If you live outside of Japan or the USA then you may not be aware that the former beat the latter back in March to win the World Baseball Classic (WBC) thanks in particular to star player Shohei Otani who plies his trade stateside for the Los Angeles Angels. It is the biggest sport in Japan so baseball-fever was rife during the tournament.
Whilst I didn’t really watch any of it, I did quite enjoy the logistics of the tournament (countries involved, host cities, format etc) which meant I could get some enjoyment from talking about it with students. It must’ve got into my head in some way as within a week I had tickets to see not just one but two baseball games!
The first one was at Tokyo Dome which, as a ground-hopper (in football), is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while now. My team Hiroshima Carp (I’ve watched them once!) were going to be playing there for three nights at the end of April so that seemed like the ideal occasion.
I originally asked my friend James (a proper baseball fan!) if he would come to Tokyo Dome. He couldn’t bring himself to take in a game not involving his team so he asked if I wanted to watch Yakult Swallows in early May. So from having a mninor curiosity in seeing one game I had ended up seeing two in 14 days in a couple of different locations.
Game #1 @ Tokyo Dome, Bunkyo-ku – Despite being a Carp fan, I could only get tickets in the home section. I thought I would just get a shot outside in my Carp t-shirt and then remove it before going inside to sit in the Giants end pretending to suport them. However, once we got inside there were Carp fans dotted all over the place and so I changed back. It’s difficult to imagine such a situation being ok at a football match!
Even though I’ve been exposed to the game a fair bit through movies like ‘Mr Baseball‘ (1992), ‘The Bad News Bears Go To Japan‘ (1978), ‘A League Of Their Own‘ (1992) and ‘Moneyball‘ (2011), I still had very little idea of the rules going into this clash. Likewise for my friend Mostyn which was to be something of a problem as it’s hard to follow a game too closely when you don’t know what is going on!
Not long after we took our seats, Mostyn wanted a beer but didn’t realise the many young girls (running up and down the steps all night keeping the spectators refreshed) only sell one type of drink each. Subsequently he ended up with a highball (whiskey and soda) but when he went to pay by cash (still the most common method of payment in Japan) he was quite surprised to hear it was card payment only. He didn’t have one on him but luckily I stepped into save the day!
Between the two of us we just about managed to grasp the basics of what was happening on the field, and quite enjoyed the spectactle including all the extra razzmatazz between innings.
The highlight of the match was inevitably when a home run was scored. It happened a few times and when it did the lights went out and it flashed up messages like “Home Run” and “It’s Outta Here!” with the latter one surprising me for being so American and not the kind of English phrase usually used in Japan.
It was a close game and went on for about three and a half hours as Carp clawed back a few points but were just unable to level it up.
Final Score: Yomiuri Giants 5-4 Hiroshima Carp
Game #2 @ Meiji Jingu Stadium, Shinjuku-ku – A fortnight later and it was off to a stadium I must have passed by a fair few times but never really noticed. It’s just over the road from the National Stadium and next to the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground. This time I arrived fashionably late albeit only a few minutes after it had started. Baseball games can often be around three hours so some people don’t seem to mind missing the first 30 or 60 minutes. Or maybe they’re just arriving after work!
The highlight of this game was when there were chances to score a few points if a homer was hit and the other batters on the bases could get round the diamond too. No doubt my descriptive language for the game is not natural so forgive me for that! The home crowd all raised their mini-umbrellas and spun them in unison which was quite the sight.
This was the first time James, George and myself had all been together since we went bouldering in December 2021 and it was great to catch up at this outdoor stadium on a warm evening. Sadly the entertainment on the field wasn’t quite as entertaining as our hilarious banter! The game was one-way traffic and the home side never really looked like they were in it.
Final Score: Yakult Swallows 1-7 Chunichi Dragons
Whilst I enjoyed both games, they were a bit too long for my liking and there were just too many moments when nothing was happening. For a lot of the spectators, what’s occurring on the field is almost just background action whilst they eat, drink and chat. I certainly found this to be the case and my focus on the game action was fairly minimal at times, particularly the second one. I may not have been converted into a baseaball fan but I did gain a much greater appreciation for the country’s number one sport.
Click here to read ‘This Shrine Is A Big Hit With Baseball Fans!’
Click here to read ‘Nagoya Filming Locations – Mr Baseball (1992)’
Click here to read ‘Hiroshima-ken 2015 Pt I: Live Baseball At The Mazda Stadium’
Click here to read ‘A Different Ball Game’
Bonus: A month earlier I was in this same area of Shinjuku ward for a rugby match between two sides I had already seen in action earlier this year. Whilst it wasn’t quite as exciting as those two matches, it was still pretty good.
Click here to read ‘The Good, The Bad & The Rugby! My Return To Kashiwa’s Secondary Stadium After 19 Years!’
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