9/11/08 – Hanshin (Away)

September 11th, 2008

Sanshin TigersTokyo Yakult Swallows 4Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Hanshin Tigers 5

Streak: Lost 3 Last 5: LWLLL

(Koshien Stadium)

Tuesday it was Oshimoto. Wednesday it was Matsuoka. Tonight it was Lim’s turn to blow a game in the 9th inning. But unlike the previous two nights, when the scores were tied going into the final inning, tonight Yakult had a 4-2 lead going into the 9th. But just like the previous night, the winning sayonara run was walked in to hand the Tigers possibly their easiest sweep of the year. A sweep that has realistically all but destroyed any hopes of a 3rd placed finish that Yakult had going into the series.

Ishikawa started and was OKish, giving up just the two runs on eight hits in his 7 innings.

Yakult took a 2-0 lead in the 1st, RBIs from Aoki and Ihara, before a Imaoka two-run home run tied things up in the bottom of the same inning at 2-2.

Tokyo edged ahead in the 6th, two hits and a sacrifice fly from Kawashima made it 3-2. They added another in the 7th as Hanshin reliever Nohmi imploded, giving up a hit and three consecutive walks to make it 4-2.

Igarashi relieved Ishikawa in the 8th, pitching a perfect inning.

And so to the 9th, and Lim. It went a little something like this: double, triple (one run), double (tying run), strikeout, single, intentional walk, unintentional walk – aaaaaaaaggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! Well, I supplied the last bit, but I can assure you Lim provided the rest for his 5th loss of the season.

From this low, the Swallows move on to Tokyo Dome to line up in a line and be repeatedly kicked in the balls by cackling Yomiuri players for a three game series against the Giants. Joy.

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • God I hate Hanshin, and especially Hanshin at Koshien.

    I have to mute my TV when watching games from there as the inane, continuous drone of skwarky voices (of which only Hanshin fans possess) and plastic megaphone bashing is akin to nails down a blackboard and gives me a headache.

    It’s almost like a cult, where all Kansai’s great unwashed and inbred come to wear Tiger’s ears and hold signs like it’s WWE. Kind of Jonestownish in a way (minus the kool aid of course…….).

  • Hear, hear!

    WWE is a great analogy – rowdy, obnoxious, occasionally violent crowds dressed up in relentlessly tacky outfits and oozing ignorance and inexplicable smarm. I figure Yomiuri deserve their boring drone-swarm of a fan base, but the Hanshin case is a shame – historical stadium, otherwise normal team, but a fan base responsible for just about every single unfortunate incident at ballgames since the 1970s – and often without any real reason for it.

    Hanshin fans are everywhere and I’ve noticed that, much like Yomiuri fans, they are incapable of talking about baseball past naming their club’s celeb du jour. On top of that, you know it’s only a matter of time before you get some kind of non sequitir, out of left field obnoxious behavior.

    Other fan: “Hey, Hanshin fan, your guys had a rough night.”
    Hanshin-boy: “Wooo! Fujikawa! Best hitter ever!”
    OF: “Uuuuhhmmm. . . What?”
    HB: “Woo!” (Proceeds to do doughnuts on the local middle school field in his pimped-out minivan with his poor sleeping kids in the back, thus, apparently “winning” the conversation.)

    The sad thing is I’m only slightly exaggerating.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    Remember guys – Hanshin fans and Gomiuri fans are the only reason the Swallows still exist. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you – too much.

  • I don’t know, I think that Yakult would bail the team out no matter what the cost. The team loses tons of cash every year despite the extra fans that show up for 25% (15 out of the 60) of the scheduled home games at Jingu.

    Actually, I need to qualify that. Yomiuri fans really only show up for weekend series, so we can call that 12 of the 60 scheduled home games at Jingu. Hanshin fans, it goes without saying, show up en masse for any game as long as the team is not in fifth or sixth place.

    Anyway, back to my original point: bailing the team out for millions of dollars every year is a bargain when considering how much extra would have to be spent on prime kanto-region advertising if Yakult did not own the team.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    Yes you’re right about the brand recognition value. But even so it’s an expensive way to advertise and any company would want to defray the costs. If you can make the team pay for itself you’re getting the brand recognition and free advertising. Why pay when you can get it for free?

    If you can turn a profit on your team the advertising is a value added activity. That’s why the Hanshin and Yomiuri games are so important. Tickets are more expensive (we mugs will pay more to watch our teams) and you don’t need promotions like the couples tickets at Jingu to generate revenue. The reason Yakult objected to a single league (like the other teams) was because it would lose a lot of its lucrative Tigers and Giants games. Even though the parent company might bail the team out it wouldn’t do for ever without these games.

  • Even though the parent company might bail the team out it wouldn’t do for ever without these games.

    Actually, Christopher, and this is quite sad, but they almost certainly would.

