If any of you follow my social media accounts, you will not be surprised to see this post. I posted many photos onto Instagram as well as my Google Plus account. A few weeks ago, I was reminded that the Japanese baseball season had started and I had to go to a Hanshin Tigers game. I really want to go to a Tigers game at Tokyo Dome because I want to see them play their arch rivals but I ended up going to my tried and true, Jingu Stadium. I almost always watch the Tigers versus the Swallows because I love going to Jingu Stadium. It is a beautiful outdoor stadium and the crowds are a ton of fun. I have been to this game a total of 6 times in the last 6 years. I didn’t really get into it until 2011 when I started going every year. I usually go sometime in August or September when the weather is nice and hot but this year I decided to go early and see what it is like in the Golden Week season. It was a mixed blessing as I was happy to be able to go but it was a lot harder to get there than I expected.
The Hanshin Tigers and Yakult Swallows game was on May 4th, aka Star Wars Day, or Green Day in Japan. It was Golden Week so the Saviour and I had time off together. I found out that the game was going on at Jingu Stadium and we promptly decided to have a little fun. We got our tickets a day early as always, in order to choose a day with the lowest chance of rain. We had a choice of two dates and we chose the best date as the following day (May 5) it was raining a bit during the day. We did our usual pre-game routine of getting some food and a drink for the game. We got to the stadium at 4:30pm. The game started at 6pm and we arrived around the time the doors opened. We rushed to the gate only to find a line. This line was for the outer seating section for Tigers fans. It was a LONG line. We walked all the way around the stadium and saw a special holding section for fans. The line extended for what looked like a full kilometre before we found the end. The line got so long that they ran out of space in the main waiting area that extends around the stadium. We had to go across the street to the third waiting line. The line didn’t start to move for us until 5pm and we didn’t get into the stadium until 5:15pm. Thankfully we had a pre-game beer ready to help calm our anxieties about getting a seat, so we had a quick beer while waiting in line.
Once we did get in, it was a mad dash to walk around and find seats. We looked high and low and within 5 minutes we found a couple seats. We were VERY lucky. While we didn’t get the seats we wanted, right next to the scoreboard, we were still pretty close. In order to get seats in the free seating area, you have to go very early on a holiday. I usually go on a work day, so arriving around 4:30pm when the gates open is no problem at all. Since it was a holiday, we had a lot of anxiety waiting in line, but we got lucky. Upon sitting down, we were able to get a couple beers and start waiting for the game to start. The game was crowded and the entire free seating area was packed. It was standing room only. The only places where there were free seats were behind home base. It is usually not too busy, especially on holidays, as many businesses have tickets in that area and I’m sure many of them didn’t bother to use the tickets. I was a little surprised to see the Yakult side was full as well. Usually the Yakult side is busy but not completely full. I guess during Golden Week a lot of people want to go and enjoy the game. The atmosphere was excellent, even if it was a bit chilly at night.
The game was pretty long. Usually the baseball games last around 3 hours. This game took a long time and it was the last game to finish in Japan. Most of the games in Japan start at the same time. The pitchers were taking their time to get going and the first couple innings took a long time. The first inning took a while but was abruptly ended with Shunsuke caught sleeping. He was leading off from first base when the Swallow’s pitcher threw him out. In the second inning, things started to get exciting. Murton got on base before Umeno was at bat. Umeno got a good hit and the Swallows made an error which allowed Murton to score a run. The crowd went crazy to celebrate the run. It was still early in the game but a 1-0 lead was still a lead. In the bottom of the 2nd, Tsuru, the Tigers pitcher, was not doing so well. With 2 on base, he allowed a double which saw the Swallows get a single run. Thankfully he recovered and the game was tied after the second inning. The game was a bit tense with neither side able to score a run until the 7th. As always, just before the 7th, the Tigers did their rally call singing Rokko Oroshi. This seemed to have done something as the Tigers started the inning with Umeno getting on base. This was followed by 2 pinch hitters. First, Arai was up but he was out on a centre fly. Next was Sekimoto who got a double which saw Umeno score a run. The crowd took this energy and ran with it. While the Swallows did their own rally call before the bottom of the 7th, it was of no use as they failed to score. The game was finally decided in the 9th inning when Umeno got on base again. The Tigers manager decided to put Imanari into the game as a pinch hitter and Tagami as a runner in place of Umeno. Something happened as Imanari was able to get a homerun for another 2 runs. It was amazing to see the crowd go crazy. By the end of the 9th, the crowd was chanting that only one runner was left, then chanting that only one pitch was left before the fat lady sang and the game ended with the Tigers winning 4-1.
After the game ended, most of the fans stayed for a bit. There was the customary singing of Rokko Oroshi to celebrate the win. After this, many of the casual fans left leaving the avid fans to sing the songs of the starting lineup team. Once this was done, another rendition of Rokko Oroshi was sung. This is when the avid fans started to leave but the hardcore fans stayed. The flood lights were starting to be shut off and the stadium was a lot darker. It created an interesting mood. I decided to get going at this point but as I was leaving, I could hear the cheer leaders talking to the crowd. The cheer leaders coordinate the cheers with the other leaders and make sure the crowd knows what songs to sing. The leader in our section was thanking everyone for their hard work to keep the team energized with their cheering and that they would keep doing their best. It was something that I had never seen as I usually leave a lot earlier. By this time, most of the Swallows fans were also gone which meant I was on the train with mostly Tigers fans when I went home.
As you can see, the game was really exciting. I had a great time as always and it was great to see the Tigers win. I still have to try to see the Tigers at Tokyo Dome someday and I hope I can do it this year. I also want to go again to Jingu Stadium as I just enjoy it. The summer time games are really hot but the flowing beer really helps. They also have new plastic cups this year which look great. The old paper ones are not bad but they tend to feel a bit weak after a while. Whether you think plastic or paper is better for the environment is your choice. Thankfully the price of a beer hasn’t gone up this year. It is still 750 yen for a beer. It isn’t cheap but it isn’t as expensive as N. America. Considering I only go to games a couple times a year, getting a few beers for a lot of fun isn’t a bad deal. I’ll definitely be back to enjoy a game and to report back to you. If I don’t go this year, I’ll definitely go next year!
Japanese Baseball (Yakult Swallows VS Hanshin Tigers) (2014) is part of a series of posts on baseball in Japan and my experiences going to various games. To read more about other games I have experienced, continue with the posts below:
- Japanese Baseball (Hanshin Tigers VS Chunichi Dragons) (2015)
- Japanese Baseball (Yakult Swallows VS Hanshin Tigers) (Take II) (2014)
- Japanese Baseball (Yakult Swallows VS Hanshin Tigers) (2013)
- Japanese Baseball (Yakult Swallows VS Hanshin Tigers) (Take II) (2012)
- Japanese Baseball (Hiroshima Carp VS Yakult Swallows) (2012)
- Japanese Baseball (Yakult Swallows VS Hanshin Tigers) (2012)
- Japanese Baseball (Yakult Swallows VS Hanshin Tigers) (2011)
- Japanese Baseball (Chiba Lotte Marines VS Rakuten Golden Eagles) (2008)
- Japanese Baseball (Yakult Swallows VS Hanshin Tigers) (2008)