There’s one thing that I always recommend to first-time visitors to the Kansai area – a Hanshin Tigers game at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Hanshin Tigers are the most beloved baseball team in all of Japan, a baseball-crazy country.
A home game at Koshien is not to be missed. Visitors will get to experience an enthusiastic, let-loose side of the Japanese people that is not well-known abroad. Even the sports-ignorant, like me, can enjoy observing the ritualistic behavior of the Tigers fans.
Start your tour off at Koshien Station on the Hanshin train line.
The first thing you will see is a gigantic Asahi beer can – symbolic of the festivities to come.
The walk to the stadium is a carnival of stalls selling street food and the all-important Tigers goods. Make sure to pick up plastic bats and balloons here – you’ll need them during the game.
If you have time before the game, it’s worth checking out the Koshien Stadium Museum. Baseball fans will find all kinds of antique memorabilia and displays documenting the glorious history of the Tigers. You can also learn about the high school baseball championships which are held yearly at the stadium.
Partway through the museum tour, you’ll be able to step out onto the area right under the scoreboards, where you’ll be able to get a good view of the entire stadium.
Finally, it’s time for the game. First, make sure to pick up some delicious fried food and a drink at one of the countless vendors. There are also waitresses who come through the stands selling drinks and ice cream.
For this game, Ambassador Roos of the United States threw the first pitch!
As you watch the game, take note of all the different songs and cheers that the crowds perform. Each player has his very own theme song.
It all seems so choreographed… and it kind of is! Cheer squad leaders direct the crowds.
But the climax of the game comes in the 7th inning, when all the Hanshin Tigers fans (who comprise 90% or more of the stadium) blow up balloons and let them off into the air all at once!
It’s a sight to see.
After an experience of this uninhibited but charming part of Kansai culture, you may find yourself, like me, buying a Tigers jersey and coming back again and again to cheer for the home team!
Season: March to September
Tickets: 2,000 – 4,000 yen
Booking: Ticket websites (http://ent-toraticket.pia.jp, http://t.pia.jp/sports/baseball/index.jsp, or http://l-tike.com/genre/sports.html#a02, Japanese only) or ticket machines at Lawson convenience store.
Address: 1-82 Koshien-cho, Nishinomiya City, Hyogo 663-8152
Website: http://hanshintigers.jp/ (Japanese)
How To Get There
Hanshin Line Koshien Station: Walk five minutes south.