TIGERS ROAR AT LAST
Perennial Baseball Losers Win Central League Title (October 17, 2003)
The Hanshin Tigers pro baseball team clinched the Central League
pennant for the first time in 18 years on September 15. This, the Tigers' fourth
ever league title, came after a long slump during which the team earned a reputation
as the also-rans of Japanese baseball. Under the firm leadership of 56-year-old
manager Hoshino Senichi, however, the "dame-tora"
(terrible Tigers), as the team had become known, were transformed into a formidable
unit. Their CL triumph came in just Hoshino's second year at the helm. The Tigers'
march to victory has invigorated the Kansai region, where the team is based, and
proved a boon to retailers nationwide staging sales in honor of the team's achievement.
|Hanshin fans swarm the Osaka streets. (Jiji)
East Versus West
The Hanshin Tigers were founded in 1935, making them the second oldest pro baseball
team in Japan behind the Yomiuri Giants (founded a year earlier). Based in the
Kobe-Osaka area, the largest metropolitan region in western Japan, since their foundation the
Tigers have been fierce rivals with the Giants, who are based in Tokyo in eastern
Japan and also play in the Central League. Since World War II the Giants have
won 30 CL titles compared to the Tigers' four, however, and this is how the dame-tora
got their unfortunate nickname.
Hanshin fans were naturally delighted that their team had ended its long barren
spell. On the night of September 15, the streets around Dotonbori Bridge in Osaka's
Minami district were filled with fans shouting "Banzai!" (Hooray!) and
banging plastic Tigers megaphones, which is a common way for Japanese baseball
fans to express support. The procession of delirious fans stretched over several
streets and as far as the Midosuji road. By the next morning about 5,300 people
had made celebratory dives off the bridge into the Dotonbori River.
Stores Hold Commemorative Sales
Department stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, and other retailers began
holding sales to mark the Tigers' victory on the morning of September 16. Some
shops offered items for sale at ¥77 ($0.70 at ¥110 to the dollar) in honor
of Hoshino, whose uniform number is 77, while others offered grab bags packed
with discounted clothes and other items. The Hanshin department store, located
in Osaka's Kita Ward, held a week-long sale in which 70% of its merchandise was
discounted by up to 50%. The store reported sales of about ¥6 billion ($55
million) in eight days, almost three times as much as in the same period last
Daimaru and Takashimaya have been holding victory sales at seven stores around
the country. Major convenience store operator Lawson, meanwhile, has marked the
Tigers' triumph by selling commemorative boxed lunches at 2,300 outlets in western
Japan. Supermarket chain Aeon has been offering food products at ¥77 in 350
of its stores, while Ito Yokado held a similar sale at eight of its stores in
Osaka and nearby Hyogo and Okayama Prefectures. A total of some 10,000 shops,
mainly in western Japan, held Tigers-related sales.
According to estimates by UFJ Institute Ltd., the economic benefits of the Tigers'
victory could be up to ¥635.5 billion ($5.8 billion) nationwide, raising hopes
that it could help spark an economic recovery. The former director of the Resona
Research Institute, Kunisada Koichi, a self-confessed Tigers fanatic, believes
the benefits could be even greater: "The effect will be bigger than the figures
produced by think-tanks. . . . With any other team, there would be victory sales,
and that would be the end of it. But with the Tigers, people have been spending
money on merchandise saying 'This is our year' and on celebrations since about
May. The boom will last until next year."
Kunisada points to the deeper significance of the Tigers' victory, describing
the team as "the alter ego of small and medium-sized enterprises struggling
with the economic downturn and of salarymen haunted by lay-offs" and claims
the team's triumph will give these groups courage. In a book, Professor Inoue
Shoichi of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies has described
Hanshin fans as "a group of people who have lived on self-scorn, despair,
and faint hope." It is no wonder, then, that these fans have been celebrating
their team's rare taste of success so joyously.
Praise has been heaped upon Hoshino, the man who spearheaded the Tigers' revival,
and his bold leadership has even been held up as a model for the revival of the
Japanese economy. Minister of State (Financial Services, Economic and Fiscal Policy)
Takenaka Heizo, known as a passionate Hanshin fan, said, "The reform of Hanshin
under Hoshino is a model of structural reform." Terada Chiyono, co-chairperson
of the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives, praised the Tigers' achievements:
"The spirit of the manager and the players was the biggest factor behind
the team's triumph. This has lessons for the running of any organization, including
The Tigers and the Pacific League winners, the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, will begin
the seven-game Japan Series on October 18, and Hanshin fans have high hopes that
their team can triumph again to become Japan's number one.
Related Web Sites
Hanshin Tigers (Japanese only)
Yomiuri Giants (Japanese only)
"Dotonbori" in Japan Atlas
Hanshin department store (Japanese only)
Takashimaya (Japanese only)
UFJ Institute Ltd.
Resona Research Institute (Japanese only)
International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
(June 7, 2002)