    Hanshin has only very recently started drawing extra supporters to Jingu. Don’t give them too much credit. Let us not forget that the team was absolutely dismal from the Bass era until about 2003. Those left field stands were all but bare for years. The Hoshino-Okada era has brought on several consecutive top three finishes and swarms of fair-weather Hanshin supporters, so kudos for the success that they’ve enjoyed during the past few years. But their contribution to Yakult coffers over the years has been marginal.

    If Yomiuri/Hanshin games are so integral to a team’s financial stability, then how do the Pacific League teams survive?

    So that leaves Yomiuri. But Yomiuri fans just don’t show up for games. Weekend Yomiuri-sen crowds are rarely impressive at Jingu. But they still deserve more of the credit than Hanshin in terms of taking a little bit of the edge off of the deficit incurred by the Yakult front office every season (even in seasons when they win). Due to the decades-old Yomiuri brainwashing regime, they’ve managed to help us out a bit over the years. But the fans only really show up when the team is in first, and that hasn’t been incredibly often over the past 25 years. The crowds for last weekend’s series at Jingu were actually pretty weak.

    So let’s recalibrate this just a bit. Yomiuri and Hanshin’s existence have very little impact on Yakult’s viability. Yakult’s management doesn’t give a damn about the business of baseball and it doesn’t appear that they ever will. I bet that if you asked the “owner” of the team (a position that gets rotated every couple years) who his favorite players on the team now are, his first answer would be Furuta. Then, after a bit of thought, he might come up with the names Miyamoto and Aoki. After that, I’d wager that he doesn’t know any other names.

    There are plenty of people calling for increased investment in the club to nurture its own talent and produce teams that can have a shot year-in and year-out. But the success of the team simply doesn’t concern the front office. They simply accept the status quo, and the recent resurgence of Hanshin has been a nice excuse for them to delay any efforts to actually create a team/business that makes money.

    “Hey, look! The team lost less than 30 million dollars this year! Drinks all around!”

    Most other teams in the Central are guilty of the same idiocy.

    To say that Yakult is able to survive because of the existence of teams such as Hanshin and Yomiuri is difficult to justify at best. Yakult as a company is not in the business of creating a winning baseball team. They’re in the business of selling yogurt. The Tokyo Swallows are a small, but important, cog in that commercial wheel. It’s called the marketing division. If that bumper crop of ticket sales wasn’t there for those 10-20 Yomiuri/Hanshin games per year, it’s safe to say that the team would ride the season out much like the Pacific League teams always have. Again, several other teams in the Central League are guilty of the same thing.

    But let’s look at your suggestion from another angle. What if Yomiuri and Hanshin switched leagues or somehow just disappeared? Were Hanshin and Yomiuri to vanish tomorrow (god forbid), it would probably be one of the best things that ever happened to the league from a business perspective. Teams would be allowed to make decisions that are in their own best interests, and power would become more evenly distributed. However, the central league teams would likely be slowest to react. The teams in the better division would continue to innovate and restructure, as they’ve quietly been doing for years, and the Central League teams would be forced to play catch-up.

    In effect, Yakult would finally be forced to treat the team like a business. That would benefit the team enormously. For starters, had the team been run with business in mind after last season, some extra cash would probably have been invested in Greisinger and Ramirez’s long-term happiness in Swallows uniforms. And on the level of NPB as a whole, the end result would likely be a league with parity and an increased ability to compete with MLB for talent.

    So, yes, some extra cash comes in when Yomiuri and Hanshin are around (of course, some of that is then spent on extra people to pick up balloons when the latter is in town), but they do not deserve credit for keeping Yakult on the map.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    Of course it can be argued that way and certainly the Tigers fans at Jingu phenomenan is recent. However, it is non the less still valuable and lucrative. Given the choice I am sure that the Yakult management would rather not go back to the days of no Tigers fans. In the past – yes we had the situation where it didn’t matter if the fans didn’t turn out. But the business environment has changed and now the Tigers/Giants games do matter. Surprisingly, Yakult are still in with a chance because the Kanto region is up for grabs. The Giants have not locked in this region and there are still a lot of fans who can be persuaded to support the Swallows. Giants relied too much on television revenue and as this is fading are struggling to find a replacement.

    Persuading fans to follow the Swallows shouldn’t be a difficult task if the marketing team is up to scratch but I’m afraid only the Tigers have an effective marketing team. The problem is that as even marketing comes under tighter cost control then everything is looked at for what value it adds. If you know management accounting you know what I mean. This hasn’t happened to the Swallows yet but may well happen – it has happened to the Carp where the players are paid less deliberately to keep the costs down and generate a small profit. Yakult can bear the cost now but you cannot expect this situation to continue. Sometime some bright spark is going to ask ‘why are we dropping …….million on this?’ and the management are going to listen.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree,

    This is what I was disputing:

    Remember guys – Hanshin fans and Gomiuri fans are the only reason the Swallows still exist.

