There are no Gatorade showers or milk drinking to be seen after winning a baseball game in Japan, just beer rocketing out of thousands of shaken bottles. Let’s take a look at the Japanese baseball tradition of victory beer fights.
According to Japanese professional baseball players, the victory beer fight is the pinnacle of a big win, a moment where your emotions and happiness can explode in a single, fantastic moment. The tradition dates back to 1959 after the Pacific League’s Nankai Hawks (now the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks) won the championship game. One of the players, Carlton Handa, a second generation Japanese American from Hawaii, shook a bottle of beer over the victorious players, imitating the champagne fights of Major League victories in the States. From that moment on, a tradition was born and has greatly expanded from its humble beginnings of a single bottle of beer. It has been reported that as much as 5,000 bottles of beer have been drained during victory beer fights after the Hanshin Tigers took the Central League pennant in 2005 and after the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles took the Japan Series title this year. A comparatively modest order of 3,000 bottles was placed in preparation for the Yomiuri Giant’s Central League victory this year.
▼ Imagine this times 250.
Although Japan enforces a drinking age of 20, during victory beer fights, the rule has always been that as long as the beer doesn’t splash into an underaged player’s mouth, there’s no problem. Some underaged players choose to shake up bottles of non-alcoholic beer and “hope” none of their fellow beer-toting teammates comes near. But in 2008, then 19-year-old Hayato Sakamoto chose to do something a little different. He wore a headband that read, “Don’t pour beer on me” and wore a face mask with a big X written on it. Instead of beer, he chose to use soda during the celebration. Also, following the league victory of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a special “Minor Corner” was prepared for underaged pitcher, Yoshinao Kamata, complete with plenty of bottles of soda.
▼ Left: Hayato Sakamoto of the Yomiuri Giants
Right: Yoshinao Kamata of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
However, some baseball fans don’t approve of the victory beer fights, citing environmental concerns due to the large amounts of unconsumed beer entering drain pipes. Others think that celebratory champagne and beer fights go against the times and are overly extravagant and wasteful, encouraging people to play with and waste their food. Only one team, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, have collectively addressed these concerns, deciding to use water and seltzer instead of beer during one of their victory celebrations and in 1992, Ichiro Yoshikuni, the commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, publicly expressed his discomfort with victory beer fights and the wasting of food and drink.
Nevertheless, amidst murmurings of disapproval, victory beer fights are a well-entrenched tradition of Japanese baseball, enjoying over half-century of practice. It appears that this blissful event will continue to be splashed across television screens across Japan for years to come.