A Japanese professional baseball club, formed in 1935, and currently member of the Central League of the Professional Baseball Organization of Japan. Hanshin, like many early Japanese baseball organizations, took its name, colors, and mascot directly from a team in (American) Major League Baseball -- namely, the Detroit Tigers.

Hanshin's home field is the storied Koshien Stadium, located between Kobe and Osaka in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. (To reach Koshien, take the Hanshin line west from Kobe Sannomiya station or east from Osaka Umeda station, and get off at Koshien station.)

Hanshin was one of the first professional baseball clubs established in Japan, and enjoyed great success in its early days, winning the first three Japan pro championships. Since the establishment of a two-league structure, however, Hanshin has played the Boston Red Sox to Japan's answer to the New York Yankees: the Yomirui Tokyo Giants. Although the Tigers-Giants rivalry is fierce, it has been a trifle one-sided; while the Kyojin have won numerous Japan Series titles, the Tigers have claimed only one, in 1985 -- a Pyrrhic victory if one believes in the Curse of Colonel Sanders. (Due to this curse, the Tigers draw comparisons to the Chicago Cubs as well as the Red Sox.) The Tigers have finished second to the Giants in the Central League race 13 times, while claiming only three pennants of their own.

Koshien Stadium adds to the Red Sox and Cubs comparisons, for while it is the oldest (built in 1924) and most famous ballpark in Japan (in addition to the Tigers, Koshien hosts the exceedingly popular annual national high school tournament), the stadium is in dire need of repair.

Tigers fans do not fall short of the mark set by their Beantown and Chitown counterparts. This oft-abused but ever-hopeful bunch is reputed to be the loudest and most loyal in the country. They would have to be in order to root for a team that has set new records for futility in the past several seasons. The fans' enthusiasm does not preclude much shaking of heads and sighs of "Wait 'til next year," and indeed Tigers fans will have to wait, for as this node speeds into the ether, Hanshin finds itself a cellar-dweller yet again.

(2003 Update: Further stretching the Red Sox/Cubs connection, the Tigers easily won the 2003 Central League pennant, only to fall in the Series.)

No write-up of the Tigers would be complete without mentioning the Tigers' fight song, Rokko Oroshi. Easily among the most recognizable tunes in Japan, it inspires a frenzy of balloon waving, clapper clapping, and "Fure" shouting whenever played.

The lyrics, in romaji and English:

Rokko oroshi ni sasso to
Soten kakeru nichirin no
Seishun no haki uruwashiku
Kagayaku wagana zo Hanshin Taigasu
O-o-o-o Hanshin Taigasu

Toshi hatsuratsu tatsu ya ima
Nekketsu sude ni teki o tsuku
Ju-o no iki takaraka ni
Muteki no warera zo Hanshin Taigasu
O-o-o-o Hanshin Taigasu

Dashing swiftly through the wind blowing from Rokko
Like the big sun soaring in the clear blue sky
Mighty spirit of the youth shows the victor's grace
The name that shines in glory "Hanshin Tigers"
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers
Hooray, Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!

Powerful hits and skillful pitches achieved a thousand times
Trained with every discipline here at Koshien
Crowned with constant victory, glorious, matchless feats
Always proud, invincible "Hanshin Tigers"
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers
Hooray, Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!

Lyrics courtesy of Michael Owens' Hanshin Tigers page (www2.gol.com/users/michaelo/Tigers.html), and to whomever or wherever he took them from.

Information used in this write-up came from Owens' page as well as the pages of Christopher Hope, (which can be found at members.tripod.com/~wallpaperman/Hanshin_Tigers_page.htm).