Hanshin Tigers Koshien Stadium
For as long as I have lived in Japan, I have always wanted to attend a Japanese baseball game, but the lack of conveniences for foreigners wishing to purchase tickets can be discouraging. In Japan, online ticket sales are handled exclusively through resellers, who either mail them to you, or have you pick them up at convenience stores. It all seems convenient enough, if only the process of purchasing tickets online could be navigated in English. Nonetheless, I’ve been in Japan for a long time, so I decided to test my abilities.. which I did by simply asking a Japanese friend for help – in English.. Long over due, I set off to see the greatest storied Japanese baseball rivalry, the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka vs the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo. This rivalry has been often compared to Major League Baseball’s rivalry between the Boston Redsox and the New York Yankees, respectively. Both teams are two of the oldest teams in Japanese baseball history, with the Hanshin Tigers history dating back to 1935. Much like that of the Boston Redsox, the Hanshin Tigers have had their fair share of “Hanshin Hard-Luck,” a nick-name bestowed upon them after their one and only 1985 Japan Series Championship.
Much like that of the once Boston Redsox’s ‘Curse of the Bambino,’ a similar curse is believed to lurk over the Tigers. According to The Curse of the Colonel, after their 1985 win, fans celebrated by having people who looked like Tigers players jump into the Dotonbori Canal. According to legend, because none of the fans resembled first baseman Randy Bass, fans grabbed a life-sized statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel Sanders and threw it into the river (like Bass, the Colonel had a beard and was not Japanese). After many years without another championship, the Tigers were said to be doomed never to win again until the Colonel was rescued from the river. In 2003, when the Tigers returned to the Japan Series after 18 years, many KFC outlets in Kobe and Osaka moved their Colonel Sanders statues inside until the series was over to protect them from Tigers fans. Unfortunately, the curse lives on as the Tigers lost the series in 2003. The search for the Hanshin Tigers second elusive championship and all the Colonel’s missing limbs from his 1985 drowning continue to this day.
The Hanshin Tigers play in Koshien Stadium, the oldest ballpark in Japan; built-in 1924, the stadium was once visited by American baseball legend Babe Ruth on a tour of Major League stars in 1934. There is a monument commemorating this visit at the front gates of the park. In closing, I’ll add that being in Koshien Stadium feels like little advancements have been made to modernize the stadium. Like in many parts of Japan, there are certain shops and streets in towns across the country where it feels like time has just stopped, and I can honestly say this about Koshien Stadium. From the food vendors to the old corridors surrounding the stadium, it feels old school in every way to say the least, but I’m sure many would say – that’s the beauty of it. By the way, I actually didn’t get to see the game, because the damn game was rained out! To be continued maybe…