    But now somehow we’ve wandered all the way over to this:

    But the business environment has changed and now the Tigers/Giants games do matter. Surprisingly, Yakult are still in with a chance because the Kanto region is up for grabs. The Giants have not locked in this region and there are still a lot of fans who can be persuaded to support the Swallows. Giants relied too much on television revenue and as this is fading are struggling to find a replacement.

    Let me transition back to where this started by saying that I would love nothing more than for Yakult to sell the team to a company or group of investors who will actually treat it like a business and expect the franchise to finish the year in the black. I think that we’re in agreement that the ownership of the team is lousy.

    Now, back to your original suggestion. Hanshin and Yomiuri games at Jingu pull in an average of 9,000 more spectators per game than games versus Yokohama, Chunichi and Hiroshima do (this year’s numbers). That’s 9,000 extra men, women and children buying tickets, drinks and food.

    Let’s do some generous math here:
    if all 9,000 of those spectators purchase the most expensive seats available in the area where they want to sit, then that works out to about 780 million yen over the course of the season. To push the final tally up we’ll say only 3,000 additional fans sit in the outfield, but that all of them buy 1,900 yen reserved seat tickets (the most expensive available in the outfield). The other 6,000 pay the maximum 4,500 yen for their seats (S-section seats). 780 million yen.

    And 780 million is being very generous. Those 4,500 yen seats are all in the S-section which means that they are mostly season ticket seats which are mostly held by companies that give them out to their employees. Yakult makes no extra money on ticket sales when those season ticket seats fill up. Realistically, the people in S-section seats pay nothing (unless they bought their ticket at one of those little ticket shop holes-in-the-wall in Shinjuku), and the other half in the infield seat occupants pay between 3,100 and 3,900 yen.

    In addition, a large number of surplus fans in the outfield sections are members of the fan club, so they pay only 1,000 yen for their seats. By ignoring those mitigating factors, I’ve intentionally overestimated the number to a point where most observers (except me) would say that it’s a fair starting point for analysis.

    Because that number is so inflated, we can safely say that it includes the revenue gleaned from beverage and food sales (team merchandising is outsourced, so shirt sales don’t really factor in here).

    Anyway, 780 million yen. That’s less than 7.5 million dollars over the course of an entire season that can be attributed to those extra fans that show up for Yomiuri and Hanshin games!

    As a percentage of total team operating revenue, that’s pretty small. And when set against Yakult’s capitalization as an organization, it’s nothing more than negligible.

    Are the bean counters happy to welcome the recent increased influx of Hanshin fans to Jingu a few times every month during the summer? I’m sure they are. Hanshin fans are responsible for nearly half of that extra 7.5 million that comes in (average attendance at Hanshin games is just shy of 23,000 people; Yomiuri games fetch nearly 25,000).

    But the team would not go under if those games were played against other teams instead, and that 7.5 million dollar windfall vanished. It’s pretty easy to see how the Pacific League teams can survive without Yomiuri and Hanshin. And let us not forget that 2008 is exceptional in that both Yomiuri and Hanshin are playing well and battling it out for the pennant. Those extra bums in seats helped push this year’s figure up higher than it normally is.

    The powers-that-be have written the team off as an advertising expense since the mid-70’s; they stopped caring about the success of the team, and by extension the franchise’s bottom line, a long time ago. The only thing they care about is that those dark blue away uniforms have “Yakult” emblazoned across the chest in red.

    The team losing a large amount of money every year is expected, and as the team is classified as part of Yakult’s “other” business activities (along with the new “Yakult Beautiens” cosmetic product line, I’m proud to report), president Sumiya Hori is content with the unfortunate and long-standing view that owning a baseball team that consistently runs in the red is a lot cheaper than more conventional and modern forms of advertising.

    In short, the importance of those games has been severely and repeatedly overstated. No matter how much I would love for Yakult to sell the team (preferably to me), the loss of those fans would not affect such a change. Hanshin and Yomiuri fans can not be credited with keeping the Yakult yogurt boat afloat.

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself, CP. In fact, you beat me to some of the number-crunching I was starting in on.

    In the case of Hanshin games, where we do see an increase in the number of stadium staff on duty and many, many times more police officers – presumably some off-duty, working overtime paid by either the stadium, the Swallows, or the Swallows and Tigers, it is important to take into account how much extra expenditure goes into hosting the Tigers.

    While I doubt that those extra expenditures amount to ?700 million, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that hosting the Tigers, for security expenses alone, is pricey.

    I think there’s also an unwarranted equating of popularity and profitability. The conventional wisdom, borne out in most analyses, is that exceedingly few clubs make money. Supposedly, Tsutsumu demanded that his Seibu Lions break even in the ’80s, but I don’t know if that’s holding up now. I could see the Giants being profitable as the biggest expense other than payroll would be the maintenance of the Tokyo Dome, which is not on the club’s shoulders.

    I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the Hanshin Tigers are a money-making enterprise, popular as they are, but I’d like to look into it more deeply.

