Tokyo guzzler: June 2015, part 1 – Baseball in Japan

Baseball – most definitely NOT a game to watch when sober….

There’s a very good reason that baseball is a minority sport in virtually every country it’s played in. It is beyond bad. In Japan however, it’s THE big national game. Considerably bigger than football even. So on Saturday, myself and three fellow Brits, one Canadian, one Frenchman and an Aussie descended on Chiba prefecture, an area to the east of Tokyo with a population of over 6 million people.

We had the pleasure(?) of witnessing the Chiba Lotte Marines playing at home to Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a team from Sendai (or, the ‘Sendai Scum’ as we affectionately rebranded them during the afternoon). Thankfully my stomach had been well and truly lined with a big bowl of ramen before our departure in anticipation of a heavy afternoon’s drinking. It didn’t disappoint on that front at least….

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“Meet at the big head at 11.40am….” As usual, I was the first one to arrive. And on the off chance, I happened to see a music video being shot directly in front of the head. I can tell you now, it was a spectacular sight!! Once the girls had finished dancing and I’d picked my jaw up from the pavement, I realised I probably should have videoed it, or at least taken a photo. Doh! So you’ll have to settle for the head instead.

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Pre-match dining outside the stadium. All sorts of cuisines were available, from kebabs to curries to noodles and chips. The plastic furniture and flowing beer reminded us of the tranquil scenes from Marseille during the World Cup in 1998, shortly before the ensuing riot between England and Tunisian mobs. Thankfully, the Sendai Scum were running scared and were nowhere to be seen, otherwise it could have turned nasty!

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Let the 4 hours of boredom commence. Now, there is clearly a level of skill involved in baseball that I am largely oblivious to. I get that I don’t appreciate it properly. But what I don’t get is why they all wear these bloody massive gloves to catch the ball. Where is the skill in that?! Someone please enlighten me! In cricket, there’s a saying: “Catches win matches”. There’s a distinct skill involved in being able to catch or field a ball. There’s also a skill in the batsman being able to hit a ball where the fielder can’t get to it. Baseball appears to me to lack all of these elements. I could go on, but I fear I’d go on a massive rant!

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The fans themselves were similar to a Japanese football crowd. Constant chanting….for 4 goddamn hours! I mean, I love an atmosphere at sport but it’s just so forced over here.

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The best thing about the afternoon was the constant stream of girls serving ice cool beer straight to your seat. A joy to behold in fact!

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This is what happens when you have TOO much fun at baseball. Yes, there was only so much fun this person could take. Sitting for hours in the sun, drinking beer, and waiting for something interesting to happen on the off chance – this lethal combination is enough to send even the best of us to sleep. Yet after nearly 2hrs of snoozing, she awoke and realized she’d missed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Overall, I had a cracking day out at the baseball. We might as well have been watching paint dry in terms of the sporting action, but we had a right old session sat in what was essentially a 90 degree oven, cooking away slowly, eating noodles and burgers and drinking copious amounts of Asahi and Sapporo. It was great fun, and whilst I’d never choose to watch baseball voluntarily on my own, sign me up right now for a day out on the beers with a group of mates. (And for anyone interested, the Sendai Scum apparently won 3-2 – I Googled this just now as it got a bit hazy towards the end).

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