Meiji Jingu Stadium holds a special place in the hearts of Tokyoites. Constructed in 1926, the 37,000 capacity arena is home to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows—the more humble counterpart to the flashy Tokyo Giants in their big shiny dome across town.
Despite the rise of soccer, the historical claim of sumo, and the obsession with figure skating, baseball is still Japan’s national sport. Now if you’re wondering how Japanese baseball compares to Major League Baseball, then you can keep on wondering. I’m from New Zealand where we spend our summer months playing a quaint game called cricket—so the closest I’ve come to an authentic baseball experience is watching the Seattle Mariners on Japanese TV.
What’s so good about it?
Three hours of topflight professional sport and entertainment in a historical stadium smack bang in the middle of Tokyo, with food, beer and clean toilets and it costs you less than a movie ticket to get in. And if you are expecting to be entertained by what’s happening on the field, well that’s only half the equation. Japanese baseball fans are unique—not even J-League football fans compare. The orchestration, organization and precision of team chants is almost spooky. If you’re positioned opposite the home fans you’ll also be able observe their unusual ritual of waving clear plastic umbrellas when a batter gets a hit.
Did we mention it was cheap?
The cheapest outfield (外野 gaiya) non-reserved seats are only 1,300 yen for adults and 500 yen for elementary school aged children. Even for the most expensive “special reserved seats” behind the home plate, the price is only 5,000 yen. If it matters to you, you should be aware that if you are sitting in the left outfield seats you will be among the visiting supporters. The right side of the stadium seems to be where the Swallows supporters congregate.
Compared to pro-sport elsewhere, these prices are outstanding. By way of comparison, the cheapest ticket for two lower than average English Premier League teams (Fulham and Norwich City) is the equivalent of 14,000 yen while the cheapest ticket for the LA Dodgers vs. The Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium will cost you 3,500 yen. Food too, is the most reasonably priced I’ve seen at a sports venue—and compared to the soggy chips and meat pies on offer in my native New Zealand, the food choices are incredible—pizza, noodles, chicken, hot dogs. The oomori (large size) chips from Pizza La for 500 yen are a pretty good deal.
If you want to be sure of getting your tickets in advance, you can purchase them at pretty much any convenience store you choose. If you don’t read Japanese, using the ticket vending machines will be impossible without some help If you must have your tickets in advance and the Japanese is just too much, Voyagin can help although prices may be a little higher than the outfield tickets available at the gate.
The other option is to take your chances and buy tickets on the day from the ticket box located next to Gate 9. I went on a Friday night—the first game of the regular season—for a game between the Swallows and the Yokohama Baystars. It was quite full, but there were plenty of empty seats.
Tokyo and Japan have a reputation for the strange and unusual museums.