    Finally, it is simply not accurate to place Hanshin next to Yomiuri in terms of draw. Even when they’re bad, the Giants draw crowds – they remain, by a sizeable margin, the most popular team in Japan, with attendance boosts, however slight, from Fukuoka to Sapporo, Hiroshima to Yokohama. When they’re good, they put bums on seats in a way that Hanshin just does not on the road.

    Granted, this is changing somewhat and we are a long way from the days of Nagashima and Oh, to say nothing of the days of Kawakami and Yonamine, when the Giants really were the only show in time, but the situation is still very much in the Giants favor.

    Hanshin, on the other hand, reputation aside, simply has a more fair-weather fan base than Yomiuri (Heresy! I know.) When the Tigers are weak, Jingu is not their home away from home and we don’t see a huge boost in attendance between, say the Carp (my nomination for most loyal fans in NPB) and the Tigers.

    So, as much as I hate to say it, while there could be an argument made for CL teams benefitting pecuniarily from games against Yomiuri, and the CL teams certainly believe this to be the case, an extension of that case to Hanshin is rather tenuous.

    To bring things all the way back to the original, more subjective topic: Even if Hanshin ticket sales singlehandedly funded every squad in the NPB, that would in no way excuse or make acceptable the destructive, occasionally violent, and invariably boorish behavior of Hanshin supporters. The two issues are unrelated.

    There are, I realize, some perfectly decent folks out there who happen to like the Tigers. To them, I offer one measure of sympathy for their silent minority status, and one measure of scorn for not only doing nothing to change the loutish culture surrounding the team, but often defending it when it is challenged.
    It is not enough to say, “Hey, that’s not all of us!” There is nothing admirable about defending or ignoring the behavior of assholes just because they happen to have attached themselves to the same team that the decent folks like.

    The team itself, too, has a duty to take measures to show that antisocial or explicitly intimidating behavior is simply not acceptable.

    After all, what’s going on in the Hanshin crowd has everything to do with mob mentality and nothing to do with baseball. Other teams have good atmospheres and loyal fans without aggression towards other spectators or players. The Carp managed to tame their rougher elements without loss to the club and, in fact, with what is now one of the best atmospheres in baseball. Even our own Swallows managed to trim away some of chinpira faction that hung around until not long ago.

    The problem at Hanshin may be more deeply-rooted and more intense, but it can be solved. The trouble is that no one in or around the organization seems to accept that there is a problem.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    Actually the economics are different. You haven’t factored in the fixed costs and this is the main thing that extra fans defray. Remove the extra fans and these still have to be paid. Kintetsu dropped 4 billion yen on the costs of Osaka Dome per year before calling it a day. This is without including any other costs. They could not bring in the extra fans and this should serve as a warning to those who believe that Tigers and Giants fans aren’t essential to the survival of the other clubs. You also haven’t factored in TV costs – Tigers and Giants games still bring in a premium and allow the clubs to charge more. A Swallows/BayStars game will not bring in as much revenue as a Tigers/Swallows game.

    The illusion that Yomiuri are the most popular team in Japan also needs to be corrected. This isn’t quite the situation anymore. Yomiuri’s active fans are outnumbered by active Tigers fans but are still reasonably active. However, Yomiuri have relied on their TV income to make a profit. This is falling and they haven’t yet come up with a solution. This is why Yakult have a chance. I mentioned that Yakult do need the Tigers and Giants which still holds but this situation doesn’t need to continue. Yakult can take control of their own destiny and have a window of opportunity. But they need to act now. The reason Yomiuri are fading is that TV income is a country wide solution not a regional one and the indications are that the Japanese market is fragmenting and becoming more regional. Tigers were the first to realise this and have locked the Kansai region up very nicely. Rakuten are also realizing this and have a very nice regional identity developing. Yakult have only got as far as changing their name but need to do more.

    Most of Tigers income comes from merchandising and TV not ticket sales. This is where a club will make money. Tigers by their very location are able to tap two markets Osaka and Kobe. They are also able to merchandise in almost all the major cities of Japan – there are viable Tigers goods shops in each one. This is not the case with the Giants who had difficulty maintaining a small kiosk in Tokyo Station. Likewise, Seibu’s shop in Omote Sando was a failure. This demonstrates the market exists. One musn’t be lured by past experiences – Kintetsu should remind everyone that companies are not prepared to continuously pour money down the drain for ever. Seibu tried to sell the team to defray costs and the Inter-league was only introduced to help the failing Pacific League. Yakult does need the Hanshin and Yomiuri fans and the brand identity will only go so far. Just consider this – after they brought Buffaloes Orix’s brand recognition went up. But beyond the name? What does Orix do and where does it’s money come from (I do know)?

  • Orix? I’m not sure how we got over to brand recognition, but Orix is a leasing and diversified financial services firm – they handle investments, things like that, mostly for corporate clients, if I’m correct, and deal in a lot of real estate. Most of the company’s shareholders are overseas. If your point is that the BlueWave and now the Buffaloes haven’t increased the company’s business, I can neither agree nor disagree, as I just don’t know.

