When you think of Japanese sports, the one that tends to spring to mind is the traditional form of wrestling where man mountains wearing nothing but a thong and a topknot compete to see who can shove the other one to the ground. Whilst Sumo is still considered the national sport, its popularity has long been superseded by the seemingly exclusively American pastime, baseball. In Hiroshima we took the opportunity to go and see the Hiroshima Carp, reputed to have the most passionate and vocal fanbase in Japan. Despite neither of us being baseball fans, we spent an unforgettable Friday evening soaking up the atmosphere as the Carp came from 4-0 down to win the game 5-4. Here's everything you need to know about watching baseball in Japan.
How to get tickets
Despite being one of the best supported teams in Japan, we found it surprisingly easy to get tickets to watch the Hiroshima Carp. We researched the schedule online using GetHiroshima, but whichever city you're in, just visit the website of the relevant team to find the schedule. Once we'd done this we went to the stadium the day before the game we wanted to attend and bought tickets from the ticket office. Simple! Whilst you can get tickets on the day for a lot of games, it's always recommended to buy them in advance, particularly for a Friday or weekend game which do tend to sell out with the more popular teams. You can also buy tickets online but the ticketing systems are in Japanese so this wasn't an option for us as ours is limited to a few key phrases.
Where to sit
If you're a hardcore baseball fan you probably know where you prefer to be seated within the stands. Us knowing absolutely nothing about baseball, chose the cheapest tickets available at 1700yen (c£11) each and we certainly weren't disappointed. Once inside the ground we were directed to an area in the second tier where there were no reserved seats so we were free to select any we wanted. We chose to sit high up in the gods, directly in line with the pitching mound and you can see the view we had in the photos. The seats were plastic with no backs but there was plenty of leg room and we were really comfortable. If there is a group of you going we'd suggest getting there a bit early as people put bags or coats on seats to reserve them so getting seated together may be a problem. As there were only two of us we had no issues.
What to take
Surprisingly, you are allowed to take both food and drink (including alcohol) into the stadium. The alcohol has to be poured into paper cups before entering so you probably won't want to get more than 2 per person or you'll struggle to carry them. There are food stalls lined up along the road that leads to the stadium where you can pick up snacks or bento boxes at decent prices and most people do. It's definitely prudent as the prices inside the stadium are pretty extortionate with a beer costing 700yen (£4.70) and a small fries costing 350yen (£2.35) The games tend to start at around 6pm and end at around 10pm during the week and 1pm until 5pm on a weekend, so you'll probably get hungry and thirsty in that space of time - plan ahead and save yourself a few quid.
This depends on the team, but cast aside the Japanese stereotypes of being mild mannered, quiet and conservative - these games get pretty raucous! Brass bands, dancing, sing alongs and screaming balloons mean you'll be swept along from the offset. Whilst it's loud, the emphasis is on fun, meaning than unlike at a football game in the UK, there's no swearing, no fighting and there's a real family atmosphere.
When to go
The Japanese baseball season runs from March to September and there are plenty of games to choose from during that time, with ties taking place over 3 days - you choose which day to go. Weekends are particularly popular for obvious reasons.
So there you have it, regardless of whether you are a baseball fan or not, or even if you have no interest in sport whatsoever, watching a game of baseball in Japan is not to be missed.
Have you ever watched a sport you knew nothing about? Have you been to a sporting event in a foreign country?
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