The chanting of the crowd, the crack of the bat, the action being displayed on the JumboTron and…edamame? The game of baseball isn’t just one of America’s favorite pastimes, the Japanese are passionate about it too, but they do things a little bit differently.
Seeing a Tokyo baseball game while traveling to the country was on my bucket list, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be your average ballpark experience.
Tokyo Baseball Teams
Two Tokyo Baseball teams call Japan’s capital their home: the iconic Yomiuri Giants and the spirited Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The Yomiuri Giants, with a renowned history and a staggering 22 championship titles, dominate the scene, drawing fans from across the nation.
There are also three neighboring teams, the Saitama Seibu Lions, Yokohama DeNA Baystars, and Chiba Lotte Marines. Plus, Central and Pacific Leagues feature strong teams like the Hanshin Tigers (another fan favorite), Hiroshima Toyo Carp, ORIX Buffaloes, Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Stadiums In (or Near) Tokyo
Tokyo’s baseball scene has some cool places to catch a game. Right in the city, you’ve got the famous Tokyo Dome, also known as the “Big Egg,” where the Yomiuri Giants play. Then there’s the traditional Jingu Stadium, surrounded by greenery, hosting the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and creating a more old-school baseball vibe.
If you’re up for a short trip outside Tokyo, there’s Yokohama Stadium for the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, ZOZO Marine Stadium cheering on the Chiba Lotte Marines, and the MetLife Dome, home turf for the Saitama Seibu Lions.
How to Buy Tickets for a Baseball Game in Japan
There are several ways to score an NPB ticket, each with its own advantages and quirks.
- Official Team Websites: The most reliable source, with English options often available and early access to presale tickets. Requires registering an account and limited resale options.
- Ticket Resale Platforms (like ViaGoGo or JapanBall Tickets: Wider selection, potential deals on sold-out games, and convenient resale options (albeit at higher prices).
I purchased two tickets to the Tokyo Swallows game through japanball.com, while still in the United States. And though they charged a hefty sixty dollar fee for hotel delivery, at the time, it was worth the comfort of knowing that the tickets were a secure deal. But, we could have easily purchased tickets for cheaper for this particular baseball game at the stadium, saving sixty bucks, because the Swallows aren’t as popular as Japan’s beloved Yomiuri Giants, which easily sell out months in advance.
- Convenience Stores (like Lawson): You can buy tickets at the kiosks inside, however (as far as I’m aware), everything is in Japanese so you may have to ask for assistance in navigating the machine.
- At the Stadium: Is easier for less popular teams, but sells out quickly for popular games/teams (e.g. Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers), not to mention the long lines.
Once you’ve purchased your ticket (other than at the stadium), how do you actually get it? Here are the options:
- Electronic Delivery (QR Code): Most common and convenient. Receive a QR code via email, and present it at the stadium entrance for scanning. No physical ticket needed.
- Ticket Pickup at Stadium: Select this during purchase and pick up physical tickets (using the order number and password sent to your email) at designated kiosks around the stadium of your choice. Preferred if unfamiliar with QR codes or wanting a tangible ticket.
- Mail Delivery to a Japanese Address: Available on some team websites or platforms, especially for foreign tourists. Factor in mailing time and additional fees. Confirm hotel policies regarding package deliveries.
P.S. When catching an NPB game, note that specific seats are reserved for home and away team fans. Typically, the first base side and right field cater to home enthusiasts, while the left field bleachers accommodate the road team’s supporters. The rest? Well, those are the ‘neutral’ zones. Be sure to check the layout (like this one from Jingu Stadium) when selecting your seat.
What To Expect From A Baseball Game In Tokyo
Finding Your Seat at the Stadium
Navigating the stadium can be a breeze, but there’s a small challenge – most tickets are in Japanese. If you’re not a pro at reading Japanese, finding your seat might seem like solving a puzzle. Don’t worry, though! The stadiums will usually have helpful assistants who are more than happy to guide you to your spot. Just look for their friendly faces around the stadium, and they’ll make sure you get to your seat without a hitch.
When we entered the Jingu stadium, confusion set in since my tickets were written entirely in Japanese, but all the attendants at the station were very helpful with pointing us in the right direction.
