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Why the Japanese League Does Baseball Better

Japanese baseball takes everything you love about America’s pastime and makes it better: cuter, livelier, and just as intense.

Photo by Meg Schneider

Why the Japanese League Does Baseball Better

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

We’re hurdling towards the World Series here in the USA, but I’d rather be at a regular season Hanshin Tigers game. Here’s what makes the Japanese baseball league sugoi (amazing/incredible/cool):

The food selection is outrageous. 

Just look at those Hanshin Tigers players scarfing up delicious Japanese food. They’re so happy! Also, watching baseball while using chopsticks feels bizarre and fun.

hungry fans in line for curry katsu

If you’re wanting a more classic ballpark food experience, fear not, an “American Dog” is also on the menu. 

Just like at the state fair.

Frozen Kirin.

The frigid nectar of the beer gods.

If you’ve never had a frozen beer, get thyself to Japan (or Japan in Epcot), and get to drinkin’. It’s basically a regular beer with a frozen beer head on top, so your brew stays icy cold as you sip, even in the blazing hot Japanese (or Orlando, FL) summer. If anyone reading this knows where to get frozen beer in the USA besides Disneyworld, let a girl know.

The rest of the beverage selection deserves a shout out, too:

A little homage to our kings of Queens.

 Kirin produces nothing but thirst-quenching elixirs. Especially important when it’s a million humid degrees outside.

I’m convinced the Japanese take every good idea and make it better, and the refreshing chuhai is no exception. It’s basically shochu and club soda, with a flavor like lemon added. But even at the ballpark, the fruit is fresh (!) and bursting with juicy flavor.

When your drink’s so good, you have to take a selfie with it.

If they run out of frozen Kirin (which they did at the game I went to), it’s ok. The beer taps are frozen too. 

I deeply respect the Japanese dedication to cold beverages. 

The ballparks are beautiful and well designed, for the best fan experience possible.

Ivy’d walls! Eat your heart out, Wrigley.

The stadium experience is both pleasant and exciting.

While you’re taking in the game, you may run out of food or drink. In Japan, they’ve upped the game of the classic “Cold beer! Hot nuts!” vendors at American ballparks. Dedicated beer girls with keg backpacks are roaming the stands to refill your cup (which is also sustainable, btw. Less plastic cup waste!). 

An in-seat refill, isn’t that pleasant? Now for the exciting part: Japanese baseball games are chock full of bunts and walks. Games are won with bunts and walks. The crowd goes BANANAS for a walk. If you’re not paying attention, you’d think it was a home run from the spectators’ reaction. They play the game in a very technical, rule-oriented way, and it’s fascinating. 

Turf team leader Justin Colombo confirms the bunt’s exhilaration factor.

The gear selection is unmatched.

Everything is brighter and cuter in Japan–even the sports apparel. Peep these Doraemon-themed Hanshin Tigers socks I picked up at the ballpark:

Also for sale was gear from all other Japanese league teams. I found this so inclusive and just brimming with good sportsmanship. The Hanshin Tigers would love you to support them, but if you’re a Hiroshima Carp or Yokohama Baystars fan, you can grab your team’s t-shirt too.

The fans’ dedication runs DEEP.

Are the Hanshin Tigers very good? No. But their fans are dressed for success…

he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger.

…and the fervor of this Tigers fan ruled my world.

This went on for many innings. He is an inspiration.

I noticed that throughout Japan, baseball fans are really passionate about their teams. In particular, the Hiroshima Carp have a legion of diehard fans, and I was curious why. After touring the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, I learned that the Carp were formed during reconstruction after the atomic bomb devastated the city. Funding proved difficult in the years that followed the formation of the team; it almost was disbanded in 1951, but the people of Hiroshima kept it afloat with donations. How’s that for dedication? 

Their traditions are spectacular.

At the Hanshin Tigers Koshien stadium, the fans do a massive balloon release in the 7th inning. It’s magical, whether your team is winning or not.

Don’t you want to be there?! It’s incredible IRL. 

It’s also worth noting that at the stadium, there was a dedicated section for the opposing team’s fans, which would NEVER happen at an MLB stadium in the States. The Yokohama Baystar fans were in one giant group, doing their cheers and chants–it felt like a healthy collegiate sports rivalry. Can you imagine Yankee Stadium reserving a whole section for Red Sox fans? That would be a disaster. It works in Japan because they remember that sports should really remain in the realms of fun and not taking oneself too seriously.

If you’re in Japan during baseball season, make attending a game a priority. And drink a frozen beer (or four) for me!

Meg hails from Spring, Texas (it's a suburb of Houston), so you'll hear hear say "Texas Forever" more than any other Turf writer. Though the New Orleans Saints are her number one sports affiliation, and yes, she was a fan before 2009, Meg's starting varsity lineup also includes the Houston Astros, Longhorn and SEC football, and the New York Mets. Meg is an actress, crossword puzzle enthusiast, and bartender in Manhattan's Upper West Side.

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