If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, you won’t find it a Japanese baseball game — the fans in the cheering sections, known as oendan, make sure of that. Unlike in North America, where the roar of the crowd rises and falls with the action on the field, Japanese baseball supporters keep up a frantic mix of chanting, singing and general noise-making for the entire nine innings.
In that way, the fan experience at a Japanese baseball game is more akin to a European or South American soccer match than it is an MLB contest.
Each team has developed its own chants and songs, and all stadiums offer a dedicated section for visiting team’s fans. Supporters of the Hanshin Tigers in the Central League and the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Pacific League are known for being particularly boisterous — even when playing on the road, their cheering squads rival the home crowd in intensity and volume.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways for less-zealous fans to tune out the noise during Japanese baseball games. Chief among these are the beer vendors— typically cute young women, who dispense brews from a portable tap (some stadiums even have roaming vendors selling shots of whiskey).
At concession stands, the food lineup includes homegrown staples such as curry rice and fried noodles alongside typical American stadium fare like hot dogs and ice cream.
Another highlight of Japanese baseball is the traditional seventh-inning stretch, when Japanese fans, instead of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” release thousands of sperm-shaped balloons — a not-to-be-missed spectacle for any sports enthusiast in Japan.
Photo by Travis Sanders