Osaka Dome (Kiyocera Dome/Kyocera Dome): An ORIX Buffaloes Game

 If Osaka's baseball teams were to have a popularity contest, I have a feeling that the Tigers would blow the Buffaloes away. They have a long history (founded in 1936, and have been in Osaka their whole history) and strong rivalry against the Giants.

Technically, the Buffaloes have been around quite some time too, with the predecessor founded in 1936. But originally, that team was the Hankyu Braves, the ORIX Braves, the ORIX BlueWave, and finally merged with Kintetsu (whose team was formed in 1950) in 2005 to form the ORIX Buffaloes.

The Braves/BlueWave/Buffaloes have always called Kansai their home, and enjoyed success in the late 1960s through the 1970s and again in the mid-1990s when Ichiro was a member. But moving from Nishinomiya to Kobe, and then Osaka after the merger, has probably had some effect, and the lack of a strong rival and an identity crisis hasn't helped things.
 The current home to the Buffaloes is Osaka Dome, also known as Kyocera Dome (sometimes written Kiyocera Dome). It opened in 1997 and was the home of the Kintetsu Buffaloes until the merger, and now hosts the merged ORIX Buffaloes.

I should mention that the Buffaloes play a few games each month in Kobe, the prior home of the ORIX BlueWave. Seeing a game there requires good timing and planning, and games seem to only be on weekdays or an occasional Saturday.

I arrived before the gates opened, a rarity in the past couple of years as I've often been sightseeing in the afternoon. There were two fairly long lines to get in, one for each of the cheering groups. They get there early to secure their seats in the general admission outfield.
 I wasn't sitting in the cheering sections, so I took my time taking a few pictures and exploring back and forth across the outfield.
 Here's the view from left field. If there's one thing you notice about this stadium early on, it's that it is huge. And with a very light weekday crowd it seems even larger and more empty. I think half of the fans in the park were in the two cheering sections.
 The ceiling's pretty interesting. The seating, not so much. Despite being built in 1997, the stadium lacks the charm of US ballparks built in that era. It's big, cavernous, and cold.
 Here's a view of the outfield seating arrangement. You can see many of the fans have found their spots in the lower outfield deck, which sits high above the playing field.
The stadium might be better if I could walk all the way around it and enjoy some of what is offered in the other sections. Or is there anything special back there? It might be possible to gain entry to that portion of the stadium, but I didn't see how.
 The bowl shape of the seating with several rows, and a second deck pulled far back, is visible here. Everything seems so far away!
 I had my zoom lens at maximum for this photo. If the fans weren't doing their cheering chants, it would have been really quiet in there. I could sometimes hear the ball pop into the mitt, or the crack of the bat, or some chatter on the field.
 How about food? Well, I tried this massive hot dog. I'm sure it's about two feet long, and I had ketchup and spicy mustard on it. As far as hot dogs go, it was alright. And popcorn is never fresh in Japan. I think they pop it in China and ship it in. It's almost always prepackaged - there was the net outer covering, the popcorn cup, and a plastic bag with the popcorn inside that. Three packages for popcorn. I'm sure it cost more to package it than to pop it!
 They had frozen Cokes! I miss these so much. Maybe I'll find one somewhere in Tokyo tomorrow. They're quite rare. You can get shaved ice things though in many places. I am thinking the good ballpark food was on the other side of the park.
Osaka Dome is about as good of a stadium for baseball as the Metrodome in Minneapolis was. They both feel the same. But for completists, it's on the list. And if you don't want to fight the crowds or heat at Hanshin, Osaka Dome may be a good choice.

It's located on the southeast end of the JR Osaka Loop Line. You can get off at Taisho Station and walk about five minutes west, heading toward the crazy metal wave behind the water storage balls.

Alternately, the Hanshin Namba Line and Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi subway line stop one block from the stadium, but unless you're already on those lines it's usually quite an inconvenient station. The Tsurumi-ryokuchi line goes to Osaka Castle, so that might be a good way to get there. The block between the station and the stadium is an entertainment district with several restaurants and the team souvenir shop.

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