Just returned from my trip to see the A's vs. M's at the Tokyo Dome.  Flew out of Newark late morning on Tuesday, arrived Tokyo after 14-hour flight the next afternoon without seeing a night.  Checked into a hotel near the Narita Airport and immediately headed for Tokyo, some 40 miles away, by train(s). Getting off the train and walking to the Dome with the excited baseball crowd felt completely familiar, except that everyone was Japanese and the sign on the ballpark read, "TOKYO DOME."

Very tight security getting into the park and heavily armed police quite visible inside.  Those of us who purchased tickets through the A's (the "home" team) ended up in the same section a bit past first base and about 15-20 rows off the field.  Other than the 50 or so Americans in that section and a large contingent of U.S. servicemen and women seated elsewhere, I saw no foreigners.

The Dome itself dates to 1988 and is surprisingly spartan.  It has a typical scoreboard in center field with a jumbotron screen next to it, and an auxiliary scoreboard behind home plate, with little else in the way of bells and whistles common in the newer major league parks.  Dimensions are symmetrical, 328 down the lines and 400 to dead center. I estimate about 375 to the power alleys.

The big event of the night was when Ichiro batted.  That's whom the crowd came to see, and when he batted, every flash bulb in the place lit up.  Rising to the occasion, he went 4 for 5, and sent the crowd home happy.  Too bad Hideki Matsui is no longer with the A's, as the crowd would have been equally thrilled to see him play, too.

Other than during Ichiro's at-bats, the place was fairly quiet, with our American contingent making most of the noise. The bands, mass cheers, and general buzz at Japanese Major League games were absent, not surprising because these are not the teams Japanese fans watch and root for on a regular basis.

The easiest way to have done this trip logistically would have been to stay at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, a minute's walk from the Dome.  Shuttle buses (not cheap) run directly from the airport to the hotel.  I opted for much cheaper, although very nice, accommodations in Narita, minutes from the airport, but that required taking the train to/from Tokyo.  The train and subway system in Tokyo is great, but tricky for foreigners.  I was fortunate to have the staff at the hotel prepare me a detailed routing in Japanese off of Yahoo Japan website, then translate stops, transfer points, and line names into English. If I wasn't sure about getting on the right train, I showed the paper to someone on the platform, and they either verified I was in the right place or directed me elsewhere.  Taking those trains (different routes going and returning) was a trip highlight, but if I were going for the first time, I'd spring for the extra bucks and stay at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, which would be much simpler. 

After I returned to my hotel, I sent a couple of e-mails and finally got some sleep.  I flew out the next afternoon on a red eye, arriving Newark about 55 hours after I left.  The trip was so short that I never got jet lagged, just tired from insufficient sleep.

Public places and transportation facilities were immaculate. Rest rooms shine, and I swear I never saw a speck of litter on any train platform or rail car.  Japanese all carry and use cell phones and other gadgets, but are much quieter and polite than Americans.  I remember a lot of jostling in previous visits there years ago, but was amazed at how courteous everyone was this time around.  Final note: Japan is still very much a cash society. Credit cars are accepted at hotels catering to an international clientele and at some of the largest department stores, but almost everyplace else demands cash.  Even the railroads, as modern as they are, took only cash.  If you go, purchase some yen before you go, and figure to get more after arrival in Japan.

I'm not a picture taker, but there are plenty of photos of the game at the MLB, A's, and Mariners websites.

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Comment by Tim Choiniere on April 2, 2012 at 12:24pm

Thanks for sharing.  Definitely would be a great experience.  They better not book the Red Sox in a game in Amsterdam as who knows what the starters will be adding to their routine with the chicken and beer...

Comment by michael schwartz (71) on March 31, 2012 at 9:37am

Craig:  No pics, but plenty are available online from other sources.  I'm a Yankee fan, and the sole motivation for this trip was to see a game in another, certainly unusual, ballpark.  Just read last night that MLB is considering playing games in Europe and is looking at London, Amsterdam, and Rome as potential venues.  Now that sounds exciting!

Comment by Jim Devitt on March 30, 2012 at 9:17pm

Awesome, thanks for sharing the experience with us.

Comment by Doug Miller (30) on March 30, 2012 at 9:08pm

Very cool experience.  It was interested listening to the exhibition broadcasts w/the Tigers compared to the A's.  A very different crowd to be sure.  I would love to see some Nippon League games.  The WBC final game w/Japan and Korea was amazing, I'm sure it's even better actually in Japan!

Comment by Craig (17) on March 30, 2012 at 2:51pm

What an incredible trip that must have been! Did you get a chance to take any pictures? What made you decide to do this trip? Are you an A's or M's fan or just wanted to see a different ballpark?

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