    To get back to the attendance point, neither Pellegrini nor I ignored fixed costs, but just didn’t mention them as it seemed obvious that there would be fixed costs and that additional ticket sales would help defray those costs (and all other costs, for that matter.) I don’t think either one of us is disputing the fact that the Tigers sell more tickets than most teams (although I still maintain that the Giants are a bigger draw, a supposition that appears to be supported by a quick spin through attendance figures for this season at CL parks.) I also don’t think anyone would dispute that a Tigers-Giants game would be a huge draw, easily the most popular regular season fixture, especially on TV.

    While I’m agreeing, I’d also say you are absolutely right that Yakult is missing some big opportunities to market and promote the Swallows, although they are finally hinting at moves in the right direction – the deal with SkyPerfect was a good move on the whole and the club is getting smarter about merchandising, but there’s still a long way to go and a lot of simple things that could be done aren’t being done.

    Finally, I also agree that Hanshin fans probably buy more merchandise than fans of any other team and that there are viable Tigers shops in most major urban areas. (I live near one – never see anyone going into or coming out of it, but it appears to be open.) I didn’t know that the Giants kiosk in Tokyo Station had closed. When did that happen?

    So far, I think we’re in agreement.

    While we’re in agreement, I fear we’re also talking past each other.

    The question revolving around attendance and popularity is whether the Swallows would fold without the revenue brought in by the Tigers. On this, I think we disagree. As I mentioned above, I’m not at all sure that the Tigers themselves are a profitable enterprise and there is certainly no doubt that most owners are still willing to fund teams that operate in the red.

    The Kintetsu change was an extreme case, though, and really has nothing to do with the Tigers or the Giants, as Kintetsu didn’t play either one. Other PL teams were in the same boat, but survived. By some accounts, the Lions even managed to make money.
    It is important to remember that Kintetsu the company was having a bit of trouble, too.

    Likewise in Fukuoka, where the Hawks were sold because Daiei supermarkets were bankrupt, not because the team became too expensive.

    I also don’t think Orix or a train company are good parallels to Yakult. Yakult sells lactic beverages – a defined, cheap, physical product – easy to understand, easy to purchase, easy to stop purchasing. Quite a different entity from one’s investment portfolio or which train line one uses. (Does anyone choose a train line based on branding?) A drink is just the kind of thing an advertisement can easily sell.

    I think Pellegrini’s point above was simply that having a baseball team referred to as “Yakult” is probably cheaper than replacing the team and its publicity with a similar amount of print and television advertising in the Tokyo area.

    Again, I think you’re overestimating the weight the Tigers have. More active than Yomiuri fans? By what yardstick? By attendance? By TV ratings? By some kind of baseball team preference survey?

    Yomiuri no longer has its tentacles in the minds of almost every baseball fan, as they once did, but they are still the most popular team – by a good margin, it seems. As far as the Swallows are concerned, games against the Giants are still the biggest draw, by a convincing margin, especially when the Tigers are weak and relatively few Tigers fans show up to games.

    And again, to get back to the main point, what does any of this have to do with the problem that is the behavior of Hanshin supporters?

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    The problem of the Tigers fans behaviour is a red herring. All teams have problem fans – most recently Chunichi. Look at the trouble that they have had recently. I don’t know what Swallows have been doing but I hope they have made strides to elimnate their Yakuza linked groups.

    Onto Orix – they own the concession for Tokyo Disneyland and that is where the majority of their income comes from. Your other comments just prove my point – Daiei have to get rid of the baseball club, Kintetsu have to get rid of the baseball club – these are because they weren’t contributors but drains on resources. Seibu tried to get rid of the baseball club because it was a drain on resources but wanted to retain the Tokorozawa ground. There was considerable interest but no one would take the club on with the handicap of the ground. If Yakult run into trouble the baseball will have to go because it’s a drain on resources – it doesn’t add value. Drinks – it’s all very well but an average new drink’s life in Japan is 6 months. Yakult have to keep innovating and they are competing against some very heavy competitors and the advertisments have to be specific. The competition also don’t have the cost of a baseball team wearing them down.

    As baseball changes – teams have to add value. The old model clings on but becomes more and more irrelevant. Swallows management have had to introduce salary caps as well – they didn’t pay Ramirez what he was worth. Yomiuri made good moves in picking up Ramirez and Greisinger but their fans are moving away. Baseball in Japan is becoming more regional. Tigers have Kansai locked up and this is where you will see most activity. Yomiuri haven’t done much to lock up Kanto and this is why Swallows still have a chance but they need to do much more.

    My point wasn’t that the Swallows would fold without the revenue provided by Tigers it was that the Swallows need the revenue provided by both the Tigers and Giants fans. Remember we pay higher prices for our tickets than other fans. If you take away these fans the chance of Yakult giving up the team increases – the Pacific League examples should provide clear evidence of why this might happen. The principle that the Swallows need to realise – like all the minor teams – is that you have to spend money to make money. They don’t spend nearly enough and as a result are not successful.

