One of the best ways to get the most out of your travels is to experience something familiar in a foreign country. Baseball is just one of many universally celebrated sports and is a favorite pastime in Japan. Why not see how Japan enjoys the sport in their own country? Why not Kobo Stadium in Miyagi Prefecture, home to the Rakuten Eagles?
Having visited Kobo Stadium myself recently, I have a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of your baseball experience.
The prices can fluctuate depending on the anticipated popularity of the game, but are surprisingly reasonable. Tickets for non-reserved seating in the outfield run about 1,200 yen, while reserved seats closer to home plate run about 3,000 - 5,000 yen. Want to keep things cheap? From personal experience, I recommend the non-reserved seating in the grass, which I will talk about later.
Purchasing Tickets (Early!)
The easiest way to obtain tickets is purchasing them at any major convenience store such as Seven-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart. There are stand-alone kiosks within the store where you can purchase tickets for various sporting and entertainment events. There should be a button for English.
Don't forget to purchase your tickets early! I made the mistake of trying to purchase tickets four days before the game, and all the seats were sold out except for a handful of individual seats. The only seats available were grass seating and non-reserved seating for the cheering sections. I was disappointed to discover my only options were the cheap seats in the outfield that would probably require hours of standing in line for somewhat decent seats far out in the outfield.
Non-reserved Seats - A Best Kept Secret
Kobo Stadium in Miyagi has a great section of seating which are large astro-turf covered stairs for a more relaxed atmosphere where you aren't contained to a small plastic chair and have an easier time chatting with your friends. Considering how surprisingly small the field is, the outfield seats give you a great view of the entire field. However, keep an eye out for home run balls, as several flew into our section over the course of a single game.
If you get in early like we did, our group of six were able to snag a large area of grass with enough room to lay down and spread out. It was like having a picnic, but even better! There are vendors who walk up and down the aisles selling cold beer (700 yen) and mixed drinks (~500 yen).
The best part? An eagle flies through the grass section to start the game, and is on display in this area before the game.
Non-reserved Seats: Skipping the Lines
The tricky part about non-reserved seating is making sure you get the seats you want, particularly if you have a large group. After extensive research and phone calls, I discovered a new system Kobo Stadium has implemented since November 2015.
The evening before or morning of the game, you simply write your name on a piece of paper (1 paper for up to 2 people) and tape it to the ground where staff directs you (you need to provide your own tape). Please note that you need to have at least one person present for each piece of paper. For example, if you have a group of six, you need three pieces of paper and at least three people to physically tape the paper in line. This will be sufficient to hold your place in line until 30 minutes before the gates open (two hours before the game starts). If you arrive late, your paper will be removed. For example: If the game starts at 2pm, you need to be back in line at 11:30am for when the doors open at 12pm.
Here are a few stipulations about this rule as posted on their website (in Japanese only):
- In the case that there are no events the day before, you can put your paper down between 5pm and 9pm (which is monitored by staff).
- In the case that an event is held the day before, you can put your paper down after the event until 9pm (as directed by staff). In the case of a night event, you may place your paper in line until an hour after the event ends.
- In the event that the previous day's event is cancelled, you can put your paper down at the direction of staff at the time the event is cancelled, until 9pm.
- On the day of the event, you can put down your paper from 7am until 30 minutes before gates open (which is 2 hours before the game starts).
In my case, I put down the paper at around 8:30am on game day. We were about 30th in line. Then we left to do some shopping and came back at 11:30am. The doors opened at noon and we got an incredible spot with a great view. The next few hours we spent exploring the vendors and getting lunch until game time.
Navigating the Crowds
One interesting part of the stadium is that all the vendors and food stalls are located outside of the ticketed area, and is shared with a neighboring stadium (which had a high school track and field event going on while I was there). This means that it is open to public and is shared with a whole separate stadium, which means it can be incredibly packed.
I recommend getting your food and merchandise early, to avoid long lines not only to purchase food and merchandise, but to even get inside the store. For example, there is a fantastic authentic pizza place with a stone oven. While we could have gotten the food shortly after arriving, we waited and ended up waiting an hour for a pizza that we could have gotten right away. Stock up early!
Outside Food and Drinks
On their website, it says all food and drink is restricted, even water bottles. However, upon arriving, they had tents and staff that would pour your outside drinks into paper cups for you to take inside, regardless of whether it was water, soda or alcohol.
Experiencing a baseball game (or any other international sport) is a great way to experience culture in a foreign country. Kobo Stadium in Miyagi Prefecture, home to the Rakuten Eagles, is a great place to see a baseball game for a decent price. Whether you get non-reserved seats, or shell out a bit extra for reserved seating closer to home plate, the stadium is cozy enough for a great viewing regardless of where you sit. Even if you don't buy tickets, you can still mill about among the vendors, which are open to the public. While the Japanese website has a lot of useful information, the English website is still lacking in information.