While in recent years baseball has fallen behind American football as “America’s favorite past-time” the label still lingers. It is for this reason that it can be a little weird to find out that baseball is incredibly popular in Japan where it is known as yakyu; in fact it is often listed as the most popular sport there, just ahead of association football.
Baseball was introduced to Japan in 1872 by an American English professor and came to be a popular sport in high schools due to early wins against foreign teams. Professional baseball developed in the 1920s and has since become a widely respected and popular sport in the country.
While in Hiroshima, the study abroad program gave us the opportunity to watch a baseball game at Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom Stadium. The game was between the Hiroshima Carps and the Yokohama Bay Stars which we cheered for since our university was in Yokohama. Baseball games are markedly different from their American counterparts as the general ambiance tends to have a more energetic feel. It is common to have groups with instruments such as trumpets and drums to play songs to pump their side up and cheer on players. In fact many players have their own unique little song written just for them and loyal fans play their songs when it is their turn to hit.
While in a baseball game, one can expect to clap and sing along to the player and team’s songs because its important to show support especially while among enthusiastic fans that sing and scream their hearts out for the love of the game. These fan bands are a spectacle on their own and to be fair I for one spent more time enjoying their performance than watching the game, which was also good. At the end of the match our team Yokohama Bay Stars beat the home team of Hiroshima in the last inning.
As the game started to come to an end, in what has become a tradition of sorts, the spectators on the Hiroshima Carp side began to inflate long red tube-shaped balloons. All of a sudden, hundreds, if not thousands of crimson balloons flew up while accompanied by music and the screaming noise that came from the air as it escaped the balloons.
As a final note, Japan’s national team is ranked #1 in the world for their excellent baseball skills.