My roommate lived in Japan for a year, and has since traveled back on numerous occasions. Each time she returns with some of the most bizarre stories and stickers with Osama Bin Laden on them. In this new column, I’ll look at some of the odder aspects of Japanese life. It’s not just body pillows and “poke them in the butt” games. Welcome to WTH Japan! — Meredith Placko
(Colonel Sanders: Purveyor of chicken goodness or evil overlord?)
The city of Osaka is known for many things: their delectable street food, off-putting accents and a curse that dates back to the mid 80′s. 1980′s that is. In 1985 the Hanshin Tigers won the Japanese World Series for what would be the first, and last time ever in the history of Japanese baseball. Some say their star player, a former Minnesota Twins first baseman by the name of Randy Bass was the only reason the team won that year. Bass is also said to be the reason behind the team’s downfall.
After the Hanshin Tigers won their spectacular victory over the Seibu Lions, fans took to the streets and reveled in Osaka’s glory. In a celebration that seemed more akin to Red Neck Fourth of July, the men of Osaka jumped in to the filthy Dotonbori Canal, while shouting the names of the Hanshin Tigers players they thought they most resembled. Not having any gaijins partying it up on the streets, fans grabbed a statue of Colonel Sanders from a near-by Kentucky Fried Chicken and tossed it into the canal. Both Bass and the Colonel did have striking facial hair, so it’s easy to see how the revved up revelers made the connection.
Eventually the fans went home, washed the swamp scum from their bodies, and the Hanshin Tigers went off to enjoy their mighty victory, possibly by going to Disney World. This is unconfirmed. Everyone in Osaka thought the team would return with another triumphant victory the next season. Except the Hanshin Tigers didn’t even make it close to the World Series. They wouldn’t for several more years. A rumor began circulating that Colonel Sanders had cursed the team for theirs fans dumping his icon in the Dotonbori Canal.
On March 10, 2009 workers found what they initially thought was a human torso in the canal, but Hanshin Tiger fans quickly identified it as the upper half of Colonel Sanders, in statue form. The next day the lower half of the statue and his right hand were recovered. The Hanshin Tigers have not won a single World Series since 1985. Perhaps the great and mighty Colonel is still waiting for his left hand and trademark glasses to be found and returned.
As for Bass, he left baseball in 1988 and has gone on to serve in the U.S. Senate, (D. -Oklahoma) since 2004.
Why would tossing a plaster statue of an American icon known for his fried chicken goodness cause a team to not win a single world series? It’s because the Colonel is magic in Japan. Talk to any Japanese person, especially around Christmas, and they have a tale to tell of the good fortune the great Col. Sanders brings to all who dine on his delicious deals, and the misfortune brought to those who disrespect the massive idol.