Yesterday I went to see Oita's pro soccer team, the Trinita, play a game at the "Big Eye" dome here in Oita. The dome, nicknamed the "Big Eye" because of its unique roof opening mechanism, is a world class facility and hosted a few games at the 2002 World Cup. It was also a very pleasant spring day, and with some discount tickets I got at school, I went with fellow JET Zack to check out the game. It was a good game overall, with Oita jumping out to a two goal lead at the half, but the opponent Yokohama F Marinos pushed hard in the second half and managed to score an equalizer late, making the final score 2-2. Of course, there were plenty of passionate fans there, but overall the turnout was pretty low... announced attendance was around 14,000 in a stadium with 40,000 capacity. So despite a pleasant May Saturday, a competitive team, and discount tickets for students and teachers, there were still a lot of empty seats. Come on Oita-jin!
In Kyushu, there's not only soccer, there's baseball too. I went with a group of folks from basketball to watch the Softbank Hawks play at the Yahoo Dome in Fukuoka. Now, Japanese people take their baseball very seriously, and there were no turnout problems this time. Pretty much a full house, but despite the fine weather, the dome was kept closed. Well, the game was fairly exciting, but after getting thrown out at home three times, including twice in the same inning, the Hawks lost, 4-3. But it was nice to go to the "big city" and to see the sights and get some food, including Hard Rock Cafe which is really just like an American restaurant, down to the French's mustard and free drink refills.
So what's this basketball group that I mentioned? It's a group of people in their 20s and 30s who get together on weekday nights for a couple of hours at a local junior high school gym. It's a pretty loose affiliation, teams are made at random every time using a rock-paper-scissors system, traveling and fouls are rarely called, although some recent somewhat-rough play has prompted requests for some kind of referee system. Additionally, there are people of all kinds of skill levels on there, so sometimes the quality of play can be a little rough. But I think's it good to have an open system like that, and overall the environment is pretty good. The purpose is really more for getting exercise and meeting people, but if you can improve my basketball a little bit, then that's not bad either. The only problem is, that the basketball is almost always late in the evening on a weekday night, a good hour or so away in Usuki, so I don't get back until late, and then I'm pretty whipped for the next day. The price one has to pay, I suppose.
Also, speaking of sports, we had our annual "Sports Festival" day at Ono a few weeks ago. It's roughly similar to the Field Days you may have had as a kid growing up, but it's a much bigger production and the whole school really gets into it. There's standard stuff like 100m dashes, tug-of-war, relay races and obstacle courses, but there are also some more unique events like the kibasen, where the players try to grab each other's headbands, while being carried by three of their teammates (easy to understand if you see it). Each year, the individual teams to a little cheer-type dance thing to popular songs, and this time the dances were really funny and inventive, so that was a real highlight. Also, we finally had good weather this year too, after really heavy rainfall spoiled last year's event somewhat.
Well, I didn't plan to sit down and only write about sports, but that's what happened. But with the nice weather in Spring here, you've got to take advantage of it one way or another.