Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan, so one of the things I really wanted to do during my career break was to catch a live baseball match. I had spent most of my week in Tokyo hunting Hanami hotspots and I was going to spend my week after that checking out the Setouchi Triennale, so this was a nice change of pace from all the parks and walking around.
Quite honestly I was at a bit of a loss on how to go about buying baseball tickets at first – I found an English website for Japanese baseball game tickets but the cost of delivery was way more than the price of the ticket itself! Luckily I was in talks with the folks at Voyagin who provide unique tour and activity bookings to find something fun to do in Japan, and they came through for me and got me tickets to catch the Tokyo Yakult Swallows versus the Hanshin Tigers!
The experience was pretty hassle-free – normally I would have had to troop down to the stadium to buy the tickets on my own, but with Voyagin, I got an email with my ticket barcode from the Japan concierge days before my game and all I had to do was turn up at the stadium! There is a bit of a premium on the price, more on that below, but definitely useful if you have a tight timeline and want to plan ahead and ensure your tickets aren’t sold out.
The baseball game is an entire experience in itself. The Swallows homeground is at Meiji Jingu Stadium, which is very central close to the Shinjuku area, and the closest subway line is Gaiemmae on the Ginza Line. As soon as I emerged from the train station, I didn’t even have to figure out where to go – all I had to do was to follow the crowd and the line of vendors along the street (It’s Exit 3 by the way!). Unlike stadiums in Singapore which don’t allow you to bring your own food in, there are no such restrictions at this particular stadium. Enterprising restaurants and hawkers set up tables of food and drink that you can buy and bring into the stadium! I picked up some kaarage chicken to munch on.
It was about a 10min walk to the stadium, and there was a little booth outside the stadium gates where I scanned my barcode and exchanged it for a ticket. The tickets Voyagin got for me were pretty swanky – S Class tickets behind the home base and slightly to the right, so we had a pretty good view of the batting action. That said, this section was much quieter compared to the outfield seats, which are cheaper and further away, but apparently where the die-hard fans are.
The Hanshin Tigers fans also turned up in full force – considering they are based in Nishiyoma close to Osaka, it was a pretty impressive away team crowd and an extremely vocal one.
You have no lack of food and drink in the stadium – various drinks and alcohol sellers patrol the seats regularly, ready to give you a squirt of beer or hot tea, all you need to do is hail them down as they walk by you. There are food stalls on the first level as well but prepare to queue for awhile. No rush though, Baseball can take awhile with 9 innings to be played!
I played a little bit of softball back in university so I know the basic rules of baseball, which made it more fun for me. But even if you don’t you can probably pick up the simple things just by watching – basically your team scores points when they are batting, and every time a person completes a full run around the 4 bases of the diamond, that’s 1 point.My companion J wasn’t that familiar with the game but he was having a good time – just cheer when your team fans are cheering, and have some beer!
The Swallows were doing pretty well that day and scored a couple of home runs! Each team has a different ritual when they celebrate a home run. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows do the cutest thing where all the fans break out little umbrellas and bob them around while singing. It’s pretty mesmerising to watch.
Of course I couldn’t leave without a memento – I was considering a jersey but they were going at about 9,000 JPY? Bit pricey for me! I ended up getting a towel from 1,000 JPY. I popped out of the stadium during one of the innings – there are a bunch of souvenir shops located just outside the stadium.
Also, it can get a bit cold sitting outside and not moving for awhile, so make sure you bring enough jackets to stay warm. You can duck into the building or get a hot drink, but I recommend just having a good jacket on hand.
HOW TO GET TICKETS TO WATCH BASEBALL AT MEIJI JINGU STADIUM
My tickets (S Class, Basic) cost 4,700 JPY (about S$57) – on Voyagin they are listed as 6,300 JPY (about S$76) – is the markup worth it? It does save you the time and hassle of having to go down to the stadium to buy the tickets yourself or figure out your options, so I would recommend it for those who want to save themselves the hassle. The Voyagin Link can be found here.
For the more gungho, the Swallows have a pretty comprehensive how-to on their website here. The most straightforward way is to either head down to the stadium directly, or to the Harajuku Tourist Centre to buy your tickets. The online options are through website or the convenience stores, but they do require you to read some Japanese.
My tickets to the game were sponsored by Voyagin