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A couple of days ago, Jonathan and I went to a ball game. It was a pre-season friendly in the Kyocera Dome (Osaka Dome), between the Hanshin Tigers and Chunichi Dragons. It was my first time in the Dome, which is a very impressive structure.
Hanshin Tigers normally play at home in Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, a short ride on the Hanshin train line from Osaka. But in summer and spring there are high-school baseball tournaments in Koshien, so the Tigers had temporarily moved to the Dome. We got tickets in the upper stands for 2400 yen each.
Jonathan and I don’t know a whole lot about baseball, but we figured it out well enough to enjoy the game. The Tigers (wearing white, in the above photo) have very strong local support, and their fans are very dedicated. There is a good atmosphere in the stadium, with the fans singing along to support their team’s batsmen (each player has his own theme song), and then politely staying quiet when it’s the other team’s turn to bat.
A highlight of a Tigers game is the release of “rocket balloons” in the middle of the 7th inning, known as “Lucky 7th”.
These balloons are about 3 feet long and require considerable lung power to inflate. The stadium is filled with anticipation as everyone holds their balloons and awaits the moment to release them. We had bought a pack of 4, so Jonathan and I blew up 2 each.
And then, they’re off. The stadium fills with cheers as thousands of balloons fly up towards the roof, then spiral back down to the stands and the field.
During the game, young men and women circulate in the crowd selling beer, soft drinks, ice cream and snacks. The beer vendors (Kirin, Asahi, Suntory) carry a heavy insulated keg on their back with a tube dispenser from which they dispense the draft beer (700 yen).
We cheered for the Tigers, but in the end they lost 1-0. Truth be told, it was quite an uneventful game. Tigers had only 3 hits, 2 by Ryota Arai and 1 by Matt Murton. But we were so new to the whole experience, and so full of beer and chilli dogs, we didn’t mind. It was a great evening out.