The past few months have been busy and slow all at the same time. Amazing as it is to think that our time here is drawing to a close. We are having to face the reality that we have to squeeze in all the things that we desire to accomplish in our time here into the next few weeks. We spent the majority of our weekends this past month or so scratching things off the list one at a time. We have been all over the Kansai region in search of excitement and adventure.
Probably the most exciting thing we have been to see during this time was the baseball game we went to at the end of April. Baseball is huge here and there is no other team that rivals the fan base of the Hanshin Tigers. That being said, there would be no other team for us. We would head off and see the Tigers play. Lucky for us the Tigers are considered a local team and we live a mere two hours by train from their home field. I tried to by some tickets for a day game on the twenty-ninth but the game was sold out by the time I tried to buy tickets, three weeks before the game. I settled for three tickets to the night game on the next day. Tiger’s games are almost always capacity crowds, in fact Tiger’s fans sometimes out number the opposing teams fans when the Tigers are the visiting team. We are talking about true fanatics.
We ventured down to Osaka to begin the trip to Koshien Stadium but not before we stopped off at the Hanshin Department Store. The Tigers are owned by the Hanshin Department store and this was the best place to find the proper attire to wear to the game. Logan and I each got a t-shirt and a hat to wear. We also bought some clap-bats to bang together while we cheered for the home team.
Next it was off to the stadium for a chance to watch the spectacle that is Japanese Baseball. I have been to a few West Michigan Whitecaps games in the past and going to a game with my Dad is usually one of the highlights of the summer for me. This game, while it fit the mental schema of a baseball game, was far different from what I am used to. I usually sit in the bleachers eating three dollar hotdogs and drinking five dollar beers chatting with family and friends while keeping half and eye of the game. There was too much going on at a Hanshin Tigers game to sit back and relax.
Our seats were along the third base line and near the field. They were not as prime as I had hoped them to be. A large pole blocked our view of the batter almost completely. It was not as bad as we feared because we still had a view of the action. We may not have been able to see what was happening on the infield, but we could see the fan section just fine. And maybe, just maybe, that is what we were there to see. Baseball is Baseball, but true Hanshin fans are fanatics.
We were able to see the die-hard fans in the seats behind the outfield. They would wave their giant flags in the air chanting and singing the Tiger’s fight song. We could also hear the pep band playing the music to accompany the singing. We reveled in the excitement and energy of the crowd. We tried to sing along with the song, trying to pick up the few words that we could. We would bang our clap sticks together in unison with the rest of the crowd. We were disappointed when the opposing team hit a home run. I must admit it was nice seeing one, but that is neither here nor there.
We had a great time at the game. I think that the most disappointing yet exciting part of the evening occurred when the unexpected happened. It was just before the seventh inning stretch began and the people began to pull out balloons. They proceeded to blow them full of air. Then just before the first pitch of the inning everyone simultaneously released the massive balloons. The meter long slender balloons rose into the air like confetti in reverse. Multi-colored balloons waved and danced on the currents as the air escaped from their untied ends until they deflated fully and came on their quick descent back to earth. Since we forgot to buy balloons at the Tiger's store, it was something we were not prepared for. And a splendid surprise it was.
We left after the eighth inning to try and beat the escaping crowd. We were sad to leave before we knew if our team was winning or not. That is the danger of leaving early from a game that was too close to call. But we also had to keep in mind the two-hour train ride back to our own time and the hour was getting late. I did check the Internet the next day to find that our team had beaten the Swallows six to five with a winning run in the last inning. Go Tigers!!