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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

May 2nd: Dragons vs Swallows - A day in the life

For those not aware, I went back to Japan for a bit over 3 weeks for a holiday with my family. While I didn't get a whole lot of baseball watching done I thought I'd give you a run down of my baseball day. This will be a bit of a journal entry about Japan as well as about the game itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Picking up my new license

The day started off a little bit differently as I went to get my Japanese driver's license renewed. I had been away when it expired, but I was able to renew in the end. Given how often I travel to Japan and how much an international driver's permit costs per year, I thought I'd go down this route. I trotted of the Kaihin Makuhari station to transfer to get over the Licensing Centre where after about 2 hours of waiting in line to get the write stamps and paperwork and have an eye test, I had to sit through a 2 hour lecture on road rules and road safety. Why you ask? I actually took my license in Japan and had only held my full license for 2 years. I needed to take a refresher to then extend my license for a further 3 years. Most renewals are for 5 years. It was about 12:30 by the time that had finished and I hopped on the train to go to Chiba as I wanted some new glasses.

New Glasses at Zoff Chiba

This is a silly thing, but I really like the frames at Zoff. Zoff are a chain store vendor of glasses. They can test your eyesight onsite and the frames are very reasonable. I'm quite fond of a malleable plastic frame that's marketed as a sporting glasses frame as my daughter likes to try and grab them off my face from time to time.
I wandered in and had a refresher eye test, my prescription hadn't changed and they were able to file up some lenses to fit the frames in about an hour. I paid ¥9,800 for my frames and lenses which is quite a bit cheaper than it is usually in Australia. Hence my fondness.

While waiting for my glasses to be readied, I wandered over to Matsuya, a gyudon restaurant and had a grated white radish version with ponzu sauce to tide me over. After retrieving my lenses I set out to Shinjuku to pick up a new shirt. I had planned to make a stop-over in Suidobashi to visit the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame but I ran out of time unfortunately.

Before getting on the train in Chiba, I went looking for something to read at the station book store and eventually found an NPB guide book to flick through. It cost me about ¥250. Produced by Chunichi Sports there's a fair lean toward the Dragons, but the information is still there for all the other teams. I managed to waste a good hour looking over just Central League players.

Travelling off to Shinjuku

I'm not a huge fan of Shinjuku station as I've gotten lost and frustrated there more times than I can count. I've given up a few times too. It's busy. I'm not great with crowds like that, and it's big. I did however find my way to my destination at Selection-J, a largely American sporting good store. They keep a fair share of NPB gear in their baseball shop along with a lot of MLB gear. They also sell a lot of NBA and NFL merchandise.

I had a bit of trouble finding a top that I was happy with, but I settled on an Oshima home jersey even though I was more keen on a Shuhei or Ogasawara visitor jersey but I'm still happy with my choice. It was a replica jersey, so it only set me back ¥5,000. If you want the more authentic look, they're about ¥7,500.
The cashier was a mighty jolly fellow who was quite happy to have a chat with me in Japanese quizzing where I was from. He even snapped a photo of me which went up on the website.

オーストラリアからお越しいただきました!めちゃくちゃ日本語お上手でたくさんお話できてよかったです!また遊びに来てください!See you again!【Ohshima】

If you really want Dragons merchandise this isn't the best place to go. The selection was modest for the Dragons while teams like the Tigers and Giants had a lot more stuff. As I mention below, the visiting store that was set up at Jingu had quite a bit more in terms of variety. Still, if you're in Tokyo or Osaka and are looking for gear Selection-J is still a good place to have a look at. They have all the NewEra Chunichi caps that are available, which is unfortunately all of two. There's the Ochiai era blue cap which is similar to the current version only with a white button on top or the early 90's, Imanaka "D" which is similar to the Dodgers current spring training cap. 

Off to the game

Rain had started to fall by the time I had exited the shop, so I headed back to Shinjuku station to get back to Shinanomachi to walk over to Meiji Jingu Stadium. I stopped over at a local convenience store first to pick up some snacks including a pack of dried squid, some wakame seaweed and a 500ml can of beer. At Jingu you can pour out your beer into a cup and bring it into the stadium. It's a good way to enjoy your first and maybe second beers. 

