Sunday, June 9, 2013

Impressions of Baseball In Japan

It's been almost three months since I got back from my trip to Japan so I think I should finally wrap up anything that I've got left to say about the trip.  I was going to do a post about each of the four ballparks I went to but after I started the one about Tokyo Dome, I realized that I didn't have enough to say to fill four posts.  So I'm going to throw it all in this one.

This may be more stream-of-consciousness than normal for me...

Dragons Oendan at Yokohama Stadium
- I did not realize how much I was going to enjoy the cheering sections at the ballgames.  I honestly thought I would find them annoying but instead I found them entertaining and amusing and I missed them at the games at the Tokyo Dome that didn't feature Japan.  It was amazing being surrounded by what felt like the entire Dome doing the "Inaba Jump".  I was astonished by the size of the oendan that showed up at the two open-sen games I went to - especially the size of the group of Marines fans who trekked out to Tokorozawa for the Lions game.  I liked the fact that the Baystars group gave a little cheer for Motonobu Tanishige to commemorate (I assume) the fact that he played 10+ years in Yokohama.  The Dragons fans at the game did not reciprocate with Tony Blanco or Norihiro Nakamura.

- I feel I missed out on a couple traditions as neither open-sen game featured jet balloons or cheerleader squads.  I did get to see the beer girls though and the mascots for the Lions and Baystars.

- The biggest thing that I didn't like at the games was the foul ball screens at the Tokyo Dome, Seibu Dome and Jingu Stadium that were in front of the stands all the way out to the outfield.  It really messed up my field of view and prevented me from getting decent pictures.  And the whistles that they blow every time a foul ball goes into the stands is annoying also.

Yokohama Stadium postcard
- I liked Yokohama Stadium the most of the four ballparks I went to, although I might rate Jingu more highly if I'd seen a Swallows game rather than an industrial league game.  I just really liked the sight lines at the park (It helped that they were the one park that had a foul ball screen  that was only behind home plate).

1992 BBM #102
1999 BBM Lions 20th Anniversary #SL30
Inao's retired number and 1956 Championship marker
- Seibu Dome is strange.  The ballpark was literally built into the side of a hill so there's no real stadium structure.  There's a building behind home plate that's the press box.  Most of the concession stands are literally small stands along the top of the hill (which is where the main concourse is).  The roof was put over the ballpark in 1999 but there's no walls so you still feel the outside weather.  (I keep referring to it as the world's largest car port.)  It's out in the middle of nowhere so almost everyone at the game is trying to get on the same train after the game.  I did like the fact that all the Lions championships (including the ones in Fukuoka) are commemorated on the inside roof of the Dome along with their one retired number (Kazuhisa Inao's #24).

1988 Calbee #19 
Left field stands with retired numbers
View from upper deck during Cuba-Netherlands game
- The Tokyo Dome was really nothing special.  I liked the fact that the main concourse was open so that you could see the game going on as you walked along and I thought the sight lines from the upper deck were really good.  They have the retired numbers for the Giants displayed in the outfield.  I didn't like the fact that the area with the most food and memorabilia stands was kind of buried deep in the stadium.

My first view of Jingu Stadium
Pregame ceremony
- There were probably more people on the field than in the stands when I was at Jingu Stadium.  I was there at 9 AM for a game between TDK and Kazusa Magic in an industrial league tournament.  There was no national anthem played at the game, but the two teams lined up and bowed to each other before the game.

- The souvenir stands at Tokyo Dome had the latest BBM issues available.  Yokohama had the Calbee potato chip bags but I didn't see anything else.  I saw no cards at Seibu Dome and there were no stands open when I was at Jingu.


shlabotnikreport said...

Thanks for the "tour"! I don't see myself getting to Japan anytime soon, so I always enjoy anything that gives me an idea of what it's like to attend games there.

Fuji said...

Visiting Japan and attending some baseball games is definitely high up my bucket list. Thanks for sharing.

Steve Novosel said...

Glad you liked the cheering sections. They're the most fun part of the games. (Of course I am biased since that's where I usually hang out.

Everybody thinks Tokyo Dome is a dump. It's just a centrally located dump so all the important games get played there.

Sean said...

Nice post! I always sit in the Oendan cheering sections when I see a game here, it is just way more exciting than sitting in the regular seats (which, ironically, cost more).

I would like to see a game at Jingu stadium someday since it and Koshien are the only vintage ones still in use by pro teams. I`ve been to Koshien a few times and the cheering section there is an experience like no other.

The domes sadly dominate here still...and they all suck. Nagoya (where I live) has one of the worst. The design is uninspired and it really has nothing to recommend it (a fact made all the more tragic when you watch Mr. Baseball and see how beautiful the game was when played in the outdoor stadium it replaced).

Ryan G said...

I've traveled around to many of the stadiums now, and while I don't always sit in the cheering sections, I do enjoy them. The one exception was at the Dragons game, for the one reason that if there was no cheering sections, I would have been able to hear everything on the field all the way in my center field seat. Which is really quiet and certainly not wanted in a major league game, but is something I enjoyed when going to minor league games. Nothing like listening in on the dugout and on-field chatter. But yes, hearing the cheers going on, I can't help but clap along.

I consider sitting near the field when buying tickets sometimes, but I always think of those horrible screens. And as others have said, most of the stadiums (and domes especially) are quite plain. I haven't truly disliked any of the stadiums, though the Meiji Jingu experience wasn't so great. My biggest problem is the inability to circle the stadium or even see the game from most concourses.

Yokohama really works hard to bring an American baseball experience to its fans while still meeting the needs of the Japanese attendees. The Seibu Dome is very open under the roof, which can make it a nice place to watch a game. But as you mentioned, it's so far out in the middle of nowhere, there's a mad rush for the trains - which all go only one direction.

I think domes are a bit of a necessity in most of Japan. Hokkaido is pretty cold at the ends of the season (yes, so is Boston) and the rainy season in June could wipe out half of the schedule. And given the state of baseball finances here, new stadiums might not be built for a while. (The Giants and Tigers won't build new stadiums because the money comes in despite the quality of the stadium.)

I watched Mr. Baseball for the first time in about 20 years right after going to Nagoya. I also somehow sat through Bad News Bears Go To Japan. Does anyone know where that was filmed? (Kyoto/Osaka it seems...)