Last updated : June 1st, 2020
The 2020 season is finally starting on June 19th. Fans aren't allowed in for the interim.
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.
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 meaning all seats are now reserved.
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.
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.
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.
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 directly at the ballpark on game day.
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.
Due to COVID-19, the season was postponed, the All Star Game canceled. Since the Olympics were postponed, there will no longer be any interruption of games from late July to mid August.
Teams will begin play on June 19th without allowing spectators. NPB hopes to play a 120 game season on grounds there won't be a resurgence of coronavirus patients. Fans could be allowed into stadiums as early as July 10th according to government guidelines, but NPB hasn't announced any specific plans yet.
The new date for Game 1 of the Japan Series is now November 21st.