A major Japanese baseball team called the Hanshin Tigers won the Japan Series championship, making this the team’s first championship win in the last 18 years. Though a joyous occasion, the days leading up to the victory were filled with dread of the impending property damage and rowdy scenes caused by fans. More specifically, the trend of fans diving into the nasty waters of the Dotonbori River canal in Osaka City, a tradition which has infamously had deadly consequences.
The Hanshin Tigers are a Japanese baseball team based in Nishinomiya, Japan whose popularity spans all of western Japan. The team had a particularly good season this year, making their way into the Japan Championship Series, one of two annual professional baseball championships in Japan. The Tigers’ last championship win was 18 years ago in 2005, and fans have been eagerly awaiting another victory ever since.
As a means of celebrating a championship, Tigers fans have a tradition of diving into the Dotonbori River. Dotonbori is a lively entertainment and nightlife district in Osaka, Japan, where people gather to eat at restaurants, attend outdoor events, and hang out with friends on the Ebisu Bridge that spans the Dotonbori River. Over the years, Tigers fans seem to have used the spot to celebrate their team’s championship wins. However, not all of their celebrations seem to remain on land, as more rowdy fans have a tendency to jump into the Dotonbori River upon hearing of a Hanshin Tigers victory.
Dotonbori River’s water is known to be quite unclean, so much so that at one point the city implemented sludge removal ships in an attempt to clean its waters. While there have been improvements to the quality of the river’s water, enough to allow fish and now even eels to live in it, it’s still pretty polluted and is well-known to be both unsanitary and at times foul smelling. The NHK reports that, “experts who examined the water quality of the river cautioned that intestinal bacteria were detected, and it is not a river suitable for swimming. It’s akin to jumping into a toilet bowl.” Despite this information, it looks like no matter how filthy, Tigers fans won’t be stopped from jumping into Dotonbori’s stinky waters.
The tradition, although fun and a great time for many fans, is dangerous and prohibited. Many people have been injured participating in the disorderly act and in 2003, the tradition even caused the death of a fan. Unfortunately, despite many fans knowing the dangers of diving into the river’s deep waters, the tradition continues, much to the dissatisfaction of local police. Yesterday, in anticipation of fans jumping into the river, over 1,300 police officers were deployed around the Ebisu Bridge, ready to stop any fans looking to take a swim. However, even this wasn’t enough to deter fans from diving into the river as videos circulating online show that at least a few Tigers fan were able to make their way into the waters.
It seems that Hanshin Tiger fans can’t be separated from their beloved tradition, no matter how hard authorities try. With every one of the Tigers’ championship victories, fans have successfully entered Dotonbori’s waters. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken’s mascot Colonel Sanders couldn’t avoid entering the river when fans took the statue from a nearby KFC and tossed him in the water in celebration of their victory in 1985. The Japan Times states “Tiger fans were drawn to the statue owing to its supposed resemblance to Randy Bass, a bearded American slugger who helped turn the team around. So overcome by their team’s success that year, the fans pitched the statue into the river, one of the dirtiest in Osaka at the time.”
Many fans believed this action to have brought about a curse, simply named The Colonel Curse, in which the baseball team would face losing strikes supposedly due to the colonel taking his revenge. The colonel was removed from Dotonbori River’s murky waters 24 years later in 2009, and it seems that 14 years since the colonel was freed, the Tigers have been graced with another championship win.
While Hanshin Tigers fans have once again completed their traditional dive into Dotonbori’s disgusting waters, with great resistance from local police, it appears that this tradition is too dear to fans to let go of for now. Hopefully, fans who decide to jump into the river will show greater awareness for the safety of others in light of the numerous injuries and infections, the death of a fan, and the supposed curse that has resulted from this rowdy tradition.