NIPPON PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL IN JAPAN - CENTRAL LEAGUE
The Chunichi Dragons are a long-standing team in Japanese baseball, having begun play in 1936. Overall, this is a decent venue for a dome. I enjoyed the friendly staff and food selection.
Hanshin Koshien Stadium is Japan’s most famous stadium – not because the Hanshin Tigers play here, but because it hosts two high school baseball tournaments every year.
The Hiroshima Carp are the first team in my time in Japan to build an entirely new stadium to replace an existing one. The official name is Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium Hiroshima but this is usually abbreviated to just Mazda Stadium.
Meiji Jingu Stadium is the second oldest of the Japanese ballparks, having been built in 1926, just two years after Koshien. It’s gone through several renovations since then but is still one of the best stadium experiences you can have in Japan.
Yokohama is famous for being the port where Matthew Perry (the admiral, not the actor) landed in 1854 in what turned out to be a successful attempt to open Japan to the world. A century and a half later, the most important American export continues to thrive here, as the Yokohama BayStars do battle in the Central League, one of two circuits that comprise Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
Built in 1988 to replace the outdoor Korakuen stadium, the Tokyo Dome was the first covered baseball venue in Japan. Nicknamed the Big Egg for its egg-like appearance from the air, it has become an icon in the city. It hosts the nation’s most popular pro team, the Yomiuri Giants, as well as dozens of college and industrial league games throughout the year.
NIPPON PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL IN JAPAN - PACIFIC LEAGUE
In 1990, Chiba Marine Stadium was built on the shores of Tokyo Bay and two years later, the Lotte Orions moved there and became the Chiba Lotte Marines. It didn’t take long for people to realize that building an outdoor stadium next to a large body of water isn’t always the best idea, as the ballpark became famous for its difficult playing conditions whenever the weather turned slightly foul.
Corporate ownership is the norm in Japanese baseball, with franchises merely considered an asset among many in the large conglomerates that control them. As such, when a company falls on hard times, it often looks to sell the team as they are often money-losing operations that provide little more than publicity.
The Nippon Ham Fighters were formed in 1948 and spent 55 years in Tokyo, where they were always a distant second in popularity to the Yomiuri Giants. Fighters games often saw the Tokyo Dome nearly empty and the team could never win anything, save a Nippon Series in 1962. The club was widely ridiculed and the corporate owners realized that their brand might be suffering as a result.
In 1997, the Kintetsu Buffaloes moved from their old and decaying stadium at Fujidera to a brand new dome in the city of Osaka. Using the typical Japanese penchant for creativity in naming, the stadium was dubbed Osaka Dome. Known more for its resemblance to a silver spaceship in the middle of the city than an actual functioning ballpark, the dome took on naming rights from electronics concern Kyocera in 2006, and has retained the name Kyocera Dome Osaka since.
In 1979, the Seibu Lions moved to Tokorozawa, a city in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. A new stadium was built for them and called Seibu Lions Stadium in a testament to originality. It was a typically pedestrian ballpark until 1997, when a roof was installed over a two year period and the stadium was renamed Seibu Dome, yet again a brilliant and unexpected decision.
The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are the newest franchise in Japanese baseball, having been formed in 2005 to fill the void created by the merger of the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix Blue Wave. The irony of replacing the Blue Wave is unfortunate as the Eagles are based in Tohoku, which was devastated by the double disasters in March, 2011. The stadium is located in Sendai which sustained heavy damage from the earthquake before the coast was inundated by the subsequent tsunami. Kleenex Stadium...