Hanshin Tigers fans get their balloons ready for a home team tradition during the seventh-inning stretch at Koshien Stadium. (Bruce Chambers/Orange County Register/MCT)
Hanshin Tigers fans get their balloons ready for a home team tradition during the seventh-inning stretch at Koshien Stadium. (Bruce Chambers/Orange County Register/MCT)

Weber’s summer study abroad program to Japan took an interesting turn as students were allowed to participate in a

game at Koshien Stadium in the Kansai Prefecture of southern Honshu. This was lead by Osaka City University student, Akira Yoshimura, who wanted to share his love of baseball with his new American friends.

“I’ve played baseball for over 11 years now,” Yoshimura said. “I played all through high school, but even now, I just love to watch and cheer for my team.”

In order to reach the game, the students took a special subway line that runs directly to the stadium.

“The train system in Japan is incredible,” said Weber exchange student Mariahn Seavello, “They can take you anywhere in the country. The only downside is how crowded they get after work, school and events. They can get to the point where you are so squished together that you are no longer able to move on sharp turns.”

They were welcomed to a station full of overdressed Hanshin fans ready to sing their hearts out for their team.

Upon reaching the Koshien, the students rushed from the ticket booth to the souvenir shop to show their spirit by dressing in Tiger jerseys, headbands and jackets. The Tigers faced off against the Fukuoka Hawks (formally the Nankai Hawks) for this game.

A notable quality of the Japanese, is their ability to keep their spirits high throughout the game.

“Every person on the team has their own theme song,” said fellow guide Haruhi Fushigumi. “Fans will go online and practice memorizing and singing every song until they can come here and sing each one from heart.”

The fans will sing the theme of whoever is up to bat unceasingly until that player is either struck out or makes it to the next base. While their team pitches, the crowd sings generic fight songs while waving flags until it is their turn to bat again.

One of the unique traditions of Koshien Stadium is at the very beginning of the seventh inning stretch. Every person in the stadium has a long large balloon that resembles the kind used for making balloon animals. As soon as the last man out of the sixth is called, everyone lets go to fill the stadium with soaring balloons only to have them rain down by the thousands.

The seventh inning stretch is also a good time to try some authentic Japanese ball park food like fresh buckwheat corn dogs, curry rice and Tonkatsu (a fried pork cutlet). This tradition also repeats itself at the end of the game.

The game that night was a blowout as Fukuoka was unable to score. All that was left was for the students to return home.

With thousands of people flooding the stations, the students all summoned their inner lineman to rush onto an already packed train and prepare for a 20-minute commute as a sardine.

“I had so much fun at this game,” said Yoshimura. “I love American students’ spirit and will miss them all.”

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