Saturday, September 15, 2012

Revisiting the Japanese sports scene


It has been 4 months since I left Japan and I've pretty much forgotten about everything sports-wise that was going on there. I used to populate this blog with complaints about sports in Japan, particularly the problems associated with Japanese baseball, but once I left the country, the old adage of "out of sight, out of mind" came to bear. I stopped checking the standings and ceased visiting the few Japanese sports sites that I used to enjoy, turning my focus to more international events that might prove worthy of a sports road trip.

Now I'm going back to Japan for a short business trip in early October, which happens to be the final weekend of the baseball season. Suddenly, the NPB was back on my radar so I took a look at what's going on. Sadly, not much has changed. The Yomiuri Giants are leading the Central League by 11 games while the Yakult Swallows and Hiroshima Carp are battling it out for that third and final playoff spot, a mere 22 games off the pace. Those two play at Jingu on the weekend I am visiting, so I'll likely head over once for old time's sake. The Giants host Yokohama on both days, so the possibility of a double header is on the cards too, but it will depend on the standings; paying any money to the Giants to watch a meaningless game is not something I would enjoy. In the Pacific League, Seibu leads the Fighters by half a game with the Softbank Hawks just 4 back. Again though, all three teams make the playoffs, so the race is merely for playoff positioning, which is not that exciting. Oh, and those ties are as prevalent as ever, with 68 out of 756 games ending in sister-kissers so far.

That weekend will also see a full slate of matches in the J-League, which is in the midst of a relatively exciting campaign. With the men's national team dominating World Cup qualifying and the women's team fresh off an Olympic silver medal (that should have been Canada's), soccer in Japan is certainly looking brighter than ever and the domestic circuit seems to be taking advantage. With 24 of 34 weeks completed, Vegalta Sendai lead Sanfrecce Hiroshima by a point, with the Urawa Reds just 3 back. Six more squads are within striking distance as parity has hit the league, with the exception of woeful Sapporo, who have but 3 wins and a draw and will be back in J2 next year. There are a couple of Tokyo-area games on the weekend I am there and I hope to make it out to one of them depending on how things shape up with other plans.

Update:  The Swallows started winning and the Carp started losing as soon as I posted this. Thus there is no reason to go to the game. In other news, a friend had an extra F1 ticket for the race in Mie, so I will be attending that on Sunday.

Next Up

Before that though, I'll be checking out the F1 in Singapore next weekend, and then off to Sri Lanka for a few matches in the T20 World Championship the following weekend. I'm also traveling to Hong Kong but so far haven't found any sports to watch while I am there. There's even a remote chance I'll be in India for the F1 there at the end of October. It will be a very busy month, so keep checking back for updates.

Best,

Sean

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