It was opening day for the first game of 2015 as the Yomiuri Giants would begin their season against the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. Having been to the final pre-season game between the Yomiuri Giants and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, I was curious to see how crowded it would be at Tokyo Dome for the first game of the season.
A week prior, I was in Yokohama to visit the DeNA Baystars stadium and see the Baystars fandom. As I headed to Tokyo Dome a few hours early, already there were hundreds of people decked out in their orange, white (or light blue) and black Yomiuri Giants t-shirts or jersey.
Many had their orange towels ready. And for those that didn’t, no problem as Under Armor and a few other stores were parked right out front to sell t-shirts, jerseys, wristbands and other Yomiuri Giants merchandise.
I also spotted a good number of people decked out in blue to support their Baystars. One thing I noticed with Yomiuri Giants games, there are a good number of fans who attend for the visiting team.
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighter fans came out in droves for the final pre-season game and easily dominated the Yomiuri Giants cheering section. So, I was quite interested in seeing if the same would happen once again.
Then the Yomiuri Giants cheerleading squad known as Team Venus then came out to the front of the entrance to a small stage to dance and perform in front of hundreds of people. After the cheerleading introductions, everyone headed towards the entrance to get their seats.
After going through security and getting the pre-game swag, which included an orange glow stick, I headed to my seat with hope that we got the seats that we requested (between third base and home plate).
So far, tickets ordered through japanballtickets.com, have been convenient and sure enough, we got the seats in the area that we requested.
It was great to see the Yomiuri Giants fans fill out most of all the seats in Tokyo Dome, while the Yokohama DeNA Baystars fans, also came in droves to fill up their cheer section.
As the stadium went dark, all you could see were the orange glow sticks and then on the big screen, an introduction to the heroes of the Yomiuri Giants from years past.
This then transitioned to a performance by well-known dance crew, Wrecking Crew Orchestra in their neon light outfits.
As both teams lined up for the pre-game, the national anthem was performed by Akiko Wada.
And as everyone got their drinks, popcorn and snacks ready from the food vendors, there were Japanese who were interested in knowing why I was at a Japanese baseball game.
For me, part of the allure of a Japanese baseball game is that baseball is beloved by men and women, fathers and wives, son and daughters and they really show their appreciation by being decked out in their team’s baseball gear.
In fact, one of the most memorable experiences is to hear the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters “Chance” song, because the song is divided up with guys singing one part, the ladies singing another and then all singing together.
Also, there is a difference in atmosphere of a Japanese baseball game. From when a player goes up to the home plate to prepare to hit, their theme song plays with everyone singing to the song or clapping to the rhythm of the song.
This is then followed by the cheer of the fans, which is typically a song that is developed by the cheer section, put on the Internet for people to learn and follow and everyone gets into singing those cheers.
And when the home team is out on field, the visitor’s team then gets into the singing and cheering as well.
Also, another difference with a Japanese baseball game and this will become more evident in other ballparks is that a net is stretched out throughout the side and rear of the field of play which is to prevent anyone from being hit by a ball but unfortunately, foul balls due fly into the stands.
In fact, just days before opening day, the Nippon Ham fighters were ordered to pay a woman $350,000 in damages after she was hit by a foul ball at Sapporo Dome back in 2010. The woman lost sight in her right eye and at the time of the announcement, the Ham Fighters were considering to appeal the ruling.
But the game was a wonderful matchup between the two rival teams in the Central League and the Giants would defeat the Baystars for the first game. Meanwhile, Giants fans got up and sang the “VIVA Giants!” song and by the end, the cheerleaders and the invited families got to meet the players, while the MVP of the game was interviewed by media.
There is definitely something about a Japanese baseball game that makes the experience so worthwhile.
Once you see one game, you just want to keep going and going and you’ll eventually find yourself wanting to travel to other ball parks to experience a game as well.
But it was a dream of mine to go to an opening game of the season for the Yomiuri Giants and I’m glad to finally have experienced it.
Here are a few videos I shot on opening day: