Baseball in Hokkaido: Seeing the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome

 Is that a UFO in the distance? Nope, it's the Sapporo Dome, home of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. On September 21st, I saw them face off against the Golden Eagles.
 As far as domes go, it's pretty nice. There aren't really any standout features inside, but there is a walkway that I'm pretty sure goes all the way around the stadium and you can see the field the entire time.
 It was a Saturday , which means everybody went to the ballpark. There was an increased interest in this game, because the Golden Eagles' ace, Masahiro Tanaka (maybe you've heard of him?) was starting.
 Due to the crowds, I decided not to attempt to circle the stadium. I hope to return to all the NPB stadiums in the next year or two and hopefully explore a little better.
 There are a couple giant baseballs in the outfield stands.
 This is the view from my seat looking out towards center field. Despite having a fairly inexpensive ticket I lucked out and got one of the closest seats in my section. I was certainly happy with my location; this is the closest I've been to the infield at any NPB game.
 The stadium is designed for both baseball and soccer. The stands and wall open up and shift around, and an entire real-grass soccer turf can be rolled in and out of the stadium.
 You can see the wall separating my section from the more expensive tickets; I was only a couple rows back from this. Notably, NPB ballparks do not have a lot of luxury boxes.
 Game time. The Eagles dominated the game, led, of course, by Tanaka. The Fighters actually scored first, but Rakuten always seemed to have runners on base; the Fighters made three errors in the game. The final score was 7-3 in favor of the Golden Eagles, and Tanaka got his 22nd victory of the season.
 Here's a shot of the scoreboard and starting lineup before the game.
 This blimp flew around the stadium before the game and between innings.
 Food choices were relatively limited to the usual Japanese ballpark fare. I found a booth selling mixed drinks and beer which had a couple interesting choices. The fried chicken was really good.
 The packaged thing is some form of rice snack, though I forgot the name. The rice was really good and it was wrapped in chicken or something like that, and there was some sauce on the outside. I've never seen this before or since, but since I don't know what to look for that doesn't surprise me.
 Like many other Japanese teams, the Fighters do a balloon release in the middle of the 7th inning. Even though I've seen it several times before, it's still fun to watch.
 Tanaka is a righty, so I couldn't test my camera with him. But I took a couple shots of Yoshikawa, the Fighters' pitcher.
 What do you think? Baseball card-worthy? They seem a little dark, and they're a bit grainy at full size.
 Andruw Jones was a part of the Golden Eagles last year. He batted .243 with 26 home runs.
 There's a small museum in a passageway outside the ticket gates. Sapporo Dome has hosted some big concerts over the years, and one case had memorabilia from mostly western bands.
 There were soccer things too, but baseball is the stadium's main use, so the cases had lots of memorabilia from various events at the Dome. This is an exhibit on a Japan-Cuba match held at the stadium in November, 2012 - the Nagashima jersey is autographed.
 The NPB All-Star Game made its way north in 2001. I'm guessing that each signed card is from a different team.
 Okoso was the first owner of the Fighters. By the way, the Fighters are owned by Nippon Ham, a meat company that is obviously still doing quite well. The team does not fight ham. Okoso is the first owner to be honored by having a jersey number retired, and was the first jersey number retired by the Fighters - he was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
 The rest of the baseball display focuses on active stars and equipment.
Atsunori Inaba has been with the Fighters since 2005, but started his career in 1995 with the Swallows. He's put up some decent numbers in Hokkaido and reached 2000 hits in 2012, though he is nearing the end of his career, as he is now in his 40s.

I've mentioned it before, but this game had a big significance for me - it was the 12th NPB game I saw in Japan, at the 12th different stadium. With 12 teams in the league, it marked the completion of one of my major sightseeing/hobby goals in Japan! I'd like to see games at as many minor league stadiums as possible now, but I'd also like to revisit the stadiums and do more exploring. We'll see what 2014 holds for me in terms of baseball - there's also a trip to Korea coming up in April/May!

The stadium is easy to get to - the Tono subway line gets you pretty close to the park; the subway ride from Sapporo Station is 13 minutes and it's a 10-12 minute walk from Fukuzumi Station to the Dome itself.


  1. Hello from Hokkaido,Japan.
    I'm glad is written an article on the Sapporo Dome.
    It is a route name of subway, instead of Tono Line, the correct name is Toho Line.
    Then, food you forget a name, "Buta (pork) rice bou (stick)".

    arigatou :)

  2. tire.retire: Thank you for the information! Google Maps lists it as the Tono Line, which I was using. Hopefully they can correct their information. And that buta rice bou was delicious! Thanks for reading!