Wednesday, July 18, 2012

day trip: baseball in sendai

On Saturday, Hubs and I went on our first ITT tour  together. (ITT is the travel office on base and they help you make travel arrangements as well as organize trips throughout the year.) It was actually a bit of a fluke because we waited a little too long to sign up,  the trip was booked by the time we made it over to the office, and we were the 5th or so family on the waiting list. However, because the Universe wants to meet Hubs' needs for some all-American sports, we lucked out and got tickets for the trip to Sendai for baseball. 

Sendai, as you may remember, was affected by the March 2011 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to explore the city on this trip but I'd definitely be interested in going back to visit. It's the largest city in the Tohoku region of Japan (according to Wikipedia) and I'm sure has a lot to offer. 

Our alarm started going off around 5:15am, since I had grand plans of doing a bunch of things around the house. Fast forward to 6:15am and we finally dragged ourselves out of bed. We tossed a few essentials (e.g., umbrella, raincoat, camera) in a backpack and headed out the door by 6:45. I'm a huge fan of breakfast foods so Hubs treated me to breakfast at a 24-hour cafe on base. It was surprisingly delicious! (Though his vanilla iced latte was weak--no love like he gets from our kitchen.) Afterwards, we meandered over to the bus and settled into our seats. 

The drive was 4 hours each way so we stopped after 2 stretch our legs and use the restroom/get snacks if needed. I love Japanese rest areas--they are plentiful, always have a ton of things, and are always clean! We arrived at the stadium around noon and the opening ceremony wasn't until 1:30 so we were able to explore the different vendors. The pro shop accepts credit cards, so we got some souvenirs--shirts for Hubs and I, a long towel (like Euro soccer scarves), and a set of bats you smack together when you're cheering for your team (all Hubs). The funniest thing about the stadium? Sushi and gyoza and yakitori vendors! We've certainly never had those at any American sporting events. 

Hubs waiting for the game to begin.

Sometimes we accidentally match...

The home team was Tohoku's Rakuten Eagles, and they played Hokkaido's Nippon-Ham Fighters. Hubs kept calling them the "Ham Fighters" and he would have been beside himself had we been able to find a jersey. Instead, Hubs got a jersey of one of the Eagles' most famous players and I grabbed a random t-shirt (which happened to have the manager's number--so perfect). 

Before the game, the mascots were on the field doing their thing. There was a male and female eagle, brown and pink respectively, and people really seem to enjoy them. Our tour guide was so adorable taking a picture of herself with the lady eagle. After a little while, a bunch of kiddos ran out on the field and tossed around some baseballs with each other and a few grown-ups. It was pretty adorable! Then, the cheerleaders did their thing (there were so many), and finally the presentation ceremony. This involved a member of each team accepting a bouquet from a kiddo, shaking their hand, and bowing (of course!). There was the ceremonial first pitch and the game was  on. 

I have to say that the Japanese have won me over yet again with how quiet they are! We were with the American group so had a number of annoying people around us, but all the Japanese were silent if it wasn't their turn to cheer. (They also only cheer when the team they support is at bat, vice American tradition of trying to distract the opposing team.) The Eagles scored the first run and the crowd erupted with cheers and applause. 

Part of the group made the big screen. That little Japanese lady next to the big white guy was our adorable guide.

During the 7th inning, there is a kind of strange but also neat tradition called "balloon time." Our tour guide was so excited about this on the way to the game, and she even gave Hubs and I balloons so we could participate. Fans buy packs of balloons, red and white in each, for ¥200. Red represents the home team and white is for when they are winning. At the start of the inning, people start blowing up their balloons. I am talking hundreds of giant balloons. Then, at the halfway point the stadium plays a song and when it ends everyone releases their balloons. It's an all-out balloon frenzy! You might wonder what happens to all of the balloons after the fact? Well, the Japanese in their infinite desire for order, have children collect them for little prizes. (Genius!) 

The Eagles ended up losing the game, but it was a really fun time regardless. The weather held out, which was fantastic, since it was raining a bit on the way down and the forecast called for thunderstorms. We stopped for dinner on the way home and I bought fried rice triangles with chicken nuggets(?) out of a vending machine, as well as a ice cream dorayaki at Hubs' urging--all delicious! We got back to base around 10:30pm and were pretty wiped out. 

Our next adventure is to see rice paddy art next weekend as well as the Tanabata Festival, and we've ordered some chairs for our Nebuta Festival viewing (more on that later). Definitely keeping our summer as busy as possible!


P.S. If you haven't yet, please head on over to the MilSpouse Bloggers Network and vote for then there was we for milspouse blogger of the week!

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