I went to my first baseball game ever on Sunday: the last game of this season's Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League Championship and the always most anticipated "Sōkeisen", Waseda VS. Keio match. I'm pretty sure you can already guess that I was excited and soaking up every second of the experience, but just for the sake of cool euphemisms I would like to say that I liked it better than Pirates of Penzance. (← If you got that reference, I am amazed and you get 20 golden stars.)
Baseball was one of the more difficult things of Japanese culture to become acquainted with, growing up in Thailand, but I still somehow managed to inherit a very ethnic love for the sport. I don't understand why either, but I could never get into the sports endemic to my geographic culture. The only direct encounter I had had with baseball previously was from P.E. in high school, and a testament to how fond I was of baseball then, I was down for taking P.E. 3 years just to triple the opportunity of getting to play the sport. (Okay, maybe it wasn't all for baseball - I do love basketball, American football, and fitness in general - but baseball was definitely a major component in the calculus of signing up for extra P.E.) Other than that, I only have early memories of my grandparents extolling the Hanshin Tigers and my own fangirling over Suzuki Ichiro in my teen-years. Sometimes I wonder if I would have turned out a baseball fanatic had I grown up in Japan. (Or Boston!)
I only realized after I was already inside the stadium on Sunday, looking out onto the stunning ballpark, the significance of where I finally was. It was such an elevated experience. Jingu Stadium, so grand in the most unpretentious way. There is something about the classic image of baseball, it's refusal to change with the times, that I love so much. Sunday was also my first time actively participating in university team spirit at an actual sports game. Even though technically I have nothing to compare the experience to, I am positive that Japanese sportsmanship is unique. It was quite moving when the leaders of each side's ōendan (cheer squad) bowed to their counterpart from across the baseball diamond. Once before the game, and once more at the end. I had never seen such ceremonial exchange of salute and goodwill between rivals.
|My favorite shot of the day. A Waseda ooendan.|
|Players bow to the audience too.|