Last updated : Jan 27th, 2023
Notes for the 2023 season
The full schedule is now out, for both the Central and Pacific League.
It looks like the pre-COVID style cheering will return for the 2023 season. From 2020-22, the only form of noise allowed was to clap your hands, and the organized cheering that is a part of Japanese baseball was banned. As Japan slowly returns to normal, it has been reported that any remaining restrictions will be lifted for the upcoming season.
Most NPB teams struggled with attendance in 2022- even the Swallows or BayStars who were doing good in the standings no exception. The numbers were only 80% of what they were in 2019.
Getting tickets for a weekday game was not a problem at all during the '22 season.
While not in the Tokyo area, the Nippon Ham Fighters (Shohei Ohtani's old team) will move into the ES CON Field Hokkaido in the suburbs of Sapporo for the '23 season. The field with retractable roof looks like very similar to the Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX (Both designed by HKS).
MORE ON THE EXPERIENCE
The season starts around the last weekend of March and continues on until early October. There are two teams in Tokyo and another three in the vicinity, so usually there will be at least one game going on somewhere. Just keep in mind there are usually no games on a Monday, unless it falls on a National Holiday. Games typically start at 6pm on weekdays and anywhere between 1-3pm on the weekends, though this can vary depending on the team. During the hot summer months (July-mid September), most games are moved to the night slot starting from 6pm.
When getting tickets, take the following into consideration:
Home team fans sit on the first base side, the visiting team on the third base side (It's the opposite at the Belluna Dome; home fans on the third base side)
The most loyal fans occupy the outfield bleachers and prior to the pandemic there would be continuous cheering/noise throughout the game. In contrast, seats behind home plate are much quieter, but often reserved for season ticket holders.
Many teams have begun to introduce dynamic pricing where the prices can fluctuate depending on the demand and whether it's a weekday or weekend. Games on weekends and holidays will always attract higher demand regardless of the teams they are facing. Weekday games earlier in the season (April/May) are easier to get. From late June to mid July, the Tokyo area heads into a wet season when games can get postponed; getting tickets for the Tokyo Dome or Belluna (Seibu) Dome will eliminate any risk of the game being washed out.
STADIUMS IN AND AROUND TOKYO
Meiji Jingu Kyujo (Jingu Stadium)
Home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows
2021 and 2022 Record: 1st out of 6 teams in the Central League
Winners of the 2021 Japan Series, Lost in the 2022 Japan Series
Opened : 1926
Capacity : 34,572 (2022 average attendance : 22,741)
GOOD: Wonderful atmosphere, fireworks after the 5th inning during the summer months
BAD: Showing its age in many areas, limited number of toilets. Many obstructed view seats in the outfield, near the scoreboard.
FYI: There are plans to tear down this aging stadium as part of a redevelopment plan of the surrounding district.
Home of the Yomiuri Giants
2022 Record: 4th in the Central League, missed playoffs
Opened : 1988
Capacity : 46,000 (2022 average attendance : 32,199)
GOOD : No worries about rain (First domed stadium in Japan)
Excellent access to multiple train and subway lines
BAD : Not the most ideal place to go on a perfectly sunny day. Food and drinks overpriced; a beer costs 800 yen
New for 2022: Cash is no longer accepted anywhere in the dome. The scoreboard has been replaced.
Home of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars
2022 Record: 2nd Central League, lost in the first stage of playoffs
Opened : 1978
Capacity : 34,046 (2022 average attendance : 24,708)
GOOD : Location next to Chinatown and central Yokohama, new ownership introducing fun entertainment before/during games. Try the original craft beer such as the "Baystars Lager".
BAD : Lots of very steep stairs to climb if sitting in the upper sections.
Built on limited space so concourse always congested
FYI: The stadium hosted the baseball competition for Tokyo 2020.
Belluna Dome (ex-MetLife Dome)
Home of the Seibu Lions
2022 Record: 3rd place out of 6 teams in Pacific League
Opened : 1979 / Roof Added : 1999
Capacity : 33,556 (2022 average attendance : 16,837)
GOOD : It's right next to a rail station. Wide concourses with good view of the field. Major renovations in 2021 giving the place a more genuine ballpark feel.
BAD : Can feel like being in a sauna during the summers. No air-con despite being a dome. Can be very far if traveling from eastern Tokyo.
FYI: It's a weird dome without a wall - early in the season, winds will be sweeping through while in the summer the heat becomes trapped making the dome feel like being in a sauna. It's so bad a player once had to leave the game from heat stroke.
Notes for 2023: Kazuo Matsui, known as "Little Matsui" during his stint with the NY Mets became the new manager of the team.
ZOZO Marine Stadium
Home of the Chiba Lotte Marines
2022 Record: 5th in the Pacific League
Opened : 1990
Capacity : 30,082 (2022 average attendance : 20,685)
GOOD: Much of the upper deck covered by a roof. Constant winds blowing from the outfield keeps things cool even in the summer
BAD: Can feel extremely cold in spring/autumn. Bit far from central Tokyo and another 15 minute walk from the Kaihim Makuhari Station.
FYI: Masato Yoshii replaced Tadahito Iguchi (ex White Sox, Phillies) as the new boss of the Marines. That brings the total number of NPB managers who used to play for the New York Mets up to five. (Yoshii, Matsui, Shingo Takatsu/Swallows, Kazuhisa Ishii/Eagles and Tsuyoshi Shinjo/Fighters)
Of the five teams in the Tokyo area, the Giants have pretty decent information in English, including the option to buy tickets.
Giants English Website: http://www.giants.jp/en/
The Swallows also had the option to book tickets in English for the 2022 season; it was not working during the 2020 and 2021 season but they brought it back.
”Ticket Pia” and "e plus" are online agents that handles tickets for all teams, but there is only a Japanese option.
Check out my movie covering all 12 ballparks used in pro baseball games, including the venues in the Tokyo area...and make sure you make watching baseball part of your activities for your next Japan visit!