The Hanshin Railway Company owns and operates the Hanshin Tigers. Representing Osaka in that city’s rivalry with Tokyo, the Tigers have been the Kansai region’s counterpoint to Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants since both teams started playing in 1936.
But as with politics, economics and culture, Tokyo usually prevails at the ballpark. While Hanshin has compiled the Central League’s second-best franchise record, they are a distant second from the Giants in numbers of pennants and Japan Series championships won.
Waiting impatiently for nearly five decades, when Hanshin finally won their first Japan Series, Osaka residents went berserk. Some Tigers fans shaved the team’s logo on their scalps or dived into polluted canals while others were accused of hijacking a train.
In less successful times, Hanshin fans have been known to confront and assault opposing players outside the ballpark while hurling batteries and pachinko balls inside.
Seating 55,000 fans, Koshien Stadium is also the site of the summer high school baseball tournament every August. Built in 1924, the aging concrete and steel ballpark features natural grass, an all-dirt infield and visible bullpens. Though a must-see for its history as much as its ivy-covered exterior, Koshien’s large foul territory, high chain-link fences and scores of posts hamper visibility.
Still, no other Japanese park may offer as much old-fashioned baseball atmosphere. And no matter how destined for disappointment, few Japanese fans show as much enthusiasm as those wearing yellow and black happi coats at Koshien Stadium.
Acknowledgment: Dan Latham