Last updated : May 17th, 2023
Notes for the 2023 season
The full schedule is now out, for both the Central and Pacific League.
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 chants that are unique to Japanese baseball was strictly banned. As Japan slowly returns to normal, many teams have already announced there will not be any restrictions for the upcoming season. Masks will no longer be required and visitors can use their own judgment to wear them or not.
Most NPB teams struggled with attendance in 2022- even the Swallows or BayStars who were doing good in the standings no exception and reporting about 20% less compared with 2019. However the figures for most teams have rebounded very well early this season with many of the weekend games being sold out. The Lions have continued to struggled however, due to the bad location of their stadium.
While not in the Tokyo area, the Nippon Ham Fighters (Shohei Ohtani's old team) moved into the ES CON Field Hokkaido in the suburbs of Sapporo for the '23 season. The field with retractable roof looks very similar to the Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX (Both designed by HKS). The Fighters will no longer play any home games at the Tokyo Dome like they have done a few times in previous seasons.
Of the five teams in the Tokyo area, the Giants and Swallows have information available in English on their websites, including the option to buy tickets.
Giants English Website: http://www.giants.jp/en/
The ticketing site gives you the option to choose tickets from a seating chart. You either print the tickets yourself or pick them up at any 7-Eleven in Japan.
Not all tickets are sold through the official ticketing site and sometimes there is better availability showing on other agency sites (mentioned below).
Swallows English Website: https://www.yakult-swallows.co.jp/en/
The calendar shows the dates when home games are held. If the ticket sales have already begun, the "buy tickets" icon will be appearing. The English page does not have a detailed seating chart, so refer to the page in Japanese for a rough idea of what you're getting. They have a link to videos that show the seat view. There are different categories of pricing based on the expected demand and if you are a member of the fan club ("SWALLOWS CREW") or not.
The other three teams in the Tokyo area (BayStars, Lions, Marines) lack any English website.
”Ticket Pia” and "e plus" are reputable online agents that handles tickets for all teams, but there is only a Japanese option.
Also both websites will require for verification a Japanese phone number when opening an account.
There might be other third party sites offering the tickets but there will likely be a heavy ”handling charge" involved. It is suggested you check very carefully (reviews from other users, type of seating) before making the purchase.
(FYI) For teams outside the Tokyo area:
The Rakuten Eagles (based in Sendai), Hiroshima Carp and SoftBank Hawks (based in Fukuoka) all have the English option on their websites, but not the choice to purchase tickets directly in English. The Hawks do have a link posted to Klook Travel, a third party booking site where tickets can be purchased. The Hawks officially announced their partnership with Klook, so the tickets sold there are legitimate.
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 with continuous cheering/noise throughout the game. In contrast, seats behind home plate are much quieter, and often reserved for season ticket holders who may or may not show up.
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 Dome will eliminate any risk of the game being washed out.
Jingu Stadium More details
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 : 30,969 (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.
New for 2023: The artificial turf was renewed during the off-season.
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 900 yen
FYI: Since 2022, cash is no longer accepted anywhere in the dome. Credit cards, or "IC cards" such as a SUICA/PASMO can be used for payment.
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.
BAD : Lots of very steep stairs to climb if sitting in the upper sections.
Built on limited space so concourse always congested
Notes for 2023: The team signed Trevor Bauer, the most high profile US player to reach the NPB in recent years. He made his debut on May 3 picking up his first win.
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. It's a weird "dome" without a wall. A bit far from most areas of Tokyo.
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 Tokyo Bay behind the outfield keeps things cool even in the summer
BAD: Can feel extremely cold in spring/autumn. Distant 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)
NOTES ON AVAILABILITY: When the 100mph hurler Roki Sasaki is schedule to start, the team draws huge crowds, even on weekdays.
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!