Monday, September 25, 2006

Deanna's Japanese Baseball Stadium Ratings

If I keep adding to this post I'll never get it out, and then I'll never post in this blog again. So here's a draft at my Japanese Stadium Rankings.

I tried to do this on a bigger scale than just "Did I like being in this stadium or not?", but keep in mind that these are still entirely from my observations and perspectives, sometimes aided by the friends I went to the game with. Also, I only did ones I visited this trip, hence Tokyo Dome isn't on here, but I think it would have rated pretty high, probably in the top three.

The categories:

Convenience: How far is it from the main JR station in the city? Is there a ton of additional walking? 15 minutes (Tokyo Dome) is a 10, 75+ minutes is a 1.
Comfort/Amenities: Was a 171cm-tall gaijin comfortable watching the game? Are the bathrooms and other such conveniences plentiful and good?
View/Fences: Do most of the seats seem to have a decent view? How thick/high/intrusive are the goddamn fences and other obstructions?
Food: Good selection? Tasty food? How about drinks? Vendors? Etc.
Crowd: Was the stadium full or empty? Was it a good group of people to be around? Are the home cheers decent/entertaining?
Team: Is it worth going to this stadium to see the team?

Each team is listed with the city (for the ones that are Tokyo area but really in other cities, I've listed both), whether it's indoors or outdoors, the team that plays there, and what year it opened.

So, here's how they rated, based on me trying to judge them by those categories:

1. Nagoya Dome (Nagoya, indoors, Chunichi Dragons, 1997)

Convenience: 7. From the Nagoya JR station, you can either take the Sakuradori subway to Hisaya-Odori and then the Meijo line from there to Nagoya-Dome-mae station, which takes about 25-30 minutes in all with good transferring, or you can take the JR Chuo line to Ozone station, which takes like 10 minutes, but then it's either a 15-minute walk to the park or you have to go find the Meijo transfer at Ozone and take it one stop to Nagoya Dome-mae, which seems like a waste of money. The Dome-mae station isn't that great anyway, as you still have to walk through a long tunnel called "Dragons Road" and decorated with Chunichi Dragons stuff, then walk some more to get to the dome itself. Still, it shouldn't take you more than 30-35 minutes total from the JR station with either way you choose to go.
Comfort/Amenities: 9. No issues here, all the seats were comfortable. Lots of bathrooms and stuff. Only vague downside was having to go past the smoking area in the back to get to stuff sometimes.
View/Fences: 8. Fences all around the infield but ample upper decks and higher seats to see over them. No outfield fence, just a bar. View from the upper deck was pretty nice, though a slight bit of the rightfield corner was obscured from our part of the rightfieldish upper deck.
Food: 8. I dunno, I got a burger and fries and they were cheap and decent. Selection seemed repetitive but reasonable. They have a food court restaurant thingy in back of the stadium on the terrace level, too.
Crowd: 9. Great fans, great cheering, great songs. Everyone around me was really enthusiastic and nice and I found myself humming/singing the cheer songs and at-bat songs pretty quickly. The only thing detracting from the atmosphere for me was the dome.
Team: 10. Also, the Dragons are pretty damn good. They're old, but good.
Total: 51 out of 60

2. Fullcast Miyagi Stadium (Sendai, outdoors, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, 1950, renovated 2005)

Convenience: 9. Miyaginobara station is 2 stops from the main Sendai JR station on the Senseki line, about 5 minutes. From that station you have to walk around a smaller sports field to get to Fullcast, but it's not far and the path is obvious.
Comfort/Amenities: 10. Great renovated seats, big and comfy. Nice clean modern bathrooms.
View/Fences: 9. The fences exist for most of the park but there's plenty of reasonable seating above it or around it. The outfield fences are relatively low. Most of the views in the stadium seem pretty good. It's not all that huge a place to begin with so you're never that far from the action.
Food: 10. Lots of selection and it all seemed pretty good.
Crowd: 10. Even though the team sucks, I think the player songs and cheers were reasonably good and people actually seemed to be pretty into the game, which I wasn't expecting. The small size makes the crowd seem more cohesive, I'm sure.
Team: 1. They suck and they're not even entertainingly sucky. Sigh.
Total: 49 out of 60

