An American's Guide to Baseball in Japan: Attending a Yomiuri Giants Game in Tokyo
I love baseball.
I played center field throughout my childhood, and for many seasons I was a season ticketholder cheering on my University of Texas Longhorns baseball team in Austin, Texas.
So when I planned to visit Tokyo for the first time in my life, I knew I MUST see baseball in Japan.
The Yomiuri Giants, currently playing their 89th season of professional baseball in Japan, are the major hometown team with 22 championship titles in the Nippon Professional League; however, Tokyo also has a second team that is rising in popularity: the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Getting tickets: I knew that the Yomiuri Giants home games sell out well in advance, so I planned ahead and would recommend you do the same. Despite all my efforts, I was unable to purchase tickets before the season began; however, once I arrived in Tokyo, I went online to the Giants website and was able to make a purchase. Once purchased, you receive an email with a code to bring to any 7-11, where they will print out your tickets for a small fee. My ticket was around $30 but prices go up from there. Keep in mind that the US dollar is historically strong versus the yen right now at 133 yen per 1 dollar, so ticket prices will vary with the currency translation.
Once I had secured the tickets, I was set for game day. The next step was figuring out how to get to the Tokyo Dome, where the Giants play.
Transportation: The subway and train system in Tokyo is world class. Getting to the Tokyo Dome was a breeze. No matter where you are in Tokyo, the subway is usually the best option and leaves you within a 10-minute walk of the stadium. Depending on your location, plan on your trip taking anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Here is more information on transportation to and from the Tokyo Dome. Be sure to buy a PASMO card at the airport when you arrive or at any subway station to tap on and off the subway.
Before the game, my brother and I met a Japanese friend at The Artists Cafe on the 43rd floor of the Tokyo Dome Hotel to check out the amazing view.
To the south, you can view most of the Tokyo city skyline and the sprawling, tree-lined grounds of the Imperial Palace.
The north side offers a great view of the Tokyo Dome area including an amusement park, replete with a roller coaster. For more information on the variety of attractions surrounding the stadium, click here.
The game was at 6pm local time, which seemed early to me as an American baseball fan, so we headed towards the Tokyo Dome at 5.15pm.
What to bring: Bags are allowed inside the stadium (no clear bag policy). You can bring water bottles or non-alcoholic beverages as long as they are less than 1 liter in size.
Security was quick, the lines were not extensive and we were able to get inside the ballpark within 15 minutes of arrival.
Fans line up single file and go through revolving doors to enter the stadium.
Once inside, I wanted to sample the various food options.
On the bottom level of the Tokyo Dome, you can find a large food hall with many different culinary choices.
First we tried okonomiyaki, an Osaka specialty, consisting of shrimp, egg and other flavors in a pancake or quesadilla-style entrée. Being at a baseball game, we all had to have a hot dog, so we sampled the Tokyo Dome Dog for 500 yen (approx. $3), which was a slender frankfurter on a thick sourdough-style bun.
The hot dog comes with a ketchup and mustard packet - apparently, in Japan, they like both types of condiments on their wieners.
We also tried the avocado burger.
There is even a Taco Bell if you have had too much umami flavor and need a taste of home.
Unlike many places in Tokyo, which only take cash, credit cards are accepted at the game.
If you are looking to partake in alcohol in your seats, fear not, as there are numerous "beer girls" walking up and down the aisles with a variety of drink options, including sochu, highballs and beer.
The women also offer snacks and ice cream.
We got ourselves situated for the main event - the baseball game.
Thursday, April 13th 2023
Yomiuri Giants vs. Hanshin Tigers
6pm first pitch
Baseball in Japan is exactly like Major League Baseball (MLB) in the US except for the brand-new pitch clock rules which were instated for the 2023 MLB season, and there are several American players on each team’s roster.
Left field is for the visiting team’s fans, and the followers of the Hanshin Tigers are rabid.
While the Tigers were at bat, a third of the stadium in yellow was chanting, blowing horns and beating drums. The main cheerleader wore white gloves and was constantly waving his arms and leading the Tigers faithful in song.
The atmosphere reminded me of the supporters section at the home of professional soccer team Austin FC, where songs are sung the entire match.
Here is the Hanshin Tigers fight song, which I found very catchy:
Right field is for the home team fans, and the Yomiuri Giants faithful were also singing their songs:
The game started and the visiting Hanshin Tigers failed to score in the top of the first inning, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Louis Okoye, an outfielder for the Giants who is half-Japanese and half-Nigerian, got things going for the home team with a leadoff hit in the bottom of the first inning.
Unfortunately, the Giants failed to score with men on first and second base, which would portend their batting woes for the rest of the game.
In the top of the second, one of the American players - an Oklahoma Sooner alum - launched a massive leadoff home run to put the Tigers up 1-0.
During the fourth inning, I caught a foul ball from Lewis Brinson, an American who played in the minor leagues for my Texas Rangers!
All of the fans surrounding me gave me an ovation and then wanted to touch the ball for good luck.
In Japan, the seventh-inning stretch actually allows both teams to celebrate. At the top of the seventh inning, the visitors are allowed to sing their songs for the "stretch," followed by the home team's seventh inning stretch in the more typical mid-seventh inning slot.
I did miss the American stalwart "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," but it was interesting to see how the Japanese do it nonetheless.
The final score was 4-1 Tigers over the home side Giants, and as the fans streamed out of the Tokyo Dome and into the Japanese evening, fun was had by all.
When I got home from the game, I had to take this picture of my prized foul ball alongside a traditional Japanese tea set.
I highly recommend checking out a professional baseball game if you are in Japan during baseball season - you will not regret it!
For more of my Travel articles, click here to visit the special section on the Social Musings by Austin website.