Monday, June 17, 2024

Trip Overview Part 2 - Day 2 - A Day At Jingu

After all the running around I did on my full day in Japan (not to mention the evening I arrived), I was glad that the agenda for my second day was pretty much centered around a single location - Meiji Jingu Stadium.  Jingu, of course, is the second oldest ballpark in Japan (after Koshien), having opened in 1926.  It is home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows as well as being one of the host ballpark for collegiate baseball in Tokyo.  It is currently scheduled to be demolished as part of a controversial redevelopment plan for the area so I've tried to make sure I get to games here as often as I can.  On the first full day of my 2019 trip I watched two Tokyo Big Six games here and then returned two weeks later to see the Swallows play.  I was going to see three games here again but this time they'd all be on the same day.  And I wouldn't be going by myself this time - Ryan, Deanna and Noel would be with me.

I had chosen my hotel for the first part of my trip due to its location.  It was basically on the far side of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden from Jingu and was maybe a mile and a half walk away.  The collegiate double header was scheduled to start at 10 AM and we made plans to meet outside the ballpark at 9:30.  

I set out from my hotel a little after 9, later than I should have.  I got distracted by a couple things along the way.  First were a pair of old looking markers outside Yotsuya Civic Hall:

The big marker is apparently for a guardhouse for the Tamagawa Aqueduct which dates from the 1650's.  The smaller marker that I didn't get a good photo for was created in 1965 from old stone gutters for the aqueduct that were uncovered during the excavation for the Marunouchi subway line.

The other big distraction was the Olympic stadium:

I made the mistake of bearing left here instead of right which probably took me a little out of my way.  Although I wouldn't have seen the 1964 Olympic cauldron if I'd gone the other way:

I also walked by the cauldron for the 2020 Olympics too but I didn't notice it at the time.  There was some sort of collegiate sporting event going on in or near the stadium (I mean, other than the baseball games I was going to) and it was a bit distracting.  There was some sort of related running event on the road between the Olympic Stadium and where the Jingu Secondary Stadium used to be which restricted where I could actually cross the street.  

I ended up not getting to the ballpark until about 9:45.  I felt bad because Ryan was the only one of us to actually get there by 9:30 so he ended up standing around waiting for me for 15 minutes - Deanna and Noel had messaged me to say they were running late as well.  I apologized profusely when we met up and then we bought tickets and headed into the ballpark.  

We decided to go up to the second level behind home plate as it had a great view of the ballpark and was under cover in case the sun came out.  Not that that really became an issue - it was a kind of overcast and hazy most of the day.

Deanna and Noel joined us around the time the first game got started.  It featured perennial Tokyo Big Six doormat Tokyo University (aka Todai) against Hosei University.  Hosei took an early lead in the bottom of the second but Todai tied it up in the top of the fourth.  Hosei promptly went ahead again with single runs in the bottom of the fourth and fifth but Todai again tied the score with two runs in their half of the sixth.  Tokyo actually went ahead in the top of the seventh on a solo home run from Kaito Sugiura and we briefly discussed among ourselves how cool it would be to see a rare win by Tokyo.  It was not to be, however, as Hosei scored two in the bottom of the seventh to regain the lead and added another two in the bottom of the eighth to put the game out of reach.  The final score was Hosei 7, Tokyo 4.

One thing Deanna pointed out to me during the game was that Kouki Watanabe, son of former Marines pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe, was warming up in Tokyo's bullpen.  Like his father, he's a side-armer:

Unfortunately he never got into the game.

There was about a half hour between the end of the first game and the start of the second game between Meiji University and Rikkio University.  It was kind of cool to see all four teams on the field at the same time with Tokyo and Hosei packing up while Meiji and Rikkio worked out on the field:

There wasn't a whole lot of drama in the second game.  Meiji took a 3-0 lead in the third inning with Rikkio scoring two in the bottom of the fifth to make it a one run game.  That was as close as they got though with Meiji scoring another run in the seventh and two more in the ninth to come away with the 6-2 victory.

Deanna pointed out that we could see Skytree beyond the right field corner of the ballpark:

The second game ended around 3 o'clock and we had to exit the ballpark as they started making preparations for that evening's Swallows game.  Deanna's friend Kozo had joined us at our seats and he suggested that we wander over Meiji Jingu Gaien, the park across the street from the outfield stands where there was a Swallows team store as well as the house for Tsubakuro, the team's mascot.

