peaking over the trees, or hiding in the corner. I had been "kind of" inside once before, when I visited the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame. But until August of last year, I hadn't seen a game at the Tokyo Dome. Why is this so noteworthy? Well, it's probably the most-visited stadium as far as foreigners go. It's certainly the home of the most popular, most wealthy team in Japan - the Yomiuri Giants are the Yankees of Japan, after all. It also might be the closest stadium to my apartment.
But going to places closest to you usually ends up being the least-important thing on your mind. After all, the stadium is so close - you can just go next weekend, right? That turned into next month, and then next year... Well, I finally made it to a game.
The game itself wasn't outstanding. The Giants lost the game, as their pitcher (Sugano) didn't have his stuff; the Dragons ended up hitting four home runs in the game - two off Sugano. In fact, Sugano had seven earned runs in 2.1 innings of work.
There were more than 44,000 fans in attendance, but the Dragons got on top very early and the Giants never really had a chance. Fans didn't get into the game like they probably would have if the score had stayed close.
Being on the top level, I felt like I was removed from the good stuff in the stadium, and I didn't really get a good feel for food selection, souvenirs, and other amenities at the park. However, the Hall of Fame is outside (I recommend visiting before the game - I don't know about in-and-out privileges, and I don't know why you'd want to spend most of the game in a separate museum). The Giants advertise a team museum which turns out to be just a small display in the basement.
Most foreign tourists who want to watch baseball in Japan will go to a Giants game. Know that it is very crowded, and tickets can sell out very early, especially for Sunday games. Access is pretty simple, with multiple train stations on multiple lines surrounding the stadium. There's also a baseball-themed restaurant, amusement park, shopping mall, and Koishikawa Korakuen garden nearby, so making an afternoon or full day of the area is certainly possible.
Due to the air conditioning and dome, seeing a game here eliminates possibilities of rain-outs and discomfort due to extreme temperatures (and Tokyo gets really hot and muggy in the summer). But for a slightly more intimate experience, you can also see the Swallows in Tokyo, or head to nearby Yokohama, Saitama, or Chiba for their teams. (Yokohama has a lot of touristy things as well; Saitama and Chiba are a bit out of the way.)
Food is pretty limited. At the Sendai event, there was a crepe cart and some other food from a cart, as well as drinks (including beer). You could probably bring your own too, though I'd advise bringing it from downtown Sendai. There isn't much selection on the way, though there is a major cross street on the walk from the station which could still have a 7-Eleven or other convenience store.
As for souvenirs, if you can navigate the Japanese website you'll see everything they have for sale - essentially team goods and an annual program/yearbook. I'd like to get a hat and jersey... There's also a custom baseball card printer on-site - you can get cards made of yourself which you then trade with the players after the game. That's something I have to do next year.
During Victoria Series games, West and South become All West Japan, and North and East become All East Japan.
Through 2012, the league was called the Girls Professional Baseball League, but became JWBL in 2013 with the new format.
I'm a little disappointed in myself, because I had planned to go to more games last year, but I only made it to two dates. In 2014, I expect to go to a few more events. I'd like to get my own cards made to trade with the players and hopefully collect some autographs too! They haven't announced their schedule yet, but as long as they play in the Tokyo area while I'm in town, I'll be sure to catch a few games.
I'd like to return for another game, arriving early enough before game time to enjoy strolling around the grounds, and giving myself a tour of the stadium. It's not a perfect stadium, but it has character and I think it is the smallest home stadium in Japan.
They have their own card sets, after all - five large sets in the past three years, plus some singles in a few other team issues.
That said, Nagoya itself has a few draws for me, most importantly as the home of my favorite amusement park in Japan, Nagashima Spaland. And should the schedule permit, I would spend an evening back here for more baseball. As I mentioned earlier, the stadium is 10 minutes on foot from Nagoya Dome-mae Yada Station. There is a museum on the third floor, which I missed, as well as a full-service restaurant court that seems to be pretty popular.
For those visiting the stadium, arriving a few hours early would allow you to enjoy the walk to the stadium (there are some displays along the walkway) and browse the shopping mall next to the Dome; enter the stadium as soon as the gates open - two hours before game time - if you plan on eating at one of the full-service restaurants.