This is part 4 of my adventures in Japan.
After an eventful morning and a trip to Tokyo Sky Tree, it was finally time for my first Japanese baseball game. We headed to the oldest baseball stadium in Tokyo, Meiji Jingu Stadium, to watch the Tokyo Yakult Swallows take on the Yomiuri Giants.
I think there may have been as many Giants fans as there were Sallows fans, but it was still a fun place to watch a game. We were there early, so we saw a little bit of batting practice and the teams warming up. An actress I hadn’t heard of, Gouriki Ayame, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. You can see pictures and video of the pitch HERE. Unlike US baseball games, Japanese baseball teams usually have cheerleaders, and the Swallows were no exception. Even the mascot was dancing along. Another one of the great traditions at Jingu Stadium is the fans and their umbrellas. When the Swallows score a run and during the 7th inning, the fans open their colorful umbrellas and wave them while singing.
Time for the game to finally start. The Giants jumped out 3-0 in the first and never looked back. The final score was 8-2. See a full report on the game HERE. We had some fun in the stands taking part in the organized cheers. It was also a good chance for the JapanBall group to kind of hang out and talk. It was a good first taste of Japanese baseball in a classic stadium. Tomorrow, we get up early and head out of Tokyo for a couple of days.
Videos: Part of the Swallows starting line-up announcement, Swallows cheerleaders and mascot dance, Cheering in our section, Drunk guy in our section, The 7th inning stretch (a must see)
Part 3 – Tokyo Skytree
It was my first full day in Japan. After walking around the neighborhood and visiting Kanda Miyojin in the early morning, it was time to go with the JapanBall group to Tokyo Skytree. For years, Tokyo Tower was the tallest structure in Japan. The new leader in that category, Tokyo Skytree, opened to the public in May 2012. At a height of 634 meters, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure. The figures in the height 6 (“mu”), 3 (“sa”). 4(“shi”) stand for “Musashi”, the old name of the region where Tokyo Skytree stands.
I had hoped to visit Tokyo Skytree while in Tokyo, so I was happy when I found out this was a planned trip for the group. One of the great things about the JapanBall tour is that while you are a part of the group, you don’t always have to do things as a group. A lot of us made our way to the lobby and the snaking ticket line. It probably took about 15 minutes to get up to the ticket counter. When Tokyo Skytree first opened, you had to get your tickets a couple of weeks in advance. I’m glad the crowds were not as big today. Anyway, I paid my 2,000 yen for my ticket and headed to the elevators to the lower of the two observation areas, Tembo Deck. Of course, lower is a relative thing as the “lower” deck is still 350m high, taller than the entirety of Tokyo Tower (315m).
I saw one of my fellow Japanballers, Lynn Struiksma, up there and we decide to stick together. (My theory is that if one didn’t come back, it wasn’t that big a deal; however, if two of us didn’t come back, they’d probably come looking for us.) There were quite a few people in the observation deck, so patience was required while waiting for some prime window spots to open up. The views of Tokyo from that high up were incredible. It was so interesting to just watch the city in action. Delivery trucks navigating busy streets. People on rooftop pools swimming laps. The shadows from the clouds as they moved across neighborhoods. Reminded me of when I used to play SimCity 2000.
After making our way all around the lower deck taking pictures, we decided we would pony up the extra 1,000 yen and take a ride to Tembo Galleria the top observation deck 450m above Tokyo. You got the same great views from a different perspective. You actually start at 445m and walk around until you get up to the 450m level.
On the way out, we stopped by some of the shops located near Tokyo Skytree. We saw a Yomiuri Tokyo Giants team store. (I successfully communicated in Japanese for the first time there when I asked if the trophies in the display case were real or not. They were.) We saw some great little toy shops. We ate Taiyaki. (Fortunately, we chose the cream filled one and not the one filled with red bean paste.)
The best shop there was the Ghibli store. I would try later in the day to get a ticket to the Ghibli Museum, but it was sold out for the day I could go. This wasn’t quite the same, but it was still very cool. They had a lot of great items, but everything was so overpriced. I took a lot of good pictures in there.
Videos: The elevator ride to 350m, Elevator from 350m to 445m, A view from 450m, Totoro and Mei
Coming up, time for my first Japanese baseball game.
This is part two of my recollections of my recent trip to Japan. Last time, I talked about arriving in Japan for the very first time. Today, I remember my first morning in Tokyo and a trip to Kanda Miyojin Shrine.
Despite a rather long first day with all the traveling, I was up bright and early Friday morning at 5:30 AM. We weren’t leaving for Tokyo Skytree until 9:00 AM, so I took the opportunity to wander the streets around the hotel before it got busy. It was still pretty quiet out, but I did see a few people out on their bikes or walking with their kids. Also, lots and lots of vending machines. There were vending machines every few street corners with canned coffee, soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled tea, water, beer, and even cigarettes.
I knew there was the Kanda Miyojin Shrine in the area, so I wanted to go get some pictures of it. You can read more about Kanda Miyojin Shrine HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. I was surprised to see people already coming by to say a morning prayer. (I tried to avoid taking a picture of someone in the act of praying.) I did take a ton of pictures while there that morning and even a video of some people doing their daily Radio Taiso.
(Click on any of the pictures to open an image browser. You can use the arrow keys to move forward/backward through the gallery.) There are over 75 pictures in this gallery. I could take a while to load on a slow connection. Please be patient.
I recently returned from my first ever visit to Japan. Over the next week or so, I’ll be using this space to post pictures and stories about my trip. I know it isn’t Iron Chef related (and it’s likely to be boring as it is as much a simple documentation of my trip as it is storytelling effort), so feel free to ignore these posts until a batch of new episodes is posted in the coming weeks.
Part 1 – I’ve Finally Arrived
After many, many months of planning and saving, it was finally time to begin my journey to Japan. I went with a group from Bob Bavasi’s JapanBall.com on a Japanese Baseball tour. (See some photos of our eclectic group at the JapanBall Facebook page.) I can’t imagine a better thing to do on a first trip to Japan than seeing professional baseball games. It is something with which I am very familiar, baseball, presented in a way in which I’ve never experienced it. (I’ll write more later on what makes Japanese baseball such a fantastic experience.)
After arriving at Narita Airport, going though Japanese Customs and Immigration was a painless process. I picked up my suitcase, exchanged my Dollars for Yen, and found Bob, who got me a ticket for the train into Tokyo.
Here is a video taken from the train.
It was starting to rain lightly when I arrived at the hotel and got checked in, so I didn’t do any exploring of the neighborhood until the next day. As is the tradition on the JapanBall trips, we all met at the JapanBall Hall of Fame (also known as Cafe Noodle Roje) for a group dinner.
Tomorrow brings my first full day in Tokyo and my first Japanese baseball game.
I don’t have many pictures from that first day, but I have included some of what I took in the gallery below. (Click on any of the pictures to open an image browser. You can use the arrow keys to move forward/backward through the gallery.)