Photo by Chi-Hung Lin
Photo by Chi-Hung Lin

The belle of the Japanese ballgame

by Jun Sakahira
Stripes Okinawa

One of the most unique aspects of Japanese baseball is how fans watch the game. While there are many families at stadiums, a ballgame is also a great social gathering place for businessmen. Many companies own season tickets to entertain clients, and as all Japanese stadiums are located in major cities, businessmen will enjoy a game with a cold beer after work, much like an izakaya or beer garden.

American newcomers to these games are often surprised, not only by the fans’ enthusiasm for their teams, but also the in-stadium vendors serving up those tasty cold ones. Used to hearing a male voice yelling “beer here,” or some form of that, in the U.S., Americans get their drinks from something that’s unique to Japan: Beer girls.

The Uriko, or so called beer girls, are young women who have been the belle of the ballgame experience for decades, serving anything from beer to chuhai, soda and more. And unlike their male counterparts in Major League Baseball, the beer girls trek around with a 30-plus pound keg strapped to their backs.

Naho, a college student, expressed her motivation for being a beer girl for the Yokohama BayStars.

“I started this job because I liked certain baseball players,” Naho said. “I love it because I can work in an environment where my favorite players play baseball.”

Serving up ballgame brews is a popular part-time job among students, even though it is physically demanding and sometimes the weather can be less than ideal.

“There are two types of Uriko: the ones who love baseball and the ones who simply love this job,” Naho said.

Some former beer girls have gone on to become TV stars. Not only are they vendors who serve spectators, but also idol-like figures that enhance the baseball experience for many.

“Even if you have not been to a game before, you can enjoy the Japanese ballgame atmosphere,” Naho said.

As it gets warmer, nothing goes better with a baseball game than a refreshing cold beer, so why not experience one of the many things that’ll make you say, “Only in Japan!”?

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