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Baseball and Sushi

IN THE March 28 ISSUE

FROM THE 2018 Articles,
andMargaret Mendel,
andSports
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by Margaret Mendel

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of this winter weather. I long to hear the crack of a bat and the cry, “Let’s play ball.” Spring, glorious spring not only brings flowers and better weather, it means the start of baseball season. I’m not an obsessive fan, but I do enjoy the excitement and the athleticism of the game.

Over the years, my husband and I have visited quite a few baseball stadiums. Each arena was unique and fun, with different specialty foods to taste, and some with more comfortable seats than others.

tokyoThe most exceptional stadium we attended was the Tokyo Dome in Japan. This stadium is affectionately referred to as The Egg, most likely because of the dome shaped roof. We were surprised to see an amusement park next to the stadium. It was like going to a carnival before attending a baseball game. There is a rollercoaster, a Ferris wheel and an energetic, noisy arcade.

The Tokyo Dome is surrounded by an impressive walkway with a huge glass overhang. There is a small garden and a precious pond in back of the stadium. It is beautifully landscaped with flowers and large trees, their limbs spread out over the pond, casting undulating shadows across the area. A bridge crosses over the pond while great bunches of fat koi slowly maneuver through the mossy green water.

garden

Garden and pond

The rules of Japanese baseball are pretty much the same as here in the USA. But it is the Japanese culture that makes going to a game so unique.

As I stepped inside the stadium I was surprised by the odors. There were only a few hotdog and hamburger concessions but there was hardly a whiff of this traditional greasy baseball food. The aromas were exotic. There were fish frying stations. Everywhere there were concessions with large containers of steaming rice. Some vendors had mounds of noodles, darkened with soy sauce and other exotic flavorings, being readied for the hungry fans. In one area a counter was piled high with tempura bento boxes, each accompanied by seaweed salad, a couple sushi rolls and a few pickled vegetables. I decided on a shrimp tempura bento box, while my husband chose beef and noodles in a spicy brown sauce. tokyo

Purchasing beverages in the stadium is also a unique experience. Young female vendors walk up and down the aisles with kegs of beer and soda strapped to their backs. They will dispense a foamy cold glass of beer for you right there in the stands. Or they will sell you sake. Perhaps it’s a whisky you desire. No problem, they have that too in their tray of liquid refreshments. These vendors also have wasabi nibbles available to go along with you drink.vender

Once in our seats, bento boxes perched on our laps, chopsticks in hand, we were ready for the game to get underway. But first we were entertained by the mascots from each team as they jumped and danced, playing a pretend game of baseball. All the while, large numbers of people banged a deafening beat on pans. The place was alive with a constant rhythm of a booming drumbeat. And there was chanting, none of which we could understand.
mascots

We were soon to learn there was a particular etiquette when attending a Japanese baseball game. The first thing we noticed was that no one got out of their seat and walked up and down the aisles while a team was at bat. Everyone waits until the end of an inning before they rush out, carrying their own bento boxes, or their empty beverage cups, disposing of them in the trash. There were no discarded beer container underfoot, no peanut shells crunching as you walked, and there were no candy wrappers scooting every which way as your neighbors shifted in his or her seat trying to get into a comfortable position.

We sat in a row with a mother and her three exuberant young boys. During the third inning, the boy sitting beside me tipped over a full cup of soda onto the floor. The beverage puddled around my foot and then trickled down the steps. The person in the seat in front of me reported the spillage and a young attendant who quickly came with a full roll of paper towels to sop up the liquid. When the mess was cleared away the attendant apologized for the inconvenience and then quickly left. The mother told the little boy to apologize to me before she would purchase him another soda.

arcade

Arcade

What I found the most intriguing during the game was the chanting. According to a recent survey, one out of every two Japanese is a baseball fan. Some argue that this is a conservative estimate. Fans often sleep outside the stadium to purchase bleacher tickets for the next day’s game. Being a fan is serious business in Japan and each team has a huge loyal fan base. What has evolved is a system of chants. There is the standard simple chant, “Go, Go. Let’s Go?” But there are fans who spend hours constructing chants. These authors print up hundreds of copies of their chants and pass them out at a game. Frequently fans arrive early to rehearse a new chant, perfecting the arrangement as though it were a song that would be performed during a game.

The fans from opposing teams will endeavor to ‘out chant’ each other during a game, though there is no heckling of the other team while they are at bat. Some chants are quite long, while others are as brief as, “Concentrate! Pitch that ball! Make that player strike at plate!”

When the baseball game was over, we walked out of the stadium and were bombarded by the festivities of the amusement area. The lights from the arcade, the roar of the swooshing rides, made me feel as though I had walked out of a raucous fun-filled baseball game and into a party. arcade

Margaret Mendel was born in San Jose but now lives in NYC. She is an award-winning author with stories published in many journals and anthologies. Her debut novel was Fish Kicker with another novel Pushing Water scheduled to be published this fall. Most of her work life has been in the mental health field, though for the last eighteen years she has devoted herself to writing full time. She is an avid photographer, contributing many photos to the mystery stories in Kings River Life. Not only does she drag her laptop with her wherever she goes, but takes her Nikon as well. To learn more about Margaret go to her website.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michael GassNo Gravatar March 29, 2018 at 9:36am

Thanks for sharing your experience, Marge. Not like Yankee Stadium, huh?

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2 Margaret MendelNo Gravatar
Twitter: @margaretmendel2
March 30, 2018 at 1:45pm

No Mike, it’s not like Yankee Stadium!
A recent post from Margaret Mendel: BASEBALL AND SUSHIMy Profile

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