At all points in my life, childhood to adolescence to adulthood, I have solemnly detested sports. While my dad and brother hunkered down to watch “the match” I’d high and mightily stalk away to read or game or complain that football was bloody boring. While I still stand by this notion, a part of travelling is immersing oneself in the culture as best as possible, and one way to do this effectively in Japan is to engage with and follow the baseball team of your local district. For me, this means that Hiroshima Carps are No.1!
As a close friend told me recently, the Carps are the soul of Hiroshima people and he certainly wasn’t wrong. From the banners to the hats, the store displays to the enormous Mazda Stadium, the Carps are a team that could not be more loved by the people of Hiroshima.
Originating in the 1950’s following the reconstruction of the district, the Carps were one of the poorest teams with players often getting paid late if at all. The lack of sponsorship proved a huge problem during the early 1950’s until the Hiroshima people personally raised funds for the team. Without the support of the Hiroshima people, the team probably wouldn’t exist today. As it is, the name Carp is synonymous with loyalty and love.
My fist real sporting event, and the first I ever enjoyed, my visit to the Mazda Zoom Zoom stadium was superb. The stadium itself is stunning, open, clean and artistic in its design. Offering the usual amenities, beer, beer girls, foods of the world and of course fantastic views of the team, the stadium sits next to the Shinkansen Station, giving visitors a fully submersive Japanese experience.
Japanese baseball, as I have been told, is very different from it’s American counterpart. The Japanese thrive on the action and the game itself is an interactive activity. Fans release balloons, sing songs and beat mini baseball bats in drum-like fashion to show their excitement. The whole day is spent cheering and clapping and singing and, if smart enough, enjoying Costco pizza.
A team that has gone without it’s Central League pennant (a term I just learned) for the past 25 years, 2016 has seen the Carps rise to the top and claim victory. This of course sent Hiroshima into a frenzy of celebration. Unlike the football hooliganism that has gripped the UK in the past, the Carp win saw Hiroshima people unite in the streets to celebrate.
Champagne, beer and sake all rained down in showers and the local bars and restaurants offered deals and discounts for fans. Hiroshima people wandered the streets in droves high fiving and screaming “Carps No.1!” at anyone who would listen. Covered in sake myself, I took to the streets and sang and danced and enjoyed the beauty that was the the people of this district coming together to celebrate.
Still not an avid sports fan, I have now officially had my eyes opened to the community that is sport. In a country like Japan, where districts are so vastly different to each other, baseball has become a source of national pride and for a district like Hiroshima, the Carps are a symbol of the power of people who can come together to give life to something they believe in.
With the current season coming to an end, I would highly recommend planning a visit to Hiroshima next year for a Carps game. Tickets available at almost every convenience store!