Watching baseball in Japan is a lot of fun not just because of the great players, but also because of the beer, food, and the enthusiastic cheers of fans! Most of the baseball stadiums in Japan are found in the metropolitan area, so you can have a packed, fun-filled time sightseeing during the day and enjoy a game of baseball at night. So with that, here are some tips to better enjoy watching baseball in Japan!
Overview of Baseball in Japan
Before you learn about Japanese baseball, though, you will need some prerequisite knowledge about the game!
There are 2 leagues in Japan: the Central League (Ce League) and Pacific League (Pa League). In each league, there are 6 teams.
The season kicks off at the end of March and the top 3 teams of each league compete in the “Climax Series” that is held in October to decide their respective league's No. 1 team. After that, the league champions in both leagues will face off in the Japan Championship Series (commonly referred to as the Japan Series) that takes place from the end of October until early November to decide the top baseball team in Japan.
If you decide to go to a baseball game, then it will be way more fun if you choose a team to support. You can cheer for the team of the area where you are traveling, or, since there are so many foreign players in Japan, you can support a team that has a player from your country. One such player is Daikan Yoh of the Yomiuri Giants who hails from Taiwan. He is very popular due to his superb skills and good looks.
As for the start times for games, day games usually start from 1:00 am to 3:00 pm, while night games usually begin at 6:00 pm.
Home Turf of Each Team
Each team has their own designated baseball stadiums in the areas they represent, so there are 12 stadiums in Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Below are the locations of each stadium and their respective baseball teams. Dome stadiums are more appealing because they are unaffected by weather and the inside temperature is fixed, thereby making it more pleasant and easier for spectators to enjoy the game. However outdoor stadiums give a sense of openness, and some even launch fireworks! Check the following to see if the area where you will be traveling to has a baseball stadium.
· Yomiuri Giants / Tokyo Dome (Bunkyo, Tokyo)
· Tokyo Yakult Swallows / Meiji Jingu Stadium (Shinjuku, Tokyo)
· Yokohama DeNA BayStars / Yokohama Stadium (Yokohama, Kanagawa)
· Chunichi Dragons / Nagoya Dome (Nagoya, Aichi)
· Hanshin Tigers / Hanshin Koshien Stadium (Nishinomiya, Hyogo)
· Hiroshima Toyo Carp / MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima (Hiroshima, Hiroshima)
· Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters / Sapporo Dome (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
· Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles / Rakuten Kobo Stadium Miyagi (Sendai, Miyagi)
· Saitama Seibu Lions / MetLife Dome (Tokorozawa, Saitama)
· Chiba Lotte Marines / ZOZO Marine Stadium (Chiba, Chiba)
· Orix Buffaloes / Kyocera Dome Osaka (Osaka, Osaka)
· Fukuoka Softbank Hawks / Fukuoka Yahoo! Dome (Fukuoka, Fukuoka)
How to Purchase Tickets
Tickets can be purchased at the stadium on game day, but note that there may be times when tickets are sold out for popular teams. This is why it's recommended that you buy your tickets online in advance! You can purchase the tickets on the websites of each team and then pick up the tickets from the convenience store and other such establishments, so it's really easy. Some of the websites support multiple languages, too.
Buy Official Merchandise
Once you have decided on which game to watch, you now have to buy some cheering goods! One of the best parts about going to a baseball game is cheering the athletes on together with all the fans supporting the same team. If you cheer with the team's official merchandise, you will feel united with all the fans around you.
Uniforms and caps are sold at the ballpark as well, but the one item that is recommended for tourists is the face towel bearing the team’s logo. You can raise it up in the air or hold one end of the towel and wave it around. The great thing about it is that you can still use it as a regular towel after the game. The "kung fu bat", a small, slim bat for cheering, is also quite popular since you can keep cheering by bashing the bats together, regardless of whether your team is on offense or defense.
If you plan on cheering for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, then the mini umbrella is recommended. You can join in on the unique cheer for this team by bobbing the umbrella up and down.
Get Some Tasty Food and Beer
It may be due to the energetic plays of the athletes or the enthusiasm of the cheers coming from the spectators, but the beer you drink at a game is the most delicious beer ever! You can buy beer at the stand inside the stadium, but since you are already there anyway, why not buy beer from the vendors wandering around the stadium? A job as a vendor, who walks throughout the stadium with a smile while carrying 10 liters of beer, is actually quite popular. These vendors light up the sections where fans root for their teams. Aside from beer, there are also vendors selling chuhai (alcohol-based drink) and high balls.
There are various dishes available that you can pair with your drink, ranging from a la carte dishes such as fried chicken, french fries, and sausages, to noodle dishes such as udon and ramen. The kinds of food you can buy vary depending on the stadium, with each stadium having their own unique dishes that you can only get there. For instance, there is the Dome Egg Burger in Tokyo Dome, which is a hamburger with fried egg inside. Its name comes from the nickname for Tokyo Dome, “Big Egg”. The stadium was dubbed this based on the fact that it looks like an egg when viewed from above.
The dish in the photo is the Carp Udon, a popular dish at the MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima. The golden soup is truly delicious.
It’s Game Time!
The game finally begins when the players get into position! Try using the cheering merchandise that you bought before the game. If the team you are supporting is on the offense, the official cheering song for each batter will start playing.
Many fans hit their kung fu bats together and swing their towels to the tune, so it's easy for first timers to join in, too! Being surrounded by the enthusiasm of cheering fans will make shouting and cheering come naturally for you when a player makes a great play.
After the game, make sure to throw your garbage away in the designated areas. Everyone is headed home at the same time, so expect the nearest station to be very crowded. It's a good idea to buy your return ticket ahead of time.
How to Enjoy the Stadium Beyond Baseball
At Tokyo Dome, on the right side of Gate 21 is the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which you can enter with an additional fee. The history of Japanese baseball and famous players of the past are displayed inside. You can also enjoy a virtual batting game with the Batter Box Experience!
A video of top players from various teams will be shown on the screen in front of you. If you swing the bat and you hit the pitch made by the player on the screen, then you'll hear the sound of a ball being hit by a bat and the words “Homerun” and “Hit” will be displayed. It's a game that will get both children and adults hooked!
As for souvenirs that you can purchase, there are many unique items available, including chopsticks made with the wood from broken bats, and charms for those wanting to improve their baseball skills. Make sure to peek in for a look!
There are many ballparks located close to cities, so you can enjoy both sightseeing and baseball during your trip! The beer that you drink while watching the professional players and cheering together with all the fans around you is really the best there is! Be sure to make space for baseball in your travel itinerary!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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