Sunday, September 17, 2006

#36 Arriving in Kobe

September 12, 2006 It’s hard to feel anything but great when our arrival at the dock in Kobe is greeted by a local brass band playing John Phillip Sousa marches at 8 am. Oh, and did I mention we were escorted into the harbor by a fire-boat spraying a decorative fountain?
0771 Fire boat welcome
Local dignitaries and performers then boarded for a welcome ceremony including traditional music and dance, speeches, an exchange of gifts, and a briefing from a U.S. Consulate officer.

Finally, Mary and I set off to explore Kobe. Mary has set her sights on finding “Oh The Places You’ll Go”, a Dr. Seuss book, in a public library in each port. We hopped on the Portliner, an elevated people mover a lot like the one in Indianapolis, to the subway station, where we caught the next train toward the library. And even though the Kobe Central Library catalog was in Japanese, Mary matched the characters in the call number with shelf labels and found the book in short order. Impressive!
0821 Seuss in Kobe
After that excitement waned, we hopped a bus to the Osaka Dome where the Orrix Buffaloes hosted the Softbank Hawks in the Japanese version of our national pastime. A Japanese soccer star drew a standing o when he bounded from the dugout to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Just then, a batter emerged and took his place at the plate, planting the seed in our mind that he just might send the ceremonial first pitch back up the middle as a screaming liner. But that tension died a quick death when Mr. Soccer chucked a fastball that bounced 25 feet in front of home plate.

Japanese baseball has a few quirks. Each team has a designated cheering section separate from the regular ticket holders. When their team is at bat, the cheerers wave flags, endlessly pound their equivalent of thunder-sticks, and in unison sing a unique song for each batter. The cheerers stand for their half inning, then turn the cheering over to the opposition cheerers. The regular fans never stand to cheer. And although we guessed the crowd at 40,000, there was never a boo or a hiss.
0853 Osaka Dome Panorama
The fans look out for each other too. When a foul ball approaches, folks in the area whistle to alert everyone to incoming danger. As for ball game food, we didn’t find the promised octopus-on-a-stick, but did find plenty to eat including a variety of noodle and fish dishes along with KFC, a version of Bugles, and corn dogs, known here as American Dogs.

So to summarize our first day in Japan using the lingo of our student friends, it was like awesome.

Yours in like closing,

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