Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ichiro And The Seattle Mariners Come To Tokyo


Baseball is huge in Japan...I mean HUGE.  Sometimes when I'm watching Japanese cable, baseball games are on like 5 channels (and there aren't even that many baseball teams here).  I definitely wouldn't call myself a baseball fan (unlike my hubby who has the Boston B tattooed on his leg), but I've been known to go to a game or two when I lived in Seattle and The Bay Area because in my opinion, baseball is a sport better watched live.  So when Rich asked if I wanted to go to the Mariners/A's game (which also happened to be MLB Opening Day for the 2012 season) at the Tokyo Dome with some friends, I said I was in!

We left Yokosuka around 4:00 in the afternoon and really lucked out with all of our train rides by getting seats (seriously, getting a seat on a train between here and Tokyo is a really big thing for me since it can really change the whole mood of the trip for me).  We arrived in the Tokyo Dome vicinity about an hour and a half before the game and instead of going right in, we decided to grub at Bubba Gump's.  The food was good and my shrimpin dippin broth hit the spot, but eating at U.S. chains here can be very pricey.  So, a lot of shrimp and A LOT less money later, we headed for the Tokyo Dome.

I had been to the Tokyo Dome before (for the Orchid Festival), so I knew that it was nice a place.  Personally, I am a fan of any indoor arena, particularly in the winter or summer.  I am not so sure whether I will be accompanying Rich to baseball games in Yokohama, especially during the summer (the stadium is outdoors and I've heard the seats are really small).  Tokyo Dome was Japan's first indoor stadium and is home to the Yomiuri Giants baseball team.  It is part of Tokyo Dome City which I discussed in a bit more detail in a previous blog post, Orchids, Orchids and More Orchids.

We got to our seats right before the game started, so we missed the opening/pre-game ceremony which was somewhat special because it featured the U.S. Army band and a video tribute to three heroes of the March 11 tragedy.  This was also a special game for the Japanese because their own Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners was coming home (I'll come back to this issue in a bit).  Once we were seated, I was able to take everything in.  Thanks to our friend Andy who got the tickets for us, our seats were amazing - I think that was the closest I've ever been at any sporting event (I even saw myself on the big screen).  Getting tickets to big sporting events like this in Japan can be a somewhat painful experience for foreigners, but luckily we have friends that speak/read Japanese.  For this game, Andy had to go to the convenience store and enter some sort of a lottery to get tickets (max was 4 tickets). 

As the game began, the beer girls entered the arena from various locations.  You can always see them from wherever you are in the arena, because most of them wear fluorescent colored uniforms.  As one girl passed me (I was sitting on the aisle), I asked Rich if he thought I could be a beer girl - his response to me was "I'm not really sure, that keg looks really heavy; didn't you see her sweating?"  Anyway, all in all it was a great time (very different from sporting events in the U.S.) - everything was just so much orderly than I was used to and the fans are so respectful.  I think that if Ichiro weren't there, there would've been a lot less cheering (at some points you would think you were at the symphony rather than a baseball game cause it was so quiet). I also couldn't believe it when I didn't have to wait in line to go to the bathroom OR to get something from the concession stand.

The game itself was overall not that exciting (although apparently it got good after we left), but each and every time Ichiro was at bat, a billion flashes went off and as the night went on (and the beer girls came around more), the cheering got louder. I know that there has been some criticism about having Opening Day in Tokyo (for a variety of reasons) but I thought it was awesome.  I could be saying that just because I live in Japan now, but I also thought it was really great for the Japanese people to be able to see Ichiro play at home (he's seriously like a god here).  I don't know if this is how all games are in Japan, but no one left early.  It was tied at the bottom of the 9th and we still had a long train ride home, so Rich and I took off and it was a good decision on our part because getting home was a breeze.  Getting home at midnight and having to wake up early the next morning for work, not so much fun - for Rich that is (not me since I'm still playing the part of housewife), but in the end it was worth it. :)

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