Hello Japan – May: Japanese sports and athletes
31 May, 2010
I’m not such a sporty person, although I’m passable at most sports except for basketball (I just can’t get the hang of dribbling as I’m perpetually out of synch) and never watch sports on tv except for cricket if Sri Lanka are playing, World Cup football and Japanese baseball (both pro and highschool – especially the summer tournament at Kōshien). My Japanese grandfather was a die-hard fan of Nagoya’s own pro baseball team the Chunichi Dragons. My sister and I only went to our first live baseball game after our grandfather passed away, but we spent many a happy weekend at his home watching baseball on tv. Well, we didn’t really have a choice (as he was in charge of the remote) but we slowly fell in love with the game and the Chunichi Dragons and I still treasure my Dragons baseball cap:
However, I figured that baseball is one sport that many of you would be aware of so I thought I’d write about something that is tangential but essential to baseball and other sports in Japan. One of the more memorable things about going to a live game is to see the ōendan or male cheerleading squad cheering like there’s no tomorrow. Cheerleading is traditionally a male occupation in Japan although American-style female cheerleaders have become popular in the last twenty years. As in Doraemon‘s costume above, the cheerleaders are traditionally garbed in a gakuran or Japanese school uniform for boys with very long jackets (hardcore outfits that sometimes make them difficult to tell apart from the delinquents such as in the film Crows Zero) or traditional Japanese costume and hachimaki (headbands).
The ōendan usually has a leader with a booming voice, a taiko drummer, a flag bearer and the squad. They may sing their school anthem, do a choreographed set of movements and belt out ‘Furē! Furē!’ which is the Japanese version of ‘Hurray! Hurray!’ It’s a great spectacle and if you have a chance to see it, don’t miss it!
Below are examples of the different types of cheerleading squads you can find in Japan. Most are highschool ōendans that may include some girls. They are all spectacular so have a peek!