I had purchased the “better” tickets, which were considered the medium level cost, but our seats were still almost at the tippy-top of the stadium. The nosebleeds really. What was baffling, is the rows and rows of empty seats in front of me. But, we were right between home base and 1st. Not a bad view of the action. With binoculars.
The blue seats were pretty narrow and short in length to chairs directly in front of us, especially for 6 foot 2 Peter. But, nobody sat surrounding us in a five seat radius, so all was good.
Getting Food & Drinks
From the Gaiemmae subway station, we took exit #3 and just followed the crowd to Jingu Stadium. We passed many vendors along the way selling sodas, beer, edamame and even sushi. You are allowed to bring outside food into this stadium, so load up. We weren’t aware of this until after we entered.
Just like in the United States, you can enjoy beer during the game – just watch for the uriko beer girls with kegs on their backs. And how about the food you can buy at the stadium? It’s awesome! There’s plenty of stalls selling traditional and not-so-traditional food (like hot dogs!). Try yakitori, takoyaki, yakisoba noodles, and melon soda – it’ll be a Japanese food tasting adventure!
Fun Baseball Game Traditions
If you are anything like me, the first thing you will notice is how incredibly clean the outdoor stadium is. Attendants were diligently roaming the grounds armed with plastic bags to pick up every scrap of trash.
If you arrive early enough, you might be lucky enough to catch a pre-show. Before the game I went to they had a fun tug-of-war with the youngsters in the crowd. Then, to our surprise, the cheerleaders made their entrance. What? There are no cheerleaders in baseball. There was in Japan— my husband thought this was a great idea.
When the game gets exciting, and during the seventh-inning stretch – each team has a special tradition, like the Tokyo Swallows’ umbrella dance or the Hanshin Tigers’ “Rokko Oroshi” chant.
Look out for the ouendan, fan groups on the left and right outfields. Pick your side and join the cheers – left is for the visiting team, right is for the home team. Don’t worry if you don’t know the words – just follow the crowd! Enjoy different chants and songs for teams and players. Cheer loud when your team is up, but keep it quiet when they’re on the field.
Throughout the entire game I attended, there was chanting and singing for just about every reason; an out, a new player came up to bat or a steal. Then came the banging together of plastic baseball bats in rhythm with the singing. And when a player scored a run, the crowd waved tiny open umbrellas. It was fun!
Remember, if you’re seated on the home team’s reserved side (or vice versa), avoid wearing the opposing team’s colors and merchandise on that part of the stadium, as it can be seen as disrespectful. And as for heckling? Leave it at the door. Japanese baseball culture values sportsmanship and courtesy, so keep the cheers positive and the boos non-existent.
Getting to the Tokyo Stadiums
Getting to Tokyo Dome
Getting to Tokyo Dome is a cinch! It would take you a quick 3-minute walk from either Korakuen Station (via the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi or Namboku subway line) or Suidobashi Station (on the JR Chuo Sobu Line/Subway Mita Line).
If you’re taking the Subway Oedo Line, you can get off at Kasuga Station (6-min walk). Alternatively, go to Iidabashi Station (also 6 minutes), where different lines like the JR Chuo Line, Chuo-Sobu Line, Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, Yurakucho Line, Toei Oedo Line, and Tozai Line connect. Whichever way you go, Tokyo Dome is right there, and it’s an easy walk from different parts of the city!
Getting to Jingu Stadium
Jingu Stadium is super easy to reach with various public transportation options. If you want a quick and pretty trip, take the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line to Gaienmae Station (Exit 3). From there, it’s just a peaceful 5-minute walk through Meiji Jingu Gaien Park to get to the stadium. Or, if you enjoy a slightly longer walk, go for the Toei Subway Oedo Line to Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station (Exit A2) and take a 12-minute stroll through the park to the stadium.
For train lovers, you can pick JR Shinanomachi Station (Exit) or JR Sendagaya Station, both offering relaxed 12- and 15-minute walks respectively through the neighborhoods before reaching Jingu Stadium.
One of the coolest things to do in Tokyo is go to a Japanese baseball game. You can feel the excitement as the crowd cheers, the team’s cheerleaders dance, and everyone joins in during the seventh-inning stretch. It’s not just a game; it’s a chance to experience Japan’s love for baseball up close. With the crowd cheering and the players swinging their bats, it’s a surefire way to have an amazing time.