People in Nagoya work hard and play hard. If you are a baseball fan and want to see for yourself go to a ball game at Nagoya Dome, home of the Chunichi Dragons. Currently the Dragons are ranked fifth among six teams in their league, but the crowd at Nagoya Dome is nonetheless enthusiastic and the atmosphere is electric.
During the game there is a lot of family entertainment. This includes the 18 cheerleaders from the Cheer Dragons who spread out on to the field after the bottom of the fifth inning and dance to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” along with the crowd, the blue and pink mascot dragons SHAOLON and PAOLON, and DOALA (the koala in baseball uniform), who does a backflip after the seventh. Doala’s attempt is not always successful but is cheered by the home side and visitors alike.
Watching the crowds is probably the most interesting part – many wave towels bearing the shirt number of players while a few wear pink and blue headbands with large round koala ears inspired by DOALA! The cheering is very orchestrated – lively and vigorous yet at the same time very disciplined. There are many songs, for every batter and for different situations during the game. Here is a loose translation of a song made for players who have come from abroad to add firepower to the Dragons: “Cross the sea and make the dream come true, victory in our hands, together with us…”. When I was there during a game against Hanshin Tigers two schoolage girls behind me were singing almost non-stop with a high pitched vocaloid like voice! One of them told me she wanted to join the Cheer Dragons eventually.
To experience all this make sure you get a seat allocated to Dragons fans outfield first base side if you don’t mind the constant banging of drums, blaring trumpets and the crowd standing up more than half the time. From this area you will probably see the backside of first baseman Dayán Viciedo (shirt no. 66) from Cuba or outfielder Steven Moya (no.44) from Puerto Rico when the team is fielding. Other players from overseas include pitcher Dillon Gee (US) and Zoilo Almonte from Dominica. There is another supporters area on the third base side, which is just as interesting because you can hear the fans of the visiting team not far away.
Before the game I also had the chance to talk to some of the diligent support staff at Nagoya Dome. I was impressed by the members of the “Baseballmates,” five charming young ladies in sporting attire who sprint on to the ground to deliver a new ball to the umpire and help other events during the game. They have a passion for the Dragons and pride in their job. Coming from Tokyo I asked them why girls in Nagoya were so exuberant – they pointed to “Nagoya meshi,” the local cuisine which is mostly hearty and high in energy. You might see the Baseballmates greeting spectators outside the gate when the dome opens before the game.
With summer just around the corner there will be three games in early July where the dome will be lit up by displays of LED poi to celebrate Tanabata (the star festival). This event is a fusion of baseball and one of Japan’s age-old traditions which celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). According to legend, they were two lovers separated by the Milky Way, and are allowed to meet only once a year. People generally celebrate this event by writing wishes on small pieces of paper called tanzaku, and no doubt Nagoya Dome will be filled with messages wishing for another Dragons victory.
Ask any local Dragons fan about game dates. Access to Nagoya Dome is easy: If you are coming from central Nagoya, hop on board Meijo Line in the clockwise direction and get off at Nagoya Dome-mae Yada and follow the crowd. The underpass from the station looks like a hall of fame with pictures of Dragons players. Allow plenty of time because the dome itself is some walking distance from station. There is a huge Aeon shopping mall connected to the dome which is open until late. You can enjoy a hot coffee or a bite at the food court before heading home. The trains will be less crowded by the time you finish supper.