March 8, 2008

A Taste of Japanese Baseball . . . and Tapas

Today we were invited to go to see the Orix Buffaloes take on the Yukult Swallows (in a pre-season game) at the Osaka Dome. It was actually our first baseball game in a dome. The Buffaloes play half their games in Osaka Dome and half in Skymark Stadium in Kobe (which is supposed to be very nice). Greg LaRocca's wife (and super-cute 3 month old baby) accompanied us and got us all free passes to see the game, as well as the behind the scenes area. They were also nice enough to give Jacob and Lauren a package of baseball cards of a whole bunch of the Orix players. Before the game, Greg even came out to meet us and gave Jacob and Lauren big high-fives before the game. He also delivered a 2 run HR in his first at bat!

Because it was a pre-season game, it was pretty empty at the Osaka Dome. We got to sit right behind the Buffaloes dugout near home plate. The Buffaloes have some great hitters, including the gaijin contingent of Tuffy Rhodes, Greg LaRocca (in below picture), and Alex Cabrera. We hear that they all live on Rokko Island. The game was fun, and we had a terrific time.

Similar to the bleacher creatures (but completely different!), each of the teams has their own cheering section, complete with a band (trumpet, drums, etc.), synchronized singing and dancing, and giant flags. You only cheer when your team is batting. Each player has their own song that is led by the cheering section and everyone claps and sings along. The home fans only cheer when the home team is up. While the other team is batting, there is total silence from the Orix fans and the Yukult cheering section (with its trumpets, drums, and songs) takes over. In addition to all that, each team also has its own little idiosyncratic cheering thing too. For example, the Yukult Swallows fans all raised miniature green umbrellas from side to side to the beat of a cheer everytime they scored a run. Totally weird. Another funny thing was the beer vendors (almost all of whom are women) are outfitted in neon green astronaut-looking suits and have 1/2 kegs strapped to their backs, which they distribute from a built-in spigot.

At 7th inning stretch time, everyone (except us) blows up long red and blue balloons and then lets them go after some song that they all sing. Throughout the whole top of the 7th inning (and even with few people in the ballpark) you hear this collective sound of balloons being blown up. Quite different from Take Me Out To The Ballgame. One nice difference - no YMCA.

This evening, we scored a babysitter (!!) and Ilena and Mike went to dinner in Sannomiya. After browsing through a whole bunch of candidates, we settled on a nice looking tapas place called La Cazuela, that had a set "Pairs Course Menu." Which was completely in Japanese.

Luckily, the waiter spoke a little bit of English and helped us make our choices. The food was absolutely stellar. We had awesome sangria, real crusty bread (and silverware and napkins!), great tapas, paella, and creme brulee. Strangely, there were no chopsticks. If you closed your eyes, you felt like you were in a tapas restaurant in NY or Spain. But if you opened them you saw the Japanese chalkboard menu and the Japanese chefs preparing the food. It was a great find and a fun night. As always, in Japan, the service was beyond incredible. It's just not right that you can't tip in this country!

No comments: