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18 Feb 2014

Yokohama Stadium, Japan

Yokohama [横浜市] • FEBRUARY 2014
Located in Naka ward. A short walk from Chinatown or Kannai station, this is probably one of the most fun places to watch a baseball game in Japan. Known as the Bay Stars Stadium, the Yokohama Baseball Team of the Central League, the Stadium itself was built on the remains of the Cricket Ballpark of the last century for the British delegation. 

The Bay Stars Stadium is an open roof stadium with natural grass, very rare in Japan, which prefers to man-made grass to save on costs, and the entertainment boasted throughout the games is trying hard, and doing a good job, by Japanese terms, in trying to have each game hosted at the "home ground" to be as American as possible.

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).

Before delving into the local stadium, a bit of background on Japanese baseball is warranted. There are some similarities to the structure of the American game such as having two leagues (6 teams in each, Pacific with the DH, Central without), interleague play, and three playoff rounds. But there are just as many differences: tie games are called after 12 innings, there is no minor league development system (each team has just one junior squad), and teams have at least one day off per week.

There is only one seating bowl here with nine seating options that are mostly described by letters. SS seats are the best, following by S, FA (field level A), FB, A and B; the other three options are unreserved infield and outfield seats and well as two sections of reserved seats in the outfield. The structure of the stadium is unique, with the field level seats being quite flat and facing second base rather than home plate, but the other seats in the infield rise very steeply and offer great views of the field and beyond.
Tickets here can be expensive, going as high as 6,500 yen ($80) for the SS seats, which are the dark blue box seats that come complete with drink holders. These seats provide an excellent visual contrast from the old and uncomfortable orange chairs that make up the rest of the seating bowl, but they are a bit much for a Japanese baseball game. The remaining seats range from 5,500 yen for the field level seats between home plate and the bases down to 1,800 yen for the unreserved outfield seats. The best value in my mind are the 3,500 yen B seats, which are the upper level between home and the bases. On a hot day, a breeze blows through that doesn't reach the lower parts of the bowl but keeps you refreshed if you are sitting up high.The field is artificial turf, except for the areas around home plate and the bases, which are dirt. The infield area is colored brown but the underlying material is the same, so there are no funny bounces.

If you are a baseball lover and have been captivated over the years by the magical performances of Nomo, Matsui, and Ichiro, then you should definitely set aside an evening during your stay in Japan (April-September) to catch a Yokohama Bay Stars night game at Yokohama Stadium.

Built in 1978 as the first multi-purpose circular stadium that holds 30,000 spectators. 
Yokohamakouen, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0022
How To Go:
Closest Railway Station Kannai Station: JR Keihin Tohoku Negishi Line / Municipal Subway Line


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