America’s favorite past time is finally here, It’s baseball season! Baseball also happens to be extremely popular in Japan. Many of your students know and love the sport, and will often talk about their favorite teams and players. Let’s explore baseball in Japan together!
The intricate details of baseball are hard to explain, so I will quickly touch on the basics. You have two teams that switch offense and defense every inning. The pitcher throws the ball and the batter has to hit it or take a walk to the first base. The team gets 3 outs before they have to switch sides. Honestly, I can’t believe I need to explain it. Maybe you heard of “Rounders”? A British dude told me that it was similar to baseball. So there you have it!
Let’s talk about Japanese baseball. I think a good way to describe the NPB league is that it is above the Triple A USA minor league, but a little bit below the MLB in terms of skill. A lot of this is due to some of the restrictions in the league. They are all extremely talented and a NPB league game is fun to watch. The NPB has two divisions in it: The Pacific League and the Central League.
Ganbatte! Cheering is also a very important part of baseball here. The teams usually have a dedicated cheering group or area, and there are usually instruments involved as well. Both sides get a chance to cheer, but usually the home team fans put on a more dominant showing.
The Curse of the Colonel
Baseball is a game built on superstition. Well, at least that is the case for the MLB. In Japan, players typically don’t believe in superstitions, except for one curse. Apparently, fried chicken isn’t just bad for your body, it’s also bad for your baseball franchise.
The year is 1985. Japan’s perennial underdogs, the Hanshin Tigers, defeat the Seibu Lions to win their first and only Japan Series. The Tiger fans went absolutely bonkers and took to the streets. They rallied to the Ebisu Bridge, a famous meeting spot in downtown Osaka. The fans lined up and started to jump in the water. As they jumped, they screamed the name of the player that they thought they resembled. This is where things started to get weird.
Like all problems in the world, we can start the blame with the white man. The MVP of the series was an American man named Randy Bass. The fans soon realized that none of them looked like the all-star hitter, so they looked around for an answer. Their answer was standing right in front of them, a Colonel Sanders KFC statue. They carried the statue and tossed it into the river while screaming “RAAANNDDDIIIII BAAASSUUUUU!!!!!”
As the statue sank into the Dotonburi River, the wrath of a southern gentleman was unknowingly unleashed upon the ball club.
The Hanshin Tigers went on to have an 18 year losing streak. Divers went down looking for the statue, but couldn’t find anything. In 2003, the Tigers won the Central League and were heading for the Japan Series. However, they lost against the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. The Tiger fans did not learn their lesson and still jumped into the river. Over 5,300 fans jumped in. This time the Colonel demanded a blood tribute. One fan unfortunately drowned and this led to the construction of a new bridge to make it harder for people to dive off of.
On March 10th, 2009, divers found a mysterious object. They first thought it was some sort of barrel. Later, they thought it was a corpse. Hanshin fans knew what it was and were quick to identify it as the upper body of the long-lost restaurant mascot. Other parts of the statue were found, everything except his glasses and left hand. Will the curse continue? Only time will tell. Also when is the double down coming to Japan?