Going to a baseball game in Japan is much like going to a game in the US. However, being in a place where we could not speak or read the language did pose some issues not experienced here. Below are a few of the things we learned going to Japanese baseball games.
1. Getting to the ballpark
While the specific directions of how to get to the park are contained in the review of each park, there are a few common themes. First, review the route to the game, including the specific train lines that get you to the park. Sounds simple, but planning could save you some stress later on. Plan to leave early, in the event you miss your train. Many Japanese ball parks open two hours early, and have things to do and see around the park itself.
Baseball parks in Japan are located close to train stations (we’ve noticed very little in the way of parking for cars at the games). We’ve found that most are within walking distance (generally a kilometer or less). If that distance seems excessive, you can probably get a taxi to the game and back.
2. Entering the ballpark
After you arrive, survey the landscape to identify your gate for entry. The tickets we’ve had vary with respect to readability. Some are fairly easy to decipher
The above ticket was for a Giants game against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at the TokyoDome on September 22nd, 2018. Note that much of the vital information (gate, row, seat) have English next to them, making navigation fairly easy.
However, most of the tickets we received looked more like the ticket above. The gate number, row and seat are decipherable, but not easily as the ticket for Tokyo. If you are unsure which gate to enter, simply ask. In the case of the above. I handed the ticket to a security guard, who pointed me to the correct gate. Once inside, keep handing your ticket to staff members until they bring you to your seat. (FYI; there is no tipping in Japan)
Unlike American ballparks, the Japanese stadium setup usually restricts you to the section in which your seat is located (with the TokyoDome being an exception). This hampered our ability to get as many pictures as we would have liked.
One of the major differences between American and Japanese ballparks is the cuisine. As you might expect, the menu is dominated by Japanese fare (though some parks did offer hot dogs). My palate is not very sophisticated or varied, so I shied always from much of what was available. However, bento boxes were popular, containing vegetables, rice and fish.
Ordering can be a challenge, given the language barrier. In Tokyo, there was enough recognition of English to allow for rudimentary conversations regarding ordering food. Elsewhere, we’ve seen most ballparks offer a picture book of the selections. Often pointing to the book and indicating the desired quantity with fingers accomplished the task. The vendors are typically very helpful, and I didn’t face a situation where I couldn’t get what I wanted from the concession stand.
Drinks can also be obtained at the concession stand. We discovered there is no diet soda (as we know it) in Japan, but zero calorie soda is available. We mostly drank water, which is a must when traveling through Japan in the warm season.
We didn’t see too many vendors selling food in the crowd, but there were people delivering drinks. Dubbed beer girls, there were dozens of young women hawking alcohol, wearing brightly colored shirts and carrying packs on their backs.
Like ballparks in America, each of the ballparks we visited had a team store. Most of the team stores had a selection of apparel you might find in a team store in the US, as well as programs, yearbooks and baseball cards. In addition, the stores had items that appeared to be more popular in Japan than back home. These items included pom poms, dolls and noise makers shaped like cones (which the crowds put to good use during the games).
However, for the avid baseball fan, the team stores often seemed to lack a greater variety of hats, jerseys and pictures. My brother Jeff found that larger teams stores were often found outside of the ballparks. For example, there are two team stores in Sapporo (home of the the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters). The team store for the Sendai Rakuten Golden Eagles is down the road from their ballpark, and the team store for the Seibu Lions is on the 8th floor of the Seibu Store in the Ikebukuro section of Tokyo. If you seek a larger selection of team items, especially hats and jersey, you should Google the location of the official team stores.