    Tigers are a profitable enterprise because of the merchandising and the fact that they are part of an integrated group. They lock in their market effectively but they recognise that it is a regional market. This is the way to success and the club is a net contributor to the group. They also exploit Osaka people who move to Tokyo for work. Most of these stay Tiges fans and in fact there are about 20 flourishing Tigers bars in Tokyo. This is another indication of the strength of the brand. A good brand adds value to a company and generates extra income.

  • Chris, before I respond in any detail, the problem of Hanshin fans’ behavior is not, by any means, a red herring. Scroll up and you’ll find that it, alone, was the original topic of conversation.

    Now, by no means would I say that Hanshin alone has such problems, or that all Hanshin fans are such degenerate thugs, but I would say that the problem is far more pronounced in the Hanshin crowd than among the fans of any team, and it’s Hanshin that seems to have a fan culture that prides itself on, well. . . being unbearably obnoxious.

    The brand conversation, while valid, is the red herring when the topic is the ways in which the Hanshin crowd makes baseball an unpleasant event to watch.

    Is Yakult blowing opportunities to market the team and add value? Yes. On that, I think we agree.

    As for the rest of your argument, I fear we’re completely talking past each other at this point and you may have completely missed the point of some of my comments, which were in response to your comments, which leads us into greater confusion.

    And Orix? Disney concessions are their biggest source of income? You’re going to have to substantiate that for, being a public company, their records and public profile don’t agree with that at all.
    (I’m not trying to be adversarial here, but that’s a big statement that disagrees with what the company is saying about itself.)

    I shall repeat, again, that no marketing topic or angle makes Hanshin’s out-0f-bounds thuggery even a little bit acceptable. At the end of the day, none of us here have any problem with Hanshin players, much less Hnashin’s marketing, what we have a problem with is the decent, regular folks in the Hanshin crowd being outshone and out-shouted by assholes. Like it or not, Hanshin is like the Miami Hurricanes of Japan – there might be redeeming factors, but most exposures leave one with only a bad taste in the mouth.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    No actually the comments about Hanshin fans merely display your prejudices. Do not mistake these for facts. Your comments may in fact be out of date and you need to examine them very carefully.

    Recently – Chunichi banned two cheering clubs because of possible Yakuza links. The rest of the cheering clubs then refused to use instruments when they cheered the Dragons. This affected the Dragons cheering sections throughout the season. Tigers worked hard to ban the Yakuza linked cheering clubs and in fact rewrote their cheering songs because of certain claims.

    Certainly there are Hanshin fans who qualify as idiots and whose behaviour is not good but most Hanshin fans display a passion for the team that is healthy. There are also Yakult fans or Giants fans or any other kind of fans who are also idiots. Rather than rant and display your ignorance you should accept that others are different and get over your prejudices. You have yet to accept that Hanshin fans are different and that they show their support in different ways.

    Personally, I have no problems with the fans of any team – they have made a choice and they support their team. What I do have problems with is fans (including Hanshin fans) who do get violent or unpleasant. However,I acknowledge that these people are not representative of most of the fans of any team. Fans are different and are a cross section of humanity and you would do well to learn to accept the difference.

  • There are also Yakult fans or Giants fans or any other kind of fans who are also idiots. Rather than rant and display your ignorance you should accept that others are different and get over your prejudices. You have yet to accept that Hanshin fans are different and that they show their support in different ways.

    No one’s called you ignorant, Chris. Why the hateful words?

    But you do have a point: I try to stay out of the Tigers section, so I can’t relate very well to the way that Hanshin fans support their team.

    However, I suggest that you watch a few games from the non-Hanshin section of the stands before you get hostile and start calling people stupid. After you see the fifth gaggle of drunk Hanshin fans stroll through the home team’s section of the stadium, flip everyone off and shove passersby, then you may begin to see where we’re coming from.

    By the way, in case you were wondering, they quadruple the security guards at Hanshin games (at Jingu that is; I have no idea about other stadiums). That doesn’t happen at Yomiuri games even though they bring in slightly more people.

    We accept and are used to the fact that Hanshin fans are different from other fans, and that is precisely why we employ a robust security detail.

    Imagine what would happen to Tokyo fans if they did the same thing at Koshien! (And they’d deserve it.)

  • I sincerely do not think this is an issue of prejudice.

    The Swallows had a similar problem to Chunichi’s a couple of years back. Yakuza-linked groups were barred and the results have been mixed – while there is certainly a more relaxed, friendly atmosphere at Swallows’ games these days, the cheering sections are much less vigorous than they once were and, god bless the boys who try, our team has probably the weakest trumpets in NPB.

    I, and I think I can speak for the other guys here and probably a large section of CL fans, have absolutely no problem with people supporting the Tigers. The Tigers are a team with a history and a passion that most other supporters envy. Koshien is a great place, the Tigers are a good team (at least this year), with players who are no different from players on any other team save the Giants. I sincerely hope the Hanshin Tigers continue to flourish and draw fans to home and away games for many, many years to come.

