I was very surprised to find out that Japan has a professional basketball league. I was even more surprised to find that our prefecture, Shimane, which is currently the second least populated prefecture in all of Japan, has their own team. But what really took the cake was the moment I was told that Shimane’s team, Susanoo Magic was going to be playing an exhibition game in Oki, our tiny archipelago of islands.
Seizing the opportunity to experience another professional sports game in Japan, Khoa and I took the 45 minute boat ride over to Oki’s main island, Dogo, to check it out.
Shimane’s Susanoo Magic played against Kyoto Hannaryz at the Rainbow Arena in Dogo. Hannaryz is derived from the word “hanari,” which means “elegant” in the Kyoto dialect. What is it with Japan and really inappropriate team names and mascots. I always thought the Carp, Hiroshima’s baseball team had a pretty rough name, but the Elegants? Come on people, there’s got to be a better name for a sports team than an adjective to describe a refined lady.
And let’s get back to the name of the venue…Rainbow Arena? Can we get some fiercer names up in here, please?
Anyways, back to the game. It was definitely an interesting experience. About half of both teams are made up of Americans, all of whom are a full head taller than their Japanese teammates. I’d say that despite the height difference, the Japanese players were more skilled and a heck of a lot quicker. Even though the Americans were able to make a slam dunk (to the delight of the crowd), many of the Japanese players were able to effortlessly sprint down the court, weaving between the other players.
Another thing that surprised me was the cheering at the game. An announcer was constantly on the mic, leading the crowd in various (…only two) different cheers. There was no time to get in a hoot or holler of your own. When the home team was on the defense, the announcer led the crowd in a cheer of “clap, clap, DEFENSE! Clap, clap, DEFENSE!” As soon as Susanoo Magic regained control of the ball, the cheer changed to “Go go, Magic.” Back and forth, back and forth, the monotony never stopped. I was getting a headache
To my surprise, Susanoo Magic has their very own cheerleaders/dancers, with costume changes! I was surprised to see Japanese girls in skimpy outfits shaking their thangs in front of a large crowd. In the fashion conservative islands of Oki, I’m uncomfortable even wearing a tank top out in public, let along this sort of getup:
At halftime, one lucky member of the audience was given the chance to make a free throw and win a TV and before and after the game, the cheerleaders and players threw autographed mini balls into the crowd.
The event, although very fun, seemed like a silly knock-off of an NBA basketball game. Most of the elements were there: cheerleaders, free throw prize giveaways, an announcer to pump up the crowd. But everything seemed a little off. I would have liked it better if Japan tried to do their own thing, have their own basketball game style, instead of trying to import American basketball game customs and fail on the execution.
All in all, the game was a great experience. Definitely something to write home about…blog home about?