Take Yourself Out To The Ballgame! (Part One)
If you really want to experience Japan, then you need to enjoy a sporting event with some locals. And there's simply no better way than by sitting in the stands together at a Japanese baseball game. (This is the first half of Japanese Baseball story by Bob Bavasi. The second half will be out in the next issue.)
A Homerun Experience
Japanese pro baseball is something akin to an over-the-top, big time college football game. It's so out of control that you've got to see it to believe it.
As Robert Whiting notes in his delightful book on the Japanese game, "Ya Gotta Have Wa," there are extraordinary things about their national sport: Bands that play Beethoven during opening day ceremonies; commentators who cite a player's blood type in the belief it affects performance; colorful
balloon releases during the seventh inning stretch; and umpires who practice their calls in pre-game warm-ups.
Perhaps most unusual are the organized cheering groups (oendan) in the outfield bleachers. Spurred on by energetic cheerleaders and the pounding rhythm of taiko drums, horns, whistles and other noisemakers, the participants wave flags, chant, sing and yell the entire game.
A television producer once remarked after spending nine innings in the midst of an oendan of several thousand, "These people are lunatics! There's more noise here than a World Series and Army-Navy game combined."
A Bit of History About the Game
Japanese baseball dates back almost as far as it does in the United States, the game's birthplace.
Professor Horace Wilson, an American Civil War veteran enlisted by the Japanese government to help modernize education, first introduced Tokyo college students to the game in 1873.
Since then Japan has grown to be the closest rival to the United States in baseball in almost any category you choose. And on the playing field, Japan handily beat the United States a few years ago during the inaugural World Baseball Classic, a competition among the best professional players from each participating country.
The Game Today
There are 12 teams in Nippon Professional Baseball with six teams in each of the two leagues. The two leagues consist of the older, more established Central League, and the upstart, more innovative Pacific League. Champions from each league compete in October for The Japan Series crown.
Teams are comprised mostly of Japanese players, but each team is allowed a handful of foreign players. Most of these are from the United States and tend to be power-hitters and hard-throwing pitchers.
The Japanese season mirrors that of Major League Baseball with spring training games in March, the season running from April through early October, and post-season play in later October.
The stadiums are similar to those in the United States with a variety of styles and shapes. The only striking differences are that a few have all dirt infields and bullpens are often hidden from view.
For More Information
Visit JapanBall.com for online tickets, game schedules, stadium and public transpiration access maps, escorted baseball tours, and a general overview of the game in Japan. Bob Bavasi is a longtime baseball executive, principal of Bavasi Sports Partners, and editor of JapanBall.com. He is happy to answer your Japan baseball questions. You may reach him at Bob@JapanBall.com.
Best Small Town in Tokyo
"Golden Gai" Cozy Corner of Shinjuku
Shinjuku is broadly known as the biggest downtown Tokyo.
You can figure out how big Shinjuku is by knowing the fact that Shinjuku Station visited by an average of 3.64 million people each day! This fact has been entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the busiest rail station in the world. The biggest town which has the busiest station also means the most festive amusement. Restaurants, bars and storefronts all light up during a Shinjuku festival.
In contrast to glamorous main streets of Shinjuku, Golden Gai (Golden Town) just composed of five narrow streets that are strings of small 60 years old barracks is like several match boxes in the corner of such a bustling town. About 250 bars and clubs each stand side by side in such a tiny space.
The history of Golden Gai goes back to more than 5 decades. Originally it was born as a black market and also illegal prostitution district after World War Ⅱ. Since anti-prostitution law came into force in 1958, this district transformed into the bar town Golden Gai. It has been flocked to by a variety of artists, musicians, filmmakers, novelists, journalists and so on. Even many Japanese may think it seemingly unfriendly to first-time customers because those bars look exclusive to existing patrons.
However, we can see lots of bars managed by young people with unique concepts nowadays. And actually, those new-wave bars have been diversifying the people who come to Golden Gai.
Nowhere but Golden Gai can you enjoy both retro-flavor and cutting-edge Tokyo nightlife. (S.Asano)
Luxe Guide for Women
Depachika Surprise -The Most Uplifting Basement in the World!
We know that the Japanese are very busy people and need a comfortable place to uplift their mood. Depachika is a sanctuary for us who crave something new and familiarity but are unwilling to forsake elegance, quality and style.
The origin of the word "Depachika" comes from two words, department store (Depa) and basement (chika). Acclaimed Japanese department stores in major cities all have Depachika that feature extensive eats from little red-bean sweets, fresh-baked bread to the best brand green tea. You can browse shoes, clothes and handbags on the upper floors and also grab fantastic food in the basement.
Competition between Depachikas is getting fierce and every store is really making efforts by renovating whole floors, redesigning booths, launching seasonal campaigns, creating "eat-in" corners and introducing new chef's premier products. Shinjuku Isetan which is famous for its sophisticated fashion design has exquisite French pastries by Jean-Paul Hevin. There is a door and doorman, temperature and aroma control, and the chocolates are on display like diamonds in a jewelry shop. There are trained chocolate concierges at Ginza Mitsukoshi. They can accommodate your tastes and needs within your budget. One tiny chocolate uplifts your mood so go give it a try! (T.Niimi)
What Japanese Eat Daily (Hint: it isn't Sushi!)
pork saute and
crab crochet set menu
pork cutlet set menu
sushi served at a kaiten-sushi restaurant
Is Japan too expensive and unaffordable? The answer is BIG No!
We feel that there is still a strongly-held misconception about the cost of traveling in Japan. If you have an impression without any real reasons that Japan is too expensive to visit, NOW is the time to change your mind.
You may have heard that in Tokyo melons are sold for as much as $100. It's true, but that's for wealthy people or companies. Like most of you, I cannot afford it; or I am not that foolish to buy it. We (or travelers) can buy apples and oranges at the same cost as in the U.S.
Speaking of food, I now live in New York and feel an ordinary meal is more expensive in New York than in Tokyo, where you can have a proper dinner (not deluxe, but not fast food, either; imagine a diner in the U.S.), for $10. The secret is the tax is only 5% (usually already included in the menu price) and you don't have to tip in Japan. Therefore, if you see $10 in the menu, you only have to pay $10, whereas in the U.S. you have to add taxes and tips ending up $13 in total. I may have to add that the portions of the meal are smaller in Japan compared to the U.S. It means, however, that it is good for your health and environment because there will be no doggy bag or waste.
Here are some dishes you can eat for $10 or less in Tokyo. (All come with rice and miso soup.)
For sushi, leave Michelin-star sushi bars to the wealthy. We are proud to taking you to a kaiten-sushi (sushi on a conveyor belt), where, even in downtown Tokyo, you can eat sushi for $1-3 a piece. Ten pieces are enough for most people, which means a sushi dinner will cost you only $20 including a glass of beer or sake (and again, tax is inclusive and there is no tip!).
We have created a web page(Japan On Sale) on how to enjoy a trip to Japan in an affordable way. Please have a look and it will change your mindset that Japan is too expensive to visit. Also please tell us your tips on travel in Japan on the cheap.
Japan is not a destination you can only dream of, but the one you can really visit. For various menus at reasonable prices, please click here.