It was at Meiji Jingu Stadium in 1978 while watching a baseball game that Haruki Murakami had the revelation that he could write a novel. I no longer dream of writing my own novel (too lazy) nor even think of hitting a ball even if I use a paddle (zero talent at hitting anything round). I just want to experience the joy and thrill of watching and cheering from the stands.
Baseball, commonly called 野球（やきゅう, yakyu) in Japanese, is currently among Japan’s most popular participatory and spectator sports.The Yakult Swallows were playing against the Hiroshima Carps that night. Meiji Jingu Stadium is the home base of the Swallows. I wasn’t rooting for any team but decided to buy a YS cap anyway.
Beer is sold everywhere but is a bit overpriced. Beer serving girls (so called “Ghostbusters”) walk around the stadium carried this large container of draft beer on their back. They balance themselves between aisles pouring ice-cold draft beer with their wide-eyed smiles. I wonder how heavy their load is.
Each team has its own cheering section located in the bleacher section behind the left and right field. Home team fans sit on the first base side while visiting team fans sit on the third base side. There are different cheers going on and they only cheer when their team is batting.
The Swallows fans sing their fight song “Tokyo Ondo” at the seventh inning stretch and whenever the Swallows score a run. They do this by opening little umbrellas and thrusting them up and down.
The mascot siblings – Tsubakorou and Tsubami perform a dance number to entertain the crowd. They also shoot some Swallows t-shirts from their bazooka to the first base stand. These shirts are not sold at any merchandise store so you are lucky if you get one.
At some point of the game, the crowd gave a standing ovation to Hiroshima Craps player, Arai. I didn’t know what was going on because the announcement was made in Japanese, and we just saw the game stop for a moment and he was given a large bouquet of flowers. I got to know later that Arai scored his 2000th hit!
The victors – of course, the Hiroshima Carps.
How to Get There by Subway
- Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Gaien-mae Station: 5 minutes walk from Exit 3
- Toei Subway Oedo Line Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station: 12 minutes walk from Exit A2