As we made our way around the ballpark we passed by where the Meiji team was getting on their bus.  I got a quick photo of Yuichiro Yamamoto, their coach as well as one of their buses as it pulled away:

A crowd had gathered by the backside of the scoreboard where the Swallows players were entering the ballpark from the team's training facility across the street.  I got a brief glimpse of manager Shingo Takatsu passing by although I didn't get a photo of him:

Ryan and I both checked out the Swallows' team store but didn't find any baseball cards.  Tsubakuro's house was kind of cute though:

We parted ways with Kozo as he was going to the Swallows game and made our way back over to the ballpark.  Our seats for that evening were in the outfield which was a new experience for me.  While I had been to Jingu several times before, I had always sat in the infield.  The outfield seats at the ballpark are completely separate from the infield seats - there's no way to get from one section to the other without going outside.  They're essentially two separate buildings.

One reason I wanted to sit in the outfield is that Deanna had told me there were markers up for Munetaka Murakami's 56th home run from 2022 and Wladimir Balentien's 60th home run from 2013.  The first one I saw was Murakami's because it's kind of hard to miss:

 Balentien's is a little more subtle:

Our seats weren't the most comfortable but the view was pretty good:

The Swallows were taking on the Giants that night and the stands were packed.  Cy Sneed was on the mound for Yakult while Rei Takahashi (the second side-armer I had seen on the visitor's bullpen mound that day) was pitching for Yomiuri.

The game was scoreless until the top of the sixth when Kazuma Okamoto hit a solo shot to put the Giants up 1-0.  Domingo Santana responded with a solo home run of his own to tie the game in the bottom of the inning and the Swallows scored single runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to beat the Giants 3-1.  

UPDATE - forgot to include the game highlights video.  This is from the Swallows so it only shows action by the Swallows so don't bother watching if you just want to see Okamoto's home run:

We'd been so sardined into our seats that I hadn't felt like trying to get anything to eat during the game.  Afterwards Ryan and I said goodbye to Deanna and Noel and headed for Shinanomachi Station - I had decided I was too tired to walk all the way back to my hotel.  We parted ways there with him heading for Funabashi and me in the opposite direction to Shinjuku where I switched to the subway line to get back to my hotel.  I picked up a late chicken dinner from the Lawson's two blocks from my hotel before finally getting back to my room.  I was kind of surprised how tired I was considering I hadn't walked nearly as much as the day before and I was asleep shorting after I finished eating.


Sean said...

Wow, cool day at Jingu! My kids are Dragons fans but Tsubakuro is their favorite non-Dragons mascot, they would probably love seeing that house. I've never been to Jingu but want to give it a visit while it is still there (people are fighting to save it and the public opposition is a lot stronger than one normally sees against redevelopment projects, but its a very long shot....)

NPB Card Guy said...

I'd probably say that Tsubakuro is my favorite too, at least since Nazo No Sakana retired. It's funny - I had never heard the mascot's name - I'd only read it - so when Kozo said that we could visit Tsubakuro's house, I was like "who's that"?

Ryan H said...

I had the great pleasure to check out a game at Jingu back in 2006 when I visited my great aunt. It was an awesome experience to check out a baseball game Japanese style. The game that I attended, the Swallows were honoring Iwamura for his 1500(?) NPB hits. I got to see Iwamura in Baltimore a few years later when he played for the Rays. Its a shame that Jingu is slated to be torn down. Maybe the grassroots effort by the fans will be able to save it.

NPB Card Guy said...

It was probably his 1000th hit as he only had 1172 hits in his NPB career - 1073 of them before heading to Tampa. Nice timing to get to see that and I always think it's cool to get to see guys play on more than one continent.

The whole thing with Jingu just really sucks but it's looking more and more like it's going to happen. They've already torn down the secondary stadium that was beyond left field. With the Giants talking about building a new ballpark at the old Tsukji Fish market site, there may be two new stadiums in Central Tokyo by 2030.

Unknown said...

What kind of food do the serve at the ballpark?

Does a beer cost $16.00? LOL


Brady DiCarlo said...

Tsubakuro's house was adorable! He's probably my favorite mascot who isn't the Giabbits (Giants fan here). Also, poor Balentien doesn't even get a plaque.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Scott - there's a wide variety of food available at the games. I think my favorite meal was the bibimbap I had in Fukuoka. Beer prices varied between stadiums but I think they were usually between 650 and 900 yen (roughly $4 to $6). The night I was in Chiba was half price beer night so they were only 400 yen (about $2.50)

@Brady - I think Kozo had sold us on the house by saying it was kind of cute. The Balentien marker was clearly an afterthought. You get the feeling that the Swallows really wanted to put up the Murakami marker but figured they needed to do the Balentien one then too.