We awoke to a very leisurely morning on our last day in Japan. We both lounged around for a while trying to decide which Thai beach resort we wanted to go to (I know, life is so hard) before going for a run around the neighborhood. The only thing we had on the schedule today was a baseball game at 6 pm so we had a whole day ahead of us. Lynn suggested a park on the other side of town with a mini Statue of Liberty in it and, not having any better ideas, we decided to head over. With lots of time to kill we chose to walk and make a last stop at the Tsukiji Fish Market as well to see if we wanted to pick up a Japanese Chef’s knife as a souvenir. When we got over there we realized we were a little in over our heads with the different types of knives and alloys of steel, and not wanting to end up with a bad knife, we decided to wait until we could do some more research.
We continued our walk to the park and found that the area is also the location of seemingly every mall in Tokyo. We ducked in the first one we came across for some A/C and to grab some lunch. It felt like we had been transported to Vegas. Inside the mall, they had recreated an Italian village, complete with blue sky and clouds painted above – it felt very much like the shops at the Venetian. We wandered around for a little bit, checking out a few sports stores for water bottles, and again not finding any, before heading to the food court for what was decidedly our worst meal in Japan. Both Lynn and I got very fatty chicken thighs over rice and iceberg lettuce salads – it looked way better as the plastic food we ordered from. We were also yelled at for having our water bottles on the table because “no outside food or drink was allowed.” It quickly became clear that they wanted you to order very overpriced drinks from them instead to which we said no thank you.
After a very sad meal that we each only ate about half of we left the mall and wandered into a giant Toyota showroom that was attached. We looked around at all the various fun Japanese models that they don’t have in the US before seeing that they also had a 4D theater…for free! Of course, we ran right over and were shocked that we were only 2 of 6 people in the entire ride. Well we quickly learned why, it was about the lamest 4D theater either of us had ever been in with graphics ripped out of a poorly made racing game from the 90s.
We continued our hike, stopping at a few more malls until we made it to the Statue of Liberty, which overlooks a truly impressive view of Tokyo Bay. We took in the scenery for a little while before we decided it was time to head across town to the baseball game. After some initial confusion about train stops, and lines, and where we even were, we made it over to the stadium with about an hour before the game started. With nothing else to do we went in to scope out the stadium and see if there was any preshow.
The first thing we did after getting inside was buy a hat for Doug so he could show of his Yakult Swallows spirit. After a lot of back and forth he finally settled on the same hat the team wears and made the purchase. He was so excited he promptly ripped open the bag, tore off the tag, threw them both away, tried on the hat, and immediately realized it was a youth size. Unable to return the hat because he’d thrown the tag away, he wore it anyway and we made our way to our seats for our very first Japanese baseball experience.
It was incredible!
We had been told beforehand that the crowds at the games were very quiet and polite, almost like a golf tournament, with robotic applause after big plays. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I would describe the crowd more like the one at a college football game. Each team, home and away, had cheerleaders, mascots, and a giant fan club with a band and giant flags that show up to every game. Additionally, it seemed that there was a lot of prep work to coming to the game. You had to learn about 10 different cheers, bring your clapper bats to perform the cheers with, have your towels for holding high at certain moments, and even umbrellas for swirling above your head when runs were earned. As long as your team was batting, the crowd was not quiet or seated really the entire game, the band was constantly playing, and there was always a new cheer to inspire the batter.
The food was also ridiculous. There was of course, sushi and yakitori as we expected, but our favorite were bowls of hot dogs that people slathered in ketchup and mustard. The beer vendors were also tiny women that ran around constantly with kegs strapped to their backs, filling up cups as beers were ordered.
Lynn and I also made friends with an older Japanese man who sat next to us and briefed us on the various players in the Swallows roster. He also followed American baseball and quizzed Lynn on the various Japanese players for the Red Sox (she passed). The game itself was very close with each team quickly scoring one run, and then seven scoreless innings until the bottom of the 9th, when, with two outs and a runner on third, the Swallows catcher hit a line drive right over second to the gap in center field, driving home the winning run. Umbrellas were held aloft, the band started up again, the Japanese man hugged me, and high fives were given all around.
Hungry, tired, and still thrilled with the great game, we caught the train back to our neighborhood and had a very small meal with cash we had left on hand to use it up before heading to the airport tomorrow morning. All in all, it was a great way to spend our last evening in Japan.
Daily Walking Mileage: 17 miles
- Japanese baseball is played like the National League, where the pitcher bats.
- Japanese writing, if written vertically is read right to left. If it’s written horizontally, it’s read left to right.