3. Meiji Jingu (Tokyo, outdoors, Yakult Swallows, 1926)

Convenience: 8. You'd probly take JR from Tokyo to Shimbashi and then the Ginza Subway Line from Shimbashi to Gaienmae, I think, and it'd take you about 15 minutes. Thing is, once you exit at Gaienmae it's really not entirely obvious where the stadium is. I had to ask someone my first time there, and my second time there it was only luck that I went the right way; it's out of sight from the station, a few blocks away.
Comfort/Amenities: 7. Outfield unreserved is vast and you can choose your level of seat comfort, whether you want backs or not and how high or low you want to be. So in some ways, it's our own damn fault we sat so far up and away from the bathrooms and food stands.
View/Fences: 3. It was just really tough to get an angle without fences in our way of home plate, and when the field fences weren't, the stands fences were. In the outfield, to be over the fences, you had to be pretty far out or in no-seat-back territory.
Food: 10. I was actually pretty impressed with the food choices. They had these huge bento boxes you could get with lots of yummy things in them, or they had noodle shops where you could get yakisoba-type stuff or udon noodle soup, which my friend got and said was decent, or there was a place with fried chicken baskets and hot dogs, and all sorts of stuff.
Crowd: 9. Oh god, do I love Swallows fans. The umbrella thing is awesome and crazy. Seriously, the only reason there isn't a 10 in this slot is because the Engrish announcer drove me NUTS and I'm not sure where to compensate for it.
Team: 8. I picked this team to win the CL this year, in all honesty. Lots of ex-MLB pitchers and a nice gang of position players to round them out.
Total: 45 out of 60

4a. Yokohama Stadium (Tokyo/Yokohama, outdoors, Yokohama Bay Stars, 1978)

Convenience: 9. I'm torn about how to rate this one. Kannai station is a 45-minute ride from the Tokyo JR station, but is only a 5-minute ride from the Yokohama JR station. Also, you literally get out of the Kannai station, follow the sign that points "Yokohama Stadium" to the right, and you turn and look and... there's the stadium. Yokohama's enough of a separate and contained unit of a city that I feel okay calling it that.
Comfort/Amenities: 4. Comfortable seats, but that's about it. See, the way it seemed to be laid out is: there's a concourse running behind the lowest level of seats, with food stands, drink stands, merchandise stands, bathrooms, etc. The second level of concourse seemed to only be per staircase, and only smoking areas and vending machines (and maybe bathrooms, I forget). The third level of concourse was... stairs down to the other two. So if you were sitting high up, you pretty much had to run down to the bottom level to get food or anything else. I never saw food vendors come by except popcorn either, so I was starving and ended up running downstairs for food during the 7th inning fight song. I only missed one batter, though.
View/Fences: 10. NO FENCES!!!!! Just don't sit behind the home plate netting :) Seriously, the views were pretty great, I thought.
Food: 5. It seemed average. I had yakisoba and it was awful, but to be fair, I didn't spend much time looking at the food choices.
Crowd: 9. Despite the quality of the team this year, they have a pretty good fan base, it seems. I mean, I saw three BayStars games and was impressed by the oendan turnout at Koshien and Jingu as well. The people I sat near were really great, both before and after I switched seats.
Team: 5. A losing team, but with many bright spots, and a host of young players who they can hopefully build something around.
Total: 42 out of 60

4b. Hiroshima Municipal Stadium (Hiroshima, outdoors, Hiroshima Carp, 1957)