    Likewise, I begrudge no one their love of the Tigers. I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that the majority of Tigers fans are normal, reasonable people who like their team. I have no problem with that. Nor do I have any problem with people being loud or decking themselves out in all kinds of Tigers gear. Quite the contrary, I respect and admire the club’s ability to nurture a devoted fan base across the country.

    What bothers me, and I think other baseball fans, is that for the past seven years (the admittedly short time I’ve been attending NPB games), I have never seen an incidence of violence or out of line behavior other than those instigated by Hanshin fans. And I have never been to a Hanshin game where such an incident did not occur.

    Now, this could be a flight of fancy, but the folks at Jingu, the Tokyo Dome, and Yokohama Stadium seem to agree, as all of those places call in highly visible police presences when the Tigers are in town.

    As far back as the ’50s, the groundbreaking Wally Yonamine talked about Hanshin fans throwing “big rocks” at him in the outfield. Don Blasingame had fans, of his own Tigers, try to overturn his taxi when they felt he was snubbing a recent Koshien high school star in favor of a foreigner. In the late 1980s, according to Robert Whiting and a former Swallows pitcher named Koizumi, Koshien had to install barbed wire and taller fences in front of the bleachers to keep Tigers fans from assaulting or throwing things at, primarily, their own players.

    It is true that every team has a few jerks in the crowd. Come by Jingu and I think I could point ours out to you. Come to a Swallows away game anywhere other than the Tokyo Dome and the assholes on our own side are easy to see. We have them, the BayStars have them, the Carp have them, the Giants have them, the Dragons certainly have them – I’ve seen them all.

    The problem, though, is the frequency with and extremity to which Hanshin fans exhibit unacceptable behavior.

    I, like you (I’m assuming) have no fondness for the Giants, but I can exchange good-natured ribbing and jibes with them and certainly have no trepidation in mingling with them. This cannot be said for the Hanshin crowd.

    To be fair, I know many Hanshin fans (there are many of you) and they are all decent folks. For some reason, though, there is a problem in the Hanshin crowd at games. They have a current near-monopoly on ballpark violence in NPB and the attitude seems to be that that is laudable.

    If, by “show their support in different ways” you mean adorning themselves with more merchandise than the supporters of other teams, I not only respet, but endorse that.

    But you and I both know that’s not what we’re talking about.

    The issue here is the consistent, noticeable levels of asocial (I won’t go so far as to say “antisocial”), unpleasant, boorish, intimidating, and, yes, sometimes violent and thuggish behavior displayed by some supporters of the Hanshin Tigers and the disappointing fact that, rather than acknowledge and attempt to correct this, many otherwise decent Hanshin fans get defensive and support it.

    I have absolutely no prejudice concerning baseball teams. My view of the Hanshin crowd is anything but prejudiced. It stems from experience and seeing the crowd. Call it judgemental, that I will accept, but prejudiced it is not.

    Hiroshima tackled their problem. Tokyo and Chunichi have tackled theirs. Hanshin seems proud of the problem it has.

    Is that unfair? Is it ignorant? If I have been unfair, prejudicial, or ignorant in my assessment of the Tigers crowd, the easy way to assess that would be to observe the behavior of said crowd, which I have done many times this season alone and will do a few times again.

    If and when I am shown to be wrong, I will embrace that moment, as it will mean a large and vibrant fan community has shed an unsavory element.

    Until that moment, I stand by every word I have written above.

    All of that said, I do sincerely appreciate your willingness to hash all of this out with us. We’re glad to have a Hanshin fan’s perspective and are glad to see that there are bright, reasonable, well-intentioned folks in that crowd. Please don’t think we hate any and all Hanshin fans. We don’t. You guys love your team, we love ours. You come out to games, and we respect that. Ultimately, we’re all on the same team here. I just wish our team could get by without so much acrimony.

    And tell all of your black-and-yellow compatriots that we’re happy to have them at Jingu, we like going to Koshien, and we hope it continues for the rest of our lives.

    We could do without the boorishness, though.

    Back to the folding thing. If you’re paying higher prices than other fans at Jingu, get your tickets from the ticket booths, where are the prices are the same for both sides, for every game. I’ve not seen an instance of Jingu doing the “special” pricing thing that Yokohama Stadium does. If that is happening at Jingu, though, let us know – we’ll write about it on this blog and say that it’s wrong.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    Please do not mistake my mention of ignorance as assuming that either of you are that way. I am merely making the point that you do not have enough information about the situation to make the comments or judgements you do.

    It is very easy to notice the behaviour of other groups of fans but miss the faults of your own. When Tigers fans first ventured into the Gaia on the Swallows side they were physically attacked by Swallows fans. This wasn’t initiated by the Tigers fans who were just looking for places to sit.

