather than at the end, hundreds of long whistling balloons were released into the air and stadium staff quickly ran onto the field to gather up any that landed there.
The game itself was quite exciting. The Marines scored runs in the first and fourth innings but the Hawks came back with three runs in the top of the fifth. The Marines responded with four runs in the bottom of that inning and so it went with the Marines finally winning 9 to 5.
Saying that I’ve become a baseball fan is probably stretching it a little but I’m very glad that had the opportunity to attend today’s game. Sharing the fun with thousands of Japanese fans was definitely a great experience.