In case you missed it, there is an amazing baseball tour that can take you all across Japan. You can travel in from anywhere in the world, join the group, and experience Japan and its yakyu from multiple perspectives: different cities, stadiums, seats, subcultures, and more.
The tour comes in three options: Main Tour, See It More, and See It All.
Basically, the Main Tour takes place over the period of roughly a week, and takes you to 5 or 6 of the best (and geographically central) stadiums Japan has to offer. The See It More adds 3 or 4 to the front end of the tour, and the See It All tags the remaining stadiums to the tour’s end.
I had the privilege of helping out with the tour in September 2017. I joined the See It More tour in Kobe before its second game – they had started in Yokohama.
Arriving at Shin Kobe Station in the late morning, the tour group had 4 hours or so to get out and see the city a little. Had the day of the week been right, some would have gone to the Yu Darvish Museum (closed on Wednesdays), but instead, Chinatown was a good close option.
We took the subway to Hotto Motto Stadium, where we saw the SoftBank Hawks trounce the Orix Buffaloes, 8-0. No surprise there, as the Hawks were in the middle of their 9-game winning streak. As you can see from the picture, our seats were right behind home plate – great view of all the movement on the pitches, as well as a clear view of how fielders reacted to balls in play.
After an overnight in the Sannomiya area, we took off early the next morning for Hiroshima. We got there around 9:30 am, and most of us headed out to the Memorial Peace Park and Museum. It was somewhat of a rainy day, so if the game had been called it would have been disappointing, but they played. And the hometown Hiroshima Carp didn’t disappoint, coming from behind to defeat our Hanshin Tigers, 6-4. (They were also in the middle of a 9-game win streak.) Since the Carp sold out their entire season of home game tickets, we ended up in the visitors’ section. As a Tigers fan, that was perfectly fine with me! Also, we happened to be staying in the same hotel as the visiting team, so I had a chance to talk a bit with Rafael Dolis and Jason Rogers. Not a bad bonus part of being on the tour!
I took a few days off from the tour while they returned to Tokyo for a couple of weekend games (Yomiuri Giants won behind a complete game by Tomoyuki Sugano, and another SoftBank win, this time at the expense of the lowly Chiba Lotte Marines).
I rejoined the tour in Nagoya, just in time to see the Carp put the finishing touches on a third straight series sweep for their ninth straight win – another come-from-behind win, this one against the Chunichi Dragons. Our seats were roughly 15 rows up, parallel to third base. Great view. We also happened to be in a part of the stadium that was roughly 50% Dragons fans, 50% Carp fans. Good chance to hear all the cheer songs from up close!
The next day was an off-day for the world of baseball, so we had a hearty dinner at an all-you-can-eat grilled meat (yakiniku) restaurant called Kurobekoya in downtown Osaka. DELICIOUS!
Finally, my portion of the tour ended on Tuesday night at Koshien Stadium, as the Tigers hosted the Giants. Things looked great for our Tigers, as you may have already read, but they choked on their 5-0 lead and eventually the game ended in a tie. Our seats were once again on the third base side – in the comfortable Breeze Seats, roughly 25 rows up from the action. A lot of foul balls flew in our general direction, but none hit us directly. (Perhaps that’s a good thing.)
The tour continued on Wednesday night at Jingu Stadium, where the Yakult Swallows defeated the Dragons in a tight, low-scoring affair. The Main Tour ended there, but the See It All kept cruising around Japan!
The rest of the tour included games at YafuOku! Dome (SoftBank beat the Buffaloes for the second time this tour), Sapporo Dome (Nippon Ham Fighters, where the Buffaloes lost their third straight in front of JapanBall tour members), Kobo Park Miyagi (Rakuten Eagles walked off the Lotte Marines), and finally MetLife Stadium (the Marines avoided going the way of the Buffalo by downing the Saitama Seibu Lions).
Here is what some of the JapanBall folk had to say about the 2017 edition of the tour…
Ted (first time tour member, See It More) said his favorite game was the Hiroshima-Hanshin game, because it was great to sit so near the Hanshin cheering squad. He also enjoyed walking around in the different cities, particularly around Peace Park and museum in Hiroshima.
John and Martha also mentioned all the walking they did, but also how much they have enjoyed watching baseball here in Japan. Their favorite game on the tour was also a Hanshin game – but since they were on the Main Tour, theirs was the one at Koshien against the Giants.
Connor said the same thing. Having researched Japanese baseball a little before coming out (including a solid look at this website), he said he was impressed with the history and atmosphere at Koshien Stadium. It was his first time ever in Japan, and he really enjoyed checking out different cities, figuring out the train systems, and feeling small in Shibuya. To those thinking about taking the tour but not sure what to do, he said, “Don’t worry about all your questions and hold backs. This tour takes care of so much for you. You can only blame yourself for not going.”
And I am in complete agreement with that last statement. Once you get on this tour, you get a good combination of access to great seats at multiple stadiums, smooth transportation and scheduling, but also a bunch of free time to explore other elements of Japan while you take in some yakyu.
By the way, you also get a free copy of this indispensable media guide when you join the tour.