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!

Typical ōendan at a high school sports event – anime version.
Kitakyushu highschool ōendan – traditional.
Modern ōendan.
Ōendan with traditional fans.

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14 Responses to “Hello Japan – May: Japanese sports and athletes”

  1. gnoegnoe Says:

    Wow, that *is* impressive! I imagined a small group but it’s like a whole platoon! Thanks for sharing because I had never heard of ōendan before… If it was mentioned in The Housekeeper and the Professor I probably had a blind spot for it!

    • chasing bawa Says:

      It’s rather niche and not so mainstream. But it’s amazing isn’t it? I don’t really think I’ve read much about them either, except maybe in some mangas.

  2. Fëanor Says:

    Ah, I see you haven’t mentioned Sumo. When my folks lived in Japan in the mid-90s, they got totally involved in this sport, obsessing about the relative merits of this stable vs that, and exhaustively (and exhaustingly) discussing the likelihood of the winner of the Emperor’s cup.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      My parents too. When it was the season, we always had to watch the tournaments on tv. We lived there in the mid-80s when there were only a few Hawaiian wrestlers. Now it’s pretty international.

  3. Kristen M. Says:

    What a fun post! I would love to see cheerleading that is about excitement and not about sexuality.

  4. Mari Says:

    I have seen a few Hanshin Tigers matches and their oendan is quite a sight too…..

  5. tanabata Says:

    How fun! I’ve never been to a live game here in Japan so I didn’t know about them. Would be almost worth going just to see them! Thanks for taking part in the mini-challenge.
    BTW, the Seibu Lions are based in Saitama.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      Oh you should try and watch a game if you can, even a highschool one. I don’t know why but I always thought Seibu Lions were from somewhere down south (!?) I never realised they were from Saitama.

  6. Supachub Says:

    I had never heard about ōendans before, but they are truly amazing!
    I was in complete awe watching their performances.
    Thank you for sharing this. I never thought I would find cheerleading to be this cool.


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