    Certainly in the past Tigers fans had a well deserved reputation for violence and thuggishness. The barbed wire at Koshien wasn’t there for decoration. However, great strides have been made to eliminate as much of the thuggish element as possible. Yakuza linked groups and individuals are banned and no cheering club will have anything to do with them. Clubs and their members have to belong to an umbrella organisation which carefully regulates them.

    Contrast this with Chunichi’s cheering groups behaviour when the management banned a couple of Yakuza linked groups. They all refused to play their instruments in protest. I mention these incidents to show that this sort of behaviour isn’t unique to Tigers fans which is what you seem to be suggesting. As we all know the group is paramount in Japan. This means defending members of your group against outsiders (the ‘he’s an idiot but he’s our idiot’ principle) and fan behaviour must be seen in this context.

    However, some of the comments about Hanshin fans are too general and do drift into the realm of prejudice. Unrestricted generalisations are prejudicial. There is certainly a thuggish and stupid element among the Hanshin fans but the cheering groups and the club are working to eliminate it. All clubs have these type of fans and probably always will. But it is a big mistake to assume that it is a problem unique to Hanshin. If Yakult start to bring in more fans you will see more of the Yakult idiot fans but even now they are there. Yomiuri have their own bunch of morons as well – you cannot go into the concessions in the Yomiuri Gaia (not the Gaia just the concessions) if you are wearing Tigers colours.

    I like Jingu and I like to watch baseball there. I have no illusions about some of my fellow Hanshin fans – they are idiots. But likewise I have no illusions about Swallows fans, they also have their share of idiots. What I do find difficult to accept is the view that this is mainly or percularly a Hanshin problem. It might be easy to see Hanshin fans because Hanshin fans are more visible but it is a problem for all baseball clubs.

    On the ticket matter all I meant to say is that Hanshin and Yomiuri games cost more than games with other teams. You will not get a couple concession at either of these games and you will pay more for the equivalent seat than for say Hiroshima or BayStars.

  • Aren’t gaia seats 1,500 and 1,900 (reserved) for all games? I thought it was only the seats in sections A and B (infield) that had their prices bumped for Hanshin and Yomiuri matches.

    Normally those seats cost 3,600 (A) and 2,600 yen (B), but fans (Swallows fans included) pay more for Hanshin and Yomiuri games (3,900 and 3,100 yen, respectively). They made us pay more for a game at Yokohama back during golden week (left-field seats)…

    How much are they making you pay for left-field seats at Jingu?

    Also, I didn’t know that there was a couple’s concession in the outfield section at Jingu. How much does that cost?

  • From comment #17:

    Unrestricted generalisations are prejudicial.

    I thought he bent over backwards not to make any.

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    It’s almost like a cult, where all Kansai’s great unwashed and inbred come to wear Tiger’s ears and hold signs like it’s WWE. Kind of Jonestownish in a way (minus the kool aid of course…….).

    Hanshin fans are everywhere and I’ve noticed that, much like Yomiuri fans, they are incapable of talking about baseball past naming their club’s celeb du jour. On top of that, you know it’s only a matter of time before you get some kind of non sequitir, out of left field obnoxious behavior.

    I took the above two unrestricted generalisations from posts 1 and 2. There are others.

    I don’t actually sit in the Gaia (I did last year but have forgotten the prices I paid) so I don’t know how much they cost but I’m sure you’re right. I tend to sit in the right side (often with Swallows friends) but my point is that we pay more for the Hanshin and Yomiuri games. Couple concessions are half the price of ordinary tickets wherever you sit.

  • Wait. You don’t even sit in the area that we’ve been talking about this entire time?

  • Christopher Amano-Langtree

    I’ve sat in it a lot so I am very familiar with the people in the Tigers Gaia. I used to enjoy the lemon sours they served up. However, as I have friends who are Swallows fans nowadays I am sitting with them on the Swallows side. There are still plenty of Tigers fans there as well.

  • Ken


    Oh shit, I’m going to make the dreaded comparison:

    Hanshin has only very recently started drawing extra supporters to Jingu. Don’t give them too much credit. Let us not forget that the team was absolutely dismal from the Bass era until about 2003.

    Ever go to a Red Sox game in the early 80s? Neither did much of anyone else. Who just set the all-time record for consecutive home sellouts?

    We could say the same for Cleveland.

  • Ken

    Onto Orix – they own the concession for Tokyo Disneyland and that is where the majority of their income comes from.

    That’s absolutely impossible. Have a look at their most recent annual report: http://www.orix.co.jp/grp/content/080509_kessanJ.pdf

  • Ken, yes, although I’m not a Boston fan, the “Tigers are the Red Sox of Japan” trope makes me cringe because its based on the most generalized nonsense.

    As for Orix, I’m with you there, too – even if Orix owned all of the concessions at Tokyo Disneyland (they don’t), and got all of the money from those concessions (they don’t), it would come nowhere near a majority of that massive corporation’s revenue.