I had bought tickets via the Lawson Loppi machines for a general admission ticket in the visitors stand and I took a seat near the left-field boundary pole. Most of seats were taken up by groups of fans about 20 minutes before the ceremonial first pitch so if you want good seats you might need to go in a bit earlier. Either that or sit in the reserved section.
 The beer disappeared fairly quickly and I was already hailing the beer backpack laden lasses by the end of the first inning not showing any favouritism but for my favourite beer on show that night, Yebisu. At ¥750 they're a bit heavy on the wallet, but I didn't really care by the 3rd one....

The game started off with a guest appearance from the Philly Phanatic whom I don't have any specific love for. But between him, Doara and Tsubakuro there were plenty of mascot hijinks. 

In with the fans I had failed to memorise any of the chants but tried my best to at least connect properly with "kattobasse (player name)". By my third beer I had really gotten into the chance themes and while kind of singing half the lyrics, made up my own. " Enemy no toshu wo muite, omae ga utanakya,dare ga utsu la la la la la la la, go, go (player name)". Needless to say I was a bit off after looking back at the proper lyrics which are "Minagiru toushi wo furutate, omae ga utanakya dare ga utsu, ima shouri wo tsukame, oi oi, (player name)." Quite simply, I got about half of it right...nevermind. 

The game started with Tetsuto Yamada launching a homer into the visitor stands in a magnificent arc off Shotaro Kasahara's first pitch. The Dragons pulled 2 runs out of the bag through Almonte giving them the lead but Sakaguchi and Hirooka took the lead for the Swallows again. 

During one of the scoring moments, a group in front of my was dealing out high fives like no one's business until they turned around, saw me, and then decided better of the idea. I don't blame them. I came by myself and I hadn't had a shave in a week and a haircut in about 4 months. Gaijin is one thing, scraggly, 6'4" gaijin is another. 

By this time my stomach was rumbling and I head down to the galley for some grub. I found a vendor that was selling chicken nanban, essentially fried chicken with tartare sauce on it which is what was meant to Nori Aoki's selection. It was served in a number 23 golden helmet with some wedges. It was quite enjoyable though I can't recall the price. I later went in and got myself some more wedges at around the 7th inning but they went cold while I was cheering. 

The Dragons would overcome the Swallows in the 7th as a diving slide from Kyoda followed up by hits from Fukuda and the pinch-hitting Fujii set-up a 3-6 win on a damp night. 

Perhaps one of the big events of fan service on the night was the ascension of Hitoki Iwase to the mound in a saving position in the 9th. The couple in front of me appeared to be big fans of the record breaking closer as they brought along an Iwase sign made from felt. It was here there was a slightly heart warming moment as when the decision was made to bring Iwase into the game a young primary school aged boy was standing near where we were sitting. One of the fans in front of me said 「絶対勝つぞ」(We're definitely going to win) to which the young boy replied 「だって、岩瀬だもん。」(Of course, it's Iwase!). I don't know why that made me feel so warm and fuzzy, but the fact that one player can bring joy to someone so young just made me feel pretty good.

On exiting the stadium I later realised that around Jingu there were visiting team stores where I could have bought a shirt...or some other...stuff. I was also thanked by two jolly Chunichi supporters on my way out which was nice. They both gave me a handshake for whatever reason. 

I wandered back to Shinanomachi station for the long trip back into deepest, darkest Chiba. I picked up a 500ml Strong Zero for the walk home in the rain. Unfortunately it wasn't all that nice when it was lukewarm so the last quarter of it ended up unfinished. 

Overall it was a great day out. I did also hum and hah about making a trip out to Tokyo Dome the following week, but I decided to spend that time with my family instead. There'll be another time. When my daughter's a bit older I plan to take her to a game with me.

A few bits and pieces

I was able to get a bit of swag while I was in Japan mostly care of a delayed Christmas present from my sister-in-law. A book that I had eyed off called ドラゴンズあるある which is a book that was published in 2012 about the things that most Dragons fans experience. There are a few that ring true with me so far such as "Even though the Dragons won, they appear as the opponent on recap shows" and "You love (Shinji) Imanaka even now." There are a few others and is a little bit dated given it was published 6 years ago, but it's a bit of a laugh. I also received a box of どあらの恋人 (Doala's lover; a play on 白い恋人 shiroi koibito, white lover, which is a famous confectionery company in Hokkaido) white chocolate biscuity things

I unfortunately had to leave behind my 80 Years Anniversary Book and my terracotta Dragons beer mug again as we ended up with a lot more luggage than expected, but them's the breaks. 

I hope you enjoyed my little day journal. I had a lot of fun writing it.