Convenience: 10. From the Hiroshima JR Station, you can either walk (about 20 minutes at a brisk pace) or take the #2 or #6 streetcar to Genbaku Dome-Mae (about 15 minutes). It's right between the atomic bomb memorials and Hiroshima Castle, for all your touristy needs.
Comfort/Amenities: 4. So the good part is, you can usually stretch out on several seats with your feet and stuff, and the seats aren't terribly uncomfortable, though the outfield unreserved have no seat backs as usual. The bad part is that there's no concourse behind the seats, so if you don't like what the vendors behind you are selling, you get to wander in and out behind other sections, only they're pretty much all selling the same thing anyway. If there's no appropriate-gender toilet behind your section, you go to another one. If there's no appropriate-country toilet, well, you deal with it.
View/Fences: 9. My view was spectacular, at least. The fences are low in the outfield and normal in the infield and the annoying thing is that they get higher as you get closer to the plate. The neat thing is that during BP they open the fences up so you can watch, take pictures, and possibly even get players to sign stuff.
Food: 7. Average, but for such a sparsely-attended game there were a LOT of vendors. They sold a sort of sno-cone-in-a-bag thing that my friend really liked.
Crowd: 8. You know, for a group of people who have had to watch a second-division team for the last ten years, they have a pretty good turnout in the cheering sections. I also think the lack of skimpy cheerleader girls is good, and think Slyly is the best mascot in Japan.
Team: 4. They suck, but they suck in an entertaining way. Marty Brown is hilarious. I think they've got a lot of players with potential, too.
Total: 42 out of 60

6a. Kyocera Dome Osaka (Osaka, indoors, Orix Buffaloes, 1997)

Convenience: 9. It's a 10-minute ride to Taisho station from Osaka station on the JR Osaka Loop Line. If you don't feel like walking from Taisho, it's a 2-minute ride to Osaka-Dome Mae station on the subway, which lets you out a block from the Dome.
Comfort/Amenities: 9. I was pretty comfortable for the entire game, even without a seat back in outfield unreserved, but that might be mostly because the game I saw, the Fighters were at bat for 80% of the time and thus I was always standing. There were lots of bathrooms and food stands all over the place, as you'd expect in a modern dome stadium with a concourse.
View/Fences: 8. My view from the outfield was pretty great, actually. The outfield has bars but not fences. The infield has fences, but there's also plenty of upper deck seating to see around it unobstructed.
Food: 5. Seemed average. IIRC there were fish flakes on my yakisoba though, which was kind of gross.
Crowd: 6. Unfortunately, being as I was there as part of the Fighters cheering section, I'm not sure I can really judge it. It didn't seem like Buffaloes fans could really fire up the place, though.
Team: 3. They don't suck as much as the Eagles, but they aren't a particularly exciting brand of mediocrity either. The famous-dudes-on-the-DL Kiyohara thing sucks, too.
Total: 40 out of 60

6b. Chiba Marine Stadium (Tokyo/Chiba, outdoors, Chiba Lotte Marines, 1990)

Convenience: 4. Chiba Marine Stadium is a big pain in the butt to get to; you've got a 38-minute ride from JR Tokyo station to Kaihin-Makuhari station, and then you get to either walk for 15 minutes or catch a bus over to the stadium. (I opted for the bus.) Hell, even if I count it from JR Chiba station, it's still at least 15 minutes to either Kaihin-Makuhari or Makuhari-Hongo station and you still need a bus from either. At least there's some other stuff out there like the Makuhari Messe convention center and such.
Comfort/Amenities: 9. Here is where I think Chiba is a pretty big win. Aside from the lack of seat backs in the entire outfield, it's got pretty decent seats and a ton of stuff everywhere.
View/Fences: 8 The fences are annoying as usual, but there are plenty of places you can go to see above them, and there's even a field box type of area that I think was in front of the fences.
Food: 9. Alright, I'm a big dork, but I like Lotteria. The other choices weren't bad either.
Crowd: 3. I think Lotte fans are the most boring of all, in terms of cheer songs and such. Also, why have noisemakers if they're only for like two player cheers? Sheesh. Most of the people around seemed relatively unfriendly, too.
Team: 7. They may have finished in the second division, but I actually think they're still a pretty damn interesting team to watch.
Total: 40 out of 60

