Watching Baseball in the Tokyo area

Last updated : March 4th, 2020

 

If you're arriving in town during the season, don't miss the chance to catch a ballgame even if you're not that big of a baseball fan. I guarantee you will find the experience interesting. 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 MetLife Dome; home fans on the third base side)

The most loyal fans occupy the outfield bleachers with 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 tiered pricing; prices for seats depend on the expected 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 MetLife Dome will eliminate any risk of the game being washed out.

Jingu Stadium night game

Meiji Jingu Kyujo (Jingu Stadium)

Home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows

2019 Record: 6th (last place) out of 6 teams in the Central League

Opened : 1926

Capacity : 34,572

GOOD: Wonderful atmosphere, tickets relatively easy to obtain on weekdays, fireworks after the 5th inning during the summer months

BAD: Showing its age in many areas, limited number of toilets. Becoming difficult to secure tickets on weekends and holidays

FYI: Built originally for college baseball, the college teams still get priority to play during the day, including on weekends. Thus the Swallows play most of its games in the evening, usually starting at 6 pm.

Changes for 2020: The outfield tickets now come with a seat designation. After the July 5th game through September 14th, there are no games scheduled at Jingu because of the Olympics. The Swallows will play some of their home games at the Tokyo Dome during this period.


Baseball at Tokyo Dome

Tokyo Dome

Home of the Yomiuri Giants

201 9Record: Won the Central League, lost in the Japan Series

Opened : 1988

Capacity :  46,000

GOOD : No worries about rain (First domed stadium in Japan)

Excellent access to multiple trains and subway lines

BAD : Despite large capacity, tickets are difficult to get. Not the most ideal place to go on a perfectly sunny day. Food and drinks overpriced; a beer costs 800 yen

FYI: The Nippon Ham Fighters also used to call the Dome home before they moved to Sapporo. They still play about 8 or 9 games here so check the schedule. Tickets to the Fighters games are much easier to get.

Notes for 2020: The Swallows and BayStars will play some home games here, due to scheduling conflicts with the Olympics.


Yokohama Stadium

Yokohama Stadium

Home of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars

2019 Record: 2nd out of 6 teams in the Central League

Opened : 1978

Capacity : 34,046 (following renovations from 2019-20)

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. Lack of any roof at all in the seating section.

FYI: The BayStars sold about 97% of its seats for home games in 2019. Booking tickets in advance is essential even for a weekday ballgame. Renovations has finished boosting its capacity by more than 6,000 people and the park will host the baseball competition in the Olympics. 

Notes for 2020 season: After playing at home on June 7th, the 'Stars won't be coming back to Yokohama until the August 25th.


MetLife Dome (renamed from the Seibu Prince Dome)

Home of the Seibu Lions

2019 Record: Won the Pacific League, lost in the playoffs

Opened : 1979 / Roof Added : 1999

Capaticy : 33,556

GOOD : It's right next to a rail station.

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: What used to be a beautiful ballpark in the western hills of Saitama changed for the worse when the club decided to erect a roof back in 1999. However they chose not to put walls hoping to retain some  "natural feel" to the place. Unfortunately, things didn't work as planned to let the hot air escape during the summer, and conditions can get so bad to the point players have been forced to leave the game after showing symptoms of heat stroke.  

ZOZO Marine Stadium (Renamed from QVC Marine Field)

Home of the Chiba Lotte Marines

2019 Record: 4th out of 6 teams in the Pacific League

Opened : 1990

Capacity : 30,082

GOOD: The most energetic fans in all of Japanese baseball. 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: This ballpark to the east of Tokyo in Chiba is known for its proximity to Tokyo Bay - in fact you can see the waters beyond the outfield walls if you sit up high in the upper deck. The old Candlestick Park in San Francisco supposedly became a model for this stadium. 


Getting tickets to the ballgames

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 recently added the option to book tickets in English  http://www.yakult-swallows.co.jp/en/

 

The Yokohama BayStars have limited information in English, but only Japanese for ticketing. Their games tend to sell out in advance. So far, the Lions and Marines only have their website in Japanese. However you can usually get tickets for these two teams on game day directly at the ballpark.

Be aware of changes for the 2020 season...

Due to the Olympics, there will be major changes to the 2020 NPB baseball season.

 

*Season will start on March 20th, one week earlier than usual.

*No games will be played from July 22nd to August 13th while the Olympics are taking place.

*The Swallows and Baystars will be booted out of their home ground for an extended time, playing some of their home games at the Tokyo Dome instead.

*The Japan Series will start from November 7th, about a week later than normal.