No peanuts, no cracker jacks, but a whole lot of other interesting food was available at the Hiroshima Carps game last Saturday.
Although the Carp are as weak a team as their mighty carp name might imply (the score was 0-7 at the top of the 8th), we still had a great time experiencing a Japanese baseball game and catching up with many of the mainlanders we miss seeing while we’re on our island.
Aside from seeing our friends, the best part of the game was the food (this is what being on an island with no restaurants does to you…the highlight of all of your trips is food).
At the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium (yes, that’s the actual name), you can buy the foods you usually find at ballparks in America; cheese steaks, french fries, nachos, all the greasy goodness you expect to find.
But at the food stand right next door, you can also buy steaming hot bowls of udon noodles. America’s favorite pastime meets Japan’s favorite noodle? It was funny to watch people carrying their bowls of hot udon noodles through the crowds, trying not to bump into people, which could cause them to possibly throw the scalding hot contents into the faces of low-lying children. Maybe I’m just used to the hand-held fare served at American ballparks, but come on, hot noodles at a baseball game with huge crowds of people milling about? To each their own, I guess.
There were a number of other options available as well:
Would you like some meat, smile, or meet?
No ball game would be complete without a nice, cold beer. But here in Japan, you have a few choices when it comes to your frosty cold one, and we’re not talking choosing the brand. No, here in Japan you can enjoy canned beer, draft beer, “tornado beer”, or creamy-top beer.
“What what what?!” you scream. Tornado beer? Creamy top beer??? Say it ain’t so!
My friend, it is so.
Here’s what they call “Tornado beer.” They use a special cup with a spout on the bottom and rocket the beer into the cup from the bottom. The result is a cup of twirly beer. They then add a heap of beer foam to the top. In Japan, the perfect draft beer is about 1/4 foam. Tornado Beer, with its twirly swirly foam, just isn’t foamy enough.
Khoa and I enjoyed one Tornado Beer each. It was pretty good, but aside from the awesome tornado action upon filling, the taste was the same.
I’m sorry to say that we don’t have a picture of the creamy top beer, but just think of a normal draft beer topped off with a pile of foam resembling a soft-serve ice cream cone. Yeah…it was interesting. In the states, we strive to serve a foamless beer, but in Japan, they actually create a special machine to make the foam even thicker and pile it on high.
There is a designated cheering section located in the upper deck of the stadium. Complete with their own band and flag bearers, the cheering section is something that has to be seen to fully appreciate. Each player has their own personal cheer for when they come up to bat, accompanied by trumpets, drums, and hundreds of mini plastic bats being beat together in unison. Maeda, the most popular player, appears at bat to the sound of thousands of fans singing a perfectly timed cheer, led by the upper deck.
The bottom of the 7th inning is “blow up and release long, pink, questionable looking balloons” time. If someone knows why this happens, please tell me. This was my first baseball game in Japan, and I was a little confused, then appalled, and then amused.
It just amazes me how coordinated everyone is at the ballpark. Every die hard fan knows all of the cheers for each player. When the top of the 7th comes around, everyone instinctively takes out their elongated balloons and has them at the ready for when the home team is at bat. The crowd even parts for that little old man carrying the ridiculously hot bowl of udon noodles, giving him plenty of room to navigate the treacherous sea of people.
Last weekend was a wonderful and long overdue vacation out of Shimane prefecture. We had a great day at the ball game, with lots of friends, food, and interesting things to experience. It was fun to attend a baseball game in Japan for the first time; it probably won’t be our last. Although there were many similarities between American and Japanese baseball games, sometimes, we couldn’t help but think, “yep, we’re definitely in Japan.”