Well, my life is complete. I have finally experienced the Great American Pastime in Japan. That's right, Baseball in the Land of the Rising Sun. My good friend Hirano-san managed to procure 4 free tickets for our family to the Yokohama Baystars versus the Somebody-or-Other Dragons. We took the train up to Yokohama and wandered around the stadium trying to get in the right entrance. We wandered mightily...life is damn hard when you are illiterate. But it was a gorgeous summer night, the sky was clear, a warm breeze blowing, so we didn't mind looking like idiots too much.
We ended up in the away team's section, although it took us two innings to figure that out. But I guess it doesn't matter since we are technically the Really Away Team. Although it might have annoyed those around us, we had a fabulous time cheering both teams on. The Japanese take cheering to a whole new level. Practically everyone has these long, hollow, plastic batons that they hit together in rhythm with a dozen memorized chants. Each time their team is up to bat, the cheering section stands up and chants IN UNISON (even the preschoolers) until the next team is up. If their team is at bat for an hour, they chant for an hour.
It was interesting to watch the different styles of team chants--one was accompanied by a horn section and giant flags (imagine an Asian oompah band if you will, indeed if you can), and the other went acapella but with a more intricate rhythm. It is possible that they were only saying, You Guys Suck, Our Team Rules, but it all seemed like such civilized fun. Nobody got up in our section and screamed at the referees or threw peanuts (no goobers!!). They calmly drank their beer and ate their bentos in between cheering gigs.
Unfortunately, our fun came to an abrupt end. One minute the weather was perfect--salary men were coming in late from work to meet their wives and ecstatic kids, loosening their ties and hailing down the beer ladies--the next, a cloud covered the sky with the speed and impenetrable darkness of octopus ink. In a matter of minutes, Japanese folk were huddling under umbrellas and putting on rain jackets. Not the cheering section, however. They kept up the beat in the pelting rain until their team was done at bat.
Oh yeah, not us either. Guess who forgot to bring rain gear...I mean, besides the two slacker Japanese teens next to us? I swear to God, these people are like Uber Boyscouts with special divinity skills. They pulled rain stuff out of thin air! Unprepared, as usual, we scurried to the train and on home.
Even though we didn't get to experience the seventh inning stretch (apparently they sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame in Japanese, interesting since there are no peanuts and crackerjack), we still had a fab time. I just love this culture, stealth rainclouds and all.
Living in Japan is somewhat akin to watching a silent film. Oftentimes, it is more effort than I want to expend trying to understand something...you really have to pay attention to how people act, their reactions and their faces instead of extracting meaning from what they are saying. You are not quite sure of where the characters come from, why they do what they do. It can be hard work. Really frustrating. But like a great silent picture, life in Japan has allowed my imagination to take flight outside the confines of dialogue. With just a few visual clues, I am free to fill in the blanks, for right or for wrong, myself.