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If you're a fan of sports you'll definitely want to watch a baseball game in Japan and witness this country's original baseball culture. In this article, we explain how to get tickets for a baseball match in Japan and what to expect on game day.
In Japanese, baseball goes by the name of “yakyū” - the result of combining the characters for “field” and “ball”. Yakyū has grown to become one of Japan’s most popular sports and witnessing a live game is often an exhilarating experience.
Since being imported from the United States in 1872, baseball has steadily gained popularity in Japan. Of course, given so many years to evolve independently of the American game, Japanese baseball has many differences that Western baseball fans may be unfamiliar with but at the same time retains all the key components to make for a truly enjoyable experience from the seats and bleachers.
Baseball in Japan doesn’t look like slowing down in terms of popularity either, as the game gets stronger and stronger among high school kids. Take a weekend stroll around the suburbs of any Japanese city and you'll see just how many kids are practicing outside. A quote from the website of the Japanese National Tourism Organization’s website sums up the nation’s love of the sport: “Baseball is so popular in Japan that many fans are surprised to hear that Americans also consider it their "national sport".“
With that in mind, let’s take it from the dirty diamonds of suburban Japan to the nation’s top level league. The highest level of “puro yakyū” (“professional baseball”) in Japan is the Nippon Professional Baseball League. The league is split into two six-team divisions - the Pacific League and the Central League, who begin the first of each teams’ 144 regular season games in March. The winners of each league then contest a 7-game series in late October to determine the winner of the Nippon Series.
Whether you’re a baseball nut or just a curious visitor eager for a new experience, a few hours at the baseball match will be really exciting. Sporting tragics will find rules essentially the same as the American game alongside intriguingly subtle technical differences, while those more interested in culture than sport will find the collective psyche of a nation mirrored and expressed proudly and publicly like nowhere else.
Where you sit will depend upon whether you’re supporting the home team or the away team. You might be impartial but just this once, pick a side. If you’ll afford me the luxury of momentary bias, the Yokohama DeNa BayStars are my team.
With your team picked, you’ll sit on their dedicated side of the stadium; the same side as the team’s “ouendan” (a “cheering squad” of fans who yell, sing, wave banners, and bang away on drums while their team is at the plate). Of course, each team has their own song but many fans will even have a unique song for individual players. In addition, the supporters of all twelve teams will have their own different traditions and celebrations, some of which involve umbrellas and balloons. Suffice to say, securing a seat somewhere near these die-hards will surely provide a lasting memory of Japan, and perhaps one at odds with the perception of Japanese people being very reserved in public.
If you’re still not sold on the whole thing, let me introduce you to the idea of the beer “uriko” (staff selling drinks and snacks). You’ll see them walking around with large kegs strapped to their backs (for whatever reason, they’re usually young ladies) and for a reasonable price, a plastic cup of beer is yours without having to leave your seat. Another plus is that if you’re trying to be frugal, you are usually permitted to bring food and drinks into the venue (although you will be expected to pour your drinks into plastic cups).
Ticket prices will vary according to the stadium and your choice of seating, though you can budget for a ballpark (sorry) of around 3,000 yen to 10,000 yen for a seat.
You'll find professional baseball stadiums in any major city in Japan. In the metropolitan area, you may want to enjoy a game at Tokyo Dome, Yokohama Stadium or Seibu Prince Dome. In Kansai, check out Kyocera Dome Osaka.
Generally speaking, tickets can be purchased on game day, however, if the most popular teams are involved (Yomiuri Giants or Hanshin Tigers) or your visit coincides with a national holiday, then you’re really going to want to plan ahead.
Of course, the game you choose to attend will dictate the directions you need to get to the game. You can buy tickets (with directions on how to get to each stadium) at Japan Ball Tickets.
Alternatively, (and my personal preference for buying tickets) you can pick a team according to the area that suits you and where you’ll be on the date you wish to go and order tickets from that team’s website. Each team has an English version of their website, making it very easy to buy tickets. For a list of teams and their stadium location within Japan, visit the Nippon Baseball League’s English site. Here you’ll find links to each team’s website, game scheduling, and even team/player stats: http://npb.jp/eng/teams/.
Enjoy your Japan baseball experience and, of course, "Go the BayStars!"