One thing I don't do much of on vacations is take it easy. This trip I've been trying to do a bit more of it, so I've left a little later in the day and have been rearranging my schedule, scratching off some of the locations on my itinerary.
Yesterday, the plan was to go to three temples in Kyoto and explore Kyoto Station before heading to Horakata Park, an amusement park between Osaka and Kyoto. Then, the evening would be spent seeing the Hanshin Tigers. I started a bit late and went to the amusement park first, which was probably a good call. I only stayed a couple hours, arriving just after opening and getting on all the rides pretty quickly. A nice park but with very little crowds I never had to wait.
I then headed into Kyoto. The train station was still worth checking out, and I made the trek across the skyway for the view. I could see Kyoto Tower pretty well, which was another location I decided to scrap. From the station I took a walk to one of the temples, Nishi-Hongan-ji, nice but not very unique - except the gold trim on some of the buildings. I skipped the one remaining temple worth visiting due to time (hopefully I'll catch up with it later this week) because Koshien Stadium is a pretty long way from Kyoto.
The stadium is about an hour from Osaka depending on where you start and which train you take. It can be done much faster at the same cost if you search for express trains. It isn't hard to find, just follow the hordes of Tigers fans and its right behind the elevated freeway. It's a shame that freeway is there because it blocks the view of the stadium entirely.
Koshien is old. It had some major work done a few years ago so much of the stuff is new, but you can't get from the outfield seats to the infield. And the aisles and seats are narrow an cramped out in what is almost bleacher seats. Food selection is okay at best, with standard Japanese offerings (Pizza-la was my choice - the Dominoes Pizza of Japan and I say that in a negative sense).
This was a really cold night, but the Tigers were playing my current-favorite team (the Carp) with their ace (Kenta Maeda, possibly the best pitcher in the NPB now). Maeda went seven innings striking out seven and the Tigers got only five hits in the entire game (no walks). The Carp scored four in one inning thanks to three walks by the Tigers pitcher and some good small ball and clutch hitting by the Carp. A home run by the catcher in the ninth gave them run number five.
With the recent renovations, the stadium doesn't seem as bad as others said. However, not being able to walk around the stadium and the cramped seating are big negatives in my book.
Oh, and I found the Ruth plaque before the game, outside the first base side in some area sponsored by Mizuno that might eventually become something like Monument Grove - there was another plaque out there as well.
Today's details will come later. Until then... Pictures. And yes, that is a rainbow over Koshien Stadium! There were short rain showers all afternoon in Kyoto and at the stadium.