The Chunichi Dragons and Yokohama DeNA BayStars aren’t exactly the best teams in Japan’s professional baseball league. In fact, they were neck and neck for last place in their division when we caught their game at Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama a few years back. From the first pitch to the last run, the 2 p.m. showdown proved that standings don’t matter as much as pomp and circumstance. Between the tearful standing ovation catcher Motonobu Tanishige received at the end from both teams—after 26 years behind the plate, the former BayStar/Dragon was retiring at the end of the season—and Yokohama’s bottom-of-the-ninth comeback, the 3-2 game was a prime example of how Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) can be just as exciting as any MLB matchup.
Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, it’s worth attending a game to experience the spectacle. Japanese fans are rabid, especially in the cheaper/outfield seats—cheering and shouting and high-fiving strangers after every home run. Banners are waved, horns are blown, and team-colored towels are swung through the air. The energy is electric. Instead of peanuts and crackerjacks, you can flag down vendors selling bento boxes and beer slushies. At the food stalls inside, you’ll find takoyaki, tempura, mandarin orange shaved ice, and something called Dynamite Dogs (foot-long hot dogs stuffed in baguettes and drenched in salsa… why not?). There are fireworks, dramatic synchronized balloon releases, and literal Power Rangers riding souped-up race cars around the field during the seventh-inning stretch. It’s BOZONKERS.
The NPB has a dozen teams divided into two circuits. Each season has 144 games, starting in late May or early April and continuing through the October playoffs. The multi-game All-Star Series is a highlight for many fans. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Lawson convenience stores, but you’ll need to communicate in Japanese (or rely on Google Translate/charades) and you might find that the game you want to attend is already sold out by the time you land in Japan. And forget ordering online from a Japanese service—many refuse out-of-the-country credit cards or require a Japanese address and phone number. It’s pull-your-hair-out frustrating.
Our best recommendation is to save yourself some major hassle and order from J-ball expert Michael Westbay at JapanBall.com. His crew is fluent in English and knows the lineups and teams inside and out. Just choose a date from their translated schedules, place your order online (you can pay with credit card or PayPal), and they’ll hand-deliver the tickets to the front desk of your hotel or another Japanese address. If you have questions, ask away—Michael is happy to recommend the best seats or most exciting matchups that overlap with your travel dates. The service requires four days advance notice to complete the order and ticket delivery, and the fee is $59 USD per order, not per ticket. The concierge service is worth every penny—especially when things go awry. When one of our games (Hanshin Tigers vs. Hiroshima Toyo Carp at Hanshin Koshien Stadium near Kobe) was rained out in the second inning, Michael helped us get a refund on our tickets and pick a new game to attend a few weeks later.
Got questions? Dude’s got answers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the JapanBall offices at 628-333-4814 (daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific Time) or +090-8003-3630 (daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Japan Time).
Yokohama Park, Yokohamakoen, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan; +81-45-671-3648.