Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Japanese Baseball

This past Sunday I went to go see a professional baseball game at the Osaka Dome. The regional favorite team, the Hanshin Tigers (Osaka) were playing the Yakult Swallows (Tokyo). I personally love baseball so I can be totally happy watching any game, but in America I have many friends who think that baseball is so boring. American baseball games are boring compared to watching a professional game here in Japan.

Here the fans are almost constantly cheering and chanting support for their favorite team. The first time I went to a game my hands were so sore from clapping and cheering the whole time that I quickly realized why fans here all bring an assortment of plastic bats and other noise makers for cheering. The other interesting thing is that some teams have particular customs for celebrating; even though the Swallows fans were not at their home stadium there was a large section for them. Every time their team scored they all lifted up these miniature blue plastic umbrellas. When I saw that I thought it was strange but immediately remembered having gone to a Swallows home game in Tokyo about 5 years ago and thinking it looked so cool to see the whole stadium raising up little blue umbrellas after their team scored.

Some things are definitely the same at games here and back home; the beer and food is still almost 4 times the normal price, and they do check your bags to make sure you don’t bring in outside drinks. All in all the Japanese games are much more lively than games back home and it seems like they attract lots of people who might not be typical baseball fans just because the atmosphere is so fun.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Irrational Fear?

A large majority of Japanese people that I know have a dislike of crows. This can range from a slight distaste to hatred all the way to a seemingly irrational deep down fear of the beady eyed dark creatures. This is understandable as well as unfortunate as there are crows everywhere in Japan. They congregate in parks, lurk in alleyways and feed out of trash cans. I personally never had anything against them and while there is something distinctly ominous about crows I never feared or hated them. But all that changed just the other day.

On Sunday I was in Kyoto City sitting by the Kamo River in Sanjyo just enjoying the scenery and watching the people. I was waiting for a friend and had some time to kill before we went out to eat so I got a rice-ball snack (onigiri) from the convenience store. On occasion I eat onigiri but I am not a huge fan of them, but this onigiri was by far the best one I have ever had. It was a fried rice onigiri with shrimp, egg and pork on the inside. I had taken only two bites and was commenting to myself how unusually good this particular onigiri was when all of a sudden there was a loud noise and the onigiri disappeared from my hand! I was essentially looking in the same direction as my lovely rice ball but I had seen nothing. The noise was like a whoosh-smack and was accompanied by a slight pain in my now onigiri-less hand.

The shock, fear and pain momentarily confused me but I soon realized what happened when I saw the ruthless gang of crows having a bird feeding frenzy with my onigiri only 10 feet in front of me. If you haven’t deciphered the story by now, one of those little ruffians swooped out of the air and snatched my onigiri right out of my upraised hand, nearly taking my finger with it. After the shock subsided I was full of rage at the conniving feathered thieves for having committed beaked-robbery of the best onigiri I had ever had (and had only taken two bites of). But as I was surrounded by passers-by who probably didn’t even notice the brutal rice-ball snatching I figured I would be the one that looked like a lunatic if I tried to exact my revenge upon them there. So I sat with my pain and anger which eventually lead me from thoughts of murderous revenge to a slight respect for the cunning, precision heist that they had pulled off. I mean that crow swooped out of the sky right in front of my face and skillfully ripped the rice-ball out of my hand without me even seeing anything. And while there was some pain in the finger no blood was drawn and no evidence to show of the attack. While I still can't forgive them their trespass I have to admit a certain amount of awe at their artful larceny.

So now I join the Japanese in their dislike of the dark angels of theft. For now I will never be able to enjoy my onigiri in peace whilst those hooligans are about.