Unjapanised Japaneseness

I’ve been to a couple of football games back at home, when Egypt hosted the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations. Good times. We’d  buy a bunch of flags, each for 20 pounds (or less, depending which ناصيه), hats striped with the Egy Colors, wear red and the works. The experience was rich because, like all Egyptians know, football was the only thing that gathered our tired voices in one strong chant. Of course all that has now changed. Now the Egyptian flag has a connotation with Tahrir Square and Jan25 Revolution rather than Abu Treika.

I was invited to attend a baseball game  from the Japan Central League, in which the Hanshin Tigers (basically the “Osaka team”) would be playing against Yakult Swallows.

I don’t know baseball. I don’t know who the Hanshin Tigers are, nor do I care where the Yakult Swallows came from. My experience with baseball could be summarized in the fact that I always wanted to acquire a baseball bat to hit people I didn’t like. I never got the chance, since where I come from, no baseball bats are in sight.

But I said yes. I mean, if now I can bike with only one hand on the handle, I might as well go to a baseball game and have fun.

الباعه الجائلين..حاجه سكر

I might not have gone through the black/red/white rituals I’d go though before a football game with the Egyptian National Team, but attending that baseball game was almost revelational.

For the first time I saw Japanese people being loud, and – ever so pleasantly – acting obnoxious. The Official Hashin Tigers Store on the Stadium was packed with supporters before the game. People would bump into you, then bow and apologize, or try to race you to the baseball cap stand, then bos and apologize. Rudeness with a twist.

We got the cheapest tickets so we were sitting all the way up. I didn’t mind one bit. For one thing, I didn’t really care what was going on in the game *coughs*. For another thing, our seats granted me a perfect view of the who stadium and were actually quite close to the visiting team’s crowd, who were energy incarnate.

And so the game started. I cheered when people cheered, I clapped when they clapped. Each player of the team has his own song, which the masses repeat the moment he hold the bat. I mumbled with what I wanted to illude whoever is around me was Japanese, and I cursed whenever the Swallows scored (whatever the hell they score in baseball)

In a country where beer is king, it is hard to be in such a social atmosphere without bumping into drunk Japanese. Halfway through the game, and by the time mission intoxication was accomplished, some supporters would come over shake hands and congratulate us on the new goal (strike?). At that moment I compare the attitude of the Japanese people on, say, train rides during morning rush hours, where we’re like sardine in a can, where I can hear nothing but the train smoothly sliding on the rail lines and  the breaths of salarymen getting ready for a long workday. Put the same crowd in a baseball stadium and they are 1st rate partiers.

The Hanshin Tigers were able to stop the Yakult Swallows 11 game winning streaks, which meant only one thing: After Game Crazy Celebrations. Outside the stadium a crowd of hardcore supporters started singing, dancing, flinging stuff through the air and doing the universally same random stuff hardcore supporters do after winning a game.

Because yours truly stands out in the middle of Japanese crowds, people would come over and congratulate me (I guess) on winning. If only they knew my dedication to the Hanshin Tigers.

It’s funny that the next day when skyping, I was telling the story and when asked about the result of the game I said “We won”… It took me 20 seconds to stop and thing… who exactly are “we”?

Everyone says its hard to blend in the Japanese society, which is true. But there are those times, those moments, when this wall of separation  turns into a tull curtain…

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May 2011
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