Hiroshima Carp

Only five years after Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, the city got it’s own baseball team, a source of pride and a symbol of the city’s determination to rebuild. But it took a lot longer for the Carp, who were established in 1950, to win their first pennant.

In their first 25 seasons, the Carp never finished higher than third place. But in 1975, Hiroshima turned things around. With Koji Yamamoto (536 career home runs) and Sachio Kinugasa (2215 consecutive games) leading the team’s offense, the Carp surged to first place, capturing their first Central League title. Though they lost the 1975 Japan Series, Hiroshima has six pennants.

Inviting immediate comparison to the Cincinnati Reds, the Carp wear crimson and white jerseys and share an identical cap with their Midwest counterpart.

Partly owned by the City of Hiroshima and Toyo, a car manufacturing company, the Carp may be one of the poorest ball clubs in Japan. Because the team reportedly has a low salary benchmark above which it refuses to go, the Carp tend to rarely negotiate with free agents or sign high-priced foreign players.

Unable or unwilling to purchase any high-profile players, the Carp have invested their meager funds in developing younger players and in setting up a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Not surprisingly, many of the team’s foreign players come from Latin America.

Bored with pitchers’ duels? Enjoy watching a lot of action and home runs? If so, the Hiroshima Carp are your team. Hiroshima’s sluggers take advantage of their home ballpark’s shallow outfield walls.

Hiroshima Municipal Stadium (capacity 32,000) is located across the street from the city’s most famous landmark, the A-Bomb Dome, which is visible just beyond the park’s third base bleachers.

The smallest ballpark in Japan, it offers seats that are close to the action, a natural grass outfield, bullpens down the foul lines and a new high-tech scoreboard. The shallow outfield fences make this the best park for fans seeking to catch a home run ball. This is a cozy old-fashioned ballpark for you to enjoy…but bring your own food, there’s not much to select from at the park.

Why the team picked a Philadelphia Phillie Phanatic-clone instead of a carp for a mascot remains a mystery. But fans don’t seem to care. Filling Hiroshima Stadium, Carp fans come in one flavor: rabid. Possibly the most energetic in Japan, Hiroshima’s cheering section repeats one hypnotic cheer for all their players. It’s fun to watch and even more fun to join.

Even if you can’t see a Carp game in Hiroshima, their fans almost always fill the left-field bleachers at all the Tokyo and Osaka Central League ballparks.

Acknowledgment: Dan Latham