JAPAN'S BALLPARKS SERVE UP POPCORN, FISH PANCAKES
TOKYO — Many Japanese baseball fans like to slurp a hot bowl of buckwheat noodles while waving chopsticks and cheering for their favorite teams.
Or they may pick at a makunouchi bento, a boxed lunch containing rice with such things as cooked vegetables, fish, rolled eggs, seaweed, beans, and fried shrimp. Up to 11,000 boxed lunches are sold each day at the Tokyo Dome (the "Big Egg," it's called), home of the Yomiuri Giants.
In addition to American staples like popcorn, potato chips, peanuts, hot dogs, and beer, Japanese baseball parks offer traditional snacks such as fried noodles, vegetable and fish pancakes, and flour balls with octopus bits.
Most parks offer a specialty food named after the team or the park, like Carp Noodles at Hiroshima Baseball Park, home of the Hiroshima Toyo Carps, and Green Stadium lunch box at the home park of the Orix Blue Waves.
Newly established ballparks will sometimes add innovative food items to the menu in an effort to distinguish themselves. At Green Stadium, for example, noodle soup with potato croquettes is served. Unsuccessful items have included hamburgers on fried buns and whiskey with water.
Japanese baseball fans are big beer drinkers. They also drink sake, but problems caused by alcohol are rare. Many ballpark officials say that fans are not as wild these days, perhaps because there are more women in the stands.
Instead, the main problem at Japanese ballparks is how to clean up the enormous amount of garbage produced by food consumption. Hiroshima City Baseball Park has adopted an American practice, hiring up to 100 sweepers to clear garbage during the game.