8. Hanshin Koshien Stadium (Osaka, outdoors, Hanshin Tigers, 1924)

Convenience: 9. It's a 23-minute ride to the Koshien station on the Hanshin line from the Umeda Hanshin station, which is linked to the main Osaka JR station, and even less if you get an express train. The stadium is pretty much half a block from the Koshien station, with about 2349234239 vendors set up in case you forgot to bring any Tigers cheering equipment. Getting on a train with 40,000 people after the game sucks, but eh.
Comfort/Amenities: 2. I was miserable for most of my game there and I'm only 171cm tall. I worried that my legs were going to have permanent damage from being curled under the seats with no circulation in my feet. I couldn't find any western style toilets, either.
View/Fences: 9. I had an excellent view from my seat, and it seemed like most of the stadium would. The fences exist in the infield and are kind of high, but actually seemed pretty nonobstructive. The outfield fences are low, almost nonexistent as far as I could tell.
Food: 4. This is more "drink" than "food", to be honest, but I was pretty fazed by the fact that I couldn't get a non-alcoholic beverage from my seat easily. After about 238492389 beer and chuhai vendors walked by I finally flagged down the cola/tea vendor, and my bottle wasn't even cold.
Crowd: 7. I realize some people think it's great being surrounded by crazed Tigers fans, but the people surrounding me waving their noisemakers in my face the whole time didn't help. Also, how come I came home smelling like smoke despite all the no-smoking signs? I have to give them credit for being the most insanely devoted fan base I saw in Japan, and the fact that Tigers fans seem to consider themselves all part of one big toralicious family is pretty crazy. From the inside, I'm sure they're the best ever. From the outside, eh.
Team: 8. The recent Tigers are a pretty decent team to watch. Kanemoto and others are wonderful to embrace; the "JFK" and such gimmicks are actually pretty good. Unfortunately, I have major issues with Okada's managing and thus only rate them an 8.
Total: 39 out of 60

9. Invoice Seibu Dome (Tokyo/Saitama, kind of indoors, Seibu Lions, 1979)

Convenience: 3. Seibu Kyujo-mae station is pretty much right there in front of the stadium entrances, but if you don't get an express train it's a 46-minute ride on the Seibu Ikebukuro line, which can be lowered to 30-35 minutes with expresses. From Tokyo JR station it's another 15-20 minutes to Ikebukuro though, which makes it an overall pretty long trip. Also, there's nothing else to really go out to Tokorozawa for, as far as I can tell.
Comfort/Amenities: 4. The seats are comfortable enough in the infield but the outfield slanted turf is just annoying. Having beer accidentally spilled on me probably didn't help. There are no "concourse gates", the concourse just runs outside the back of the stands, so the better your seats are in the infield, the further you have to climb up the stands to get to bathrooms/food. The bathroom I was in was mostly Japanese-style toilets with a few western-style -- at least they were clearly marked...
View/Fences: 3.The fence in the outfield seating is pretty annoying and thick. From the infield it's the same, but if you sit in row 18 or higher you can get a clear shot to home plate. The lighting is plain terrible for taking pictures, though, even during the daytime.
Food: 7. Maybe slightly above average. The bento stand outside the stadium had a cardboard cutout of Takeya Nakamura eating udon soup with chopsticks. It was cute. They also had some tasty beverages, but it was annoying that they wouldn't sell us plain old bottled water. That was weird. On the other hand, they had vendors coming through with anything from Baskin-Robbins ice cream to green tea.
Crowd: 8. I have to admit that Lions fans seem to have more fun than most other fans. I don't understand why there are so few of them in attendance, besides that Tokorozawa is in the middle of nowhere, of course.
Team: 10. I'm not supposed to say this as a Fighters fan, but the Lions are really pretty good these days, y'know?
Total: 35 out of 60

Also, without the actual team factor, we get:
1. Fullcast (48)
2. Nagoya (41)
3. Hiroshima (38)
4. Jingu, Yokohama, Osaka (37)
7. Chiba (33)
8. Koshien (31)
9. Seibu (25)

Like I said elsewhere, I thought Fullcast was great. The only downside of the place is that you have to watch the Eagles.

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