Visiting Japan can be quite a culture shock. Remember Bill Murray in Lost in Translation? To help our kids get acclimatized after traveling halfway across the globe to the capital city of Kyushu, Japan, I figured a visit to the local ballpark for something familiar would be a smooth transition to the Japanese way of life.
The stadium was an easy walk from our Hyatt Hotel across the street. With a capacity crowd of almost 40,000 Softbank Hawk fans, the Fukuoka Dome is comparable to many of the MLB stadiums in the U.S. Even though we didn’t know any of the players or understand the PA announcements, we could easily follow balls and strikes; runs and outs. But that’s where many of the similarities with the American Pastime ended.
To our surprise, no one in the crowd seemed interested in catching a foul ball. In the U.S., it’s usual a scrum. Stranger yet, despite the home team’s poor record and particularly weak play that night, no one would dare boo. Yelling at the players? Not in this country. Best of all, to mark the seventh inning stretch, everyone in attendance was given a long yellow balloon and instructed to blow it up. On the count of three, “Ichi”... “Ni”... “San”, everyone released their balloons. To the delight of the kids, the stadium became a sea of squirming yellow latex.
Who won the game? It didn’t matter. All I remember is that the kids had a blast and where then eager to find out what other surprises Japan would have in store. Turns out, here would be many.