Baseball in Japan: A Different Fan Experience

by Mike on November 8, 2011

It was a humid Sunday afternoon in Tokyo and I was scheduling my day around attending a baseball game between the Yomuri Giants play and the Hiroshima Carp.

Without tickets in hand for a game, I was really wondering if I could just show up at the ticket booth several hours before game time and purchase a ticket.  I mean, after all the Yomuri Giants is Tokyo’s beloved team where former New York Yankee Hideki Matsui played.

With the popularity of the Yomuri Giants, was I amusing myself thinking I could just walk up and buy a ticket?

Long behold, I was able to purchase a ticket at the ticket booth despite the popularity of the Yomuri Giants.  The only confusion was the translation of the seats to the ticket price. Luckily, the ticketing agent had a layout of the seating section and pointed to which seats seemed that seemed reasonable to me.

Ticket Stub Yomuri Giants vs. Hiroshima Carp

Ticket Stub Yomuri Giants vs. Hiroshima Carp

SEATS

The seats I choose were in the upper deck costing 2,300 Yen or about $30 USD at the time of this writing.  I had no desire to pay for the more expensive box seats in the lower level for two teams I was not passionate about.

View from the Upper Deck at the Tokyo Dome

The view from my seat at the Yomuri Giants vs Hiroshima Carp

Leg room in the upper deck at the Tokyo Dome

Leg room in the upper deck at the Tokyo Dome

A DIFFERENT FAN EXPERIENCE

With tickets in hand, I was only a few steps away from watching my first baseball game in a foreign country.  This was truly going to be a different experience and here’s what I noted:

1.  It’s no secret that a price for 16 oz beer at a major league baseball game can run upwards of $10 – it’s a complete rip off.  Often times we can’t help ourselves and buy the overpriced beer in limited quantities.  So the question begs to be asked, how do beer prices in Japanese Baseball games compare?  A 500 mL cup of beer will run you about 800 Yen, which is about $10 US dollars.  So ,the price is still comparable, however, there is one work around to this expensive problem – you’re actually allowed to bring outside beverages into the stadium including alcoholic beverages.

I took noticed of this policy while I was standing in line to enter the stadium and just about everyone else standing in line was carrying either a grocery bag full of snacks, beverages, or other food items.  I glanced toward the front of the line and saw that security personnel searching bags were indifferent about outside food including alcoholic beverages entering the stadium.  I put two and two together and made the assumption that these Japanese locals must know what their doing, so I quickly jumped out of line and found the nearest 7-Eleven (there’s loads of them Japan) and bought several beers.

Immediately after entering the stadium, I was required to pour my two beers into disposable cups.  Nonetheless, I was sure glad that I brought beers into the stadium given the outrageous prices inside the stadium.

Tokyo Dome Stadium Workers pouring the Beer your brought into cups

Stadium Workers pouring the beer you brought into disposable cups

2.  In the States, the playoff games are awesome, there’s a lot of energy in the atmosphere with the crowds cheering and the players playing like it’s their last game.  My experience Baseball in Japan was just like this.  Even though this was a regular season game, each team has its own cheering section located in the bleacher section behind the left and right field.  It appeared that there were different cheers going on and the cheering was done only when your team was batting.

"noise makers" at Japanese Baseball games

Japanese Fans bang these miniature plastic bats together as "noise makers"

Hiroshima Carp cheering section behind the left field wall at the Tokyo Dome

Hiroshima Carp cheering section behind the left field wall at the Tokyo Dome

Although there is a lot of energy, there’s no profanity or animosity being shouted between opposing fans, which seems to be contrary to the States.  I’ve clearly remember a game between the New York Yankees and Mets where one fan Met fan shouted “Hey, sit down you Fat F@%k” to a Yankee fan who was standing up and cheering after a Yankee home run, all the while a family was sitting a few seats a way.  Needless to say, the atmosphere at a Japanese baseball game is (a lot) more family friendly.  Though if someone were yelling obscenities, it would likely be said in Japan.

3.  All Major League stadiums sell the “stand by” food items at the concession stands.  I use the term “Stand by” because it’s items we’re all accustomed to buying at games such as hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, and a selection of domestic beers.  In addition, some stadiums have made a reputation for themselves by offering some signature food items that’s made its way into a published book.

The concession stands in Japan do have the “stand by” items similar to what is found in the States with some slight variations (see pictures).  But they also sell some atypical eats such as a variety of noodles and soups stemming from Japanese cuisine.

I wasn’t hungry during the game partially due to the heat and humidity.  But by the looks of the pictures, the hamburgers and hot dogs don’t look very appealing.  If my appetite was yearning for some food, I would definitely go with the Japanese style cuisine.  It’s what they do best and the American staple food items would have been just an utter disappointment when I come from the land of Five Guys Burgers and In-Out-Burgers.

Hamburgers at a Japanese Baseball game in the Tokyo Dome

Hamburgers at a Japanese Baseball game

Hot Dogs at a Japanese Baseball game in the Tokyo Dome

Hot Dogs at a Japanese Baseball game

Japanese type cuisine at the Tokyo Dome

Japanese type cuisine at the Tokyo Dome

RULES OF THE GAME

The rules for the most part seemed to be the same.  The game play was slightly different.  It seemed like whenever someone would get on base from either team, they would sacrifice bunt to get the runner over to second base.  This tactic is not unheard of in the States, but to execute it nearly every time a runner gets on base, doesn’t make for a much excitement.

When the hype of how a high profile player like Dice-K will pan out in his first Major Baseball season, ESPN analysts have always compared the level of baseball in Japan as somewhere between AAA and Major League caliber levels.  After watching one, game, I tend to agree with these analysts.  The pitchers seem to dominate the hitters.  In fact, I think the only extra base hit was only a double, there were few balls hit deep.

Shallow Outfielders of the Hiroshima Carp

Hiroshima Carp outfielders playing shallow

Combine the lack of big hits with sacrifice bunts can make for a somewhat uneventful game.  I was more drawn and intrigued by the cultural differences such as the cheering sections and dedicated cheer leaders for the home team.

Hiroshima Carp Cheerleaders

Hiroshima Carp Cheerleaders

If you find yourself in Japan, I highly recommend the baseball experience even if you’re not a baseball fan.  And if you are a fan, the experience will be just even more unique and enjoyable.

After this experience, I’m definitely going to try and go to more baseball games in other Asian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea.  Have you ever experienced a baseball game in another country?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

tK August 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Hi Mike.

I am thinking of going to see the Giants play tonight and was wondering about the leg room you mentioned. Looks pretty good, but I am not sure how tall you are.

I am around six foot six and so pretty well used to being cramped into seats, but would not want to be in a stress position for a full game. Do you think I will fit OK?

Great post by the way!

Reply

Mike August 2, 2012 at 12:11 am

I’m about 5’10 and it was sufficient for me. Given that you’re 6’6, it’s going to be a bit tight. Get an aisle seat and walk around a bit.

Reply

Ciro February 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Hi Mike,

I am doing one search on Japanese Baseball fans, so could you explain the difference between the normal Japanese fan, the Oendan (Cheerleaders) and the ones who seats in the expencive box seats?
what they wear? what they do?
Thanks
Ciro.

Reply

Mike February 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Ciro, I’m not quite sure about the different fans per say as it was my first baseball game in Japan

Reply

Michael April 4, 2013 at 9:03 am

Great post. Guess I will need to get to one.

Reply

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