Baseball and pretty explosions in the sky

The Tokyo Dome – home of the Yomiuri Giants.

Choosing a Japanese baseball team to support has proven problematic. I have narrowed the list down to three choices:

1) The Tokyo Swallows

2) The Tokyo Giants

3) The Hiroshima Carp

The Carp made the list for a pragmatic/delusional reason. They are Lisa’s dad’s favorite team. It might give us something to talk about.

The runner up is the Yomiuri (Tokyo) Giants. They are the Yankees of Japan. Since I have this Charlie Brown gene that only allows me to only root for underdogs/losers, the Giants are out. But they are second on the list because I already own a Yomiuri Giants ball cap. It’s a pretty cool hat.

Which brings us to the Tokyo Swallows. They are the Giants’ deadbeat step-brother. They are the Mets to the Yanks. The Clippers to the Lakers. The Billy to the Cal. The Dom to the Joe. My heart yearns for the Swallows. Their stadium is close by, and they have discounts like half-price beer night. From what I understand, you can have a picnic in the grass behind centerfield and watch the game unimpeded. And then, there is the name. I can’t wait to buy a jersey.

Inside the air conditioned Tokyo Dome.

I did go to a Yomiuri Giants game last Thursday. Our good friend Shin hooked up the tickets in the 33rd row behind home plate. Here is a not-so-succinct run down of the game:

 * There were 5 mascots and cheerleaders

* Prior to the game the players throw autographed balls into the stands.

* It is like a college football game – there is a visitors section, choreographed fight songs and large flags.

(The Giants played against the Chunichi Dragons. The Dragons are known for 2 things: It is the team Tom Selleck played for in Mr. Baseball and their traveling fans are fanatical. They chanted the entire game – banging on drums, waving flags – everybody dressed in navy blue. There is no way a visiting team could get away with that at a Phillies game.)

* Every batter has their own theme song sung to them by the fans.

* It was a domed stadium and they had the AC cranked to 11.

(Another tangent – Japan air conditions everything. The subway stations. The malls. The staircases leading to the subway stations. It is wildly inefficient, yet so delightful.)

* Any time you mention Japanese baseball to a foreigner, they talk about the beer girls. Each beer company has cute girls in short skirts running up and down the stairs carrying min-kegs in backpacks. They serve ($10 beer) straight from the tap.

* Japanese players bunt a lot.

There is an amusement park outside the Tokyo Dome.

* It is also like a college game in that there are a lot of stupid errors but also a lot of exciting plays.

* They don’t have instant replay on the jumbo tron which really sucks. You would think the Japanese would be innovators of instant replay.

* Fans eat bento boxes (sushi and rice) with chop sticks.

* They also had really good hot dogs.

* Nobody boos the umpire. However, some people did join me in razzing the opposing pitcher when he threw a pick-off attempt to 1st before a critical pitch.

* They changed the ball this year to match the ball used by MLB, which Shin explained was a mistake from a business stand point. First, the ball change has led to dismal offensive production. Second, they changed the ball size to help Japanese players adjust to the MLB, however, attendance is down because all of Japan’s best players are playing in America. Catch 22.

* You and I could probably play professional baseball in Japan. At least we could catch a routine line drive that would give away the winning run, right?

 Anyway, that is what I took away from my first Japan league baseball game. Gonna start supporting the Swallows soon. Gonna write some fight songs for them.

The Edogawa Hanabi Festival

Took this picture while walking to the Edo River.

Lisa and I went to see the Edogawa Hanabi Festival last night. It was spectacular. Sure, I am JapaTrash, but Japan does fireworks (hanabi) like America does doughnuts. Nobody does it better or with more pizzazz.

If you don’t believe me, check out this link to Saturday night’s grand finale.

The Edogawa Hanabi Festival is actually one of three pyrotechnics competitions held throughout the summer. Japan’s top

I tried to take a cool picture of the fireworks over the river using my iPhone, but all the photos turned out blurry. Who would have known?

pyrotechnicians, using over 20,000 fireworks, blow up their best shit.

Lisa, along with many other women, dressed in her yukata (summer kimono). She kept asking me if I wanted to wear a yukata, but that seems about as awkward as a Laotian wearing lederhosen.

The only issue was the crowd. It was ridiculous. According to unsubstantiated blogs, there was anywhere from 700,000 to 1.3 million people at Saturday night’s festival. And it seemed like they were all taking the train. We were a little late to the show just because the line to get out of the station was longer than the Batman ride at Six Flags.

This is the line of people trying to get out of the train station.

Thank shinto the Japanese are models of efficiency and had people moving pretty well.

We missed the first half hour, but we were able to sit on the street curb, drink a cold beer and enjoy a night of hanabi (not as dirty as it sounds).

The cops were out in full force. You weren’t supposed to linger in the street and they kept everybody shuffling along. The biggest problem they were having was lost children.

When we were following the crowd back to the train station, we saw a Lawson’s clerk standing outside with a lost teary-eyed toddler on her shoulders, trying to find his parents.

The Oohara Block Party

When I got home from work Friday night there was a raging party in the park across the street. There was singing, dancing, drumming and people drinking strange brew from plastic cups. I so badly wanted to join. Alas I just watched from the balcony. Though I did take this blurry picture:

The party lasted for two nights.

Next time, I’m crashing the bitch.

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