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The Yomiuri Giants & Tokyo Dome City

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The Yomiuri Giants are the the New York Yankees of Japan. You can love them or hate them, but ambivalence is not allowed. They’re by far the richest and most successful team in Japanese baseball, with 22 titles under their belts. (The Saitama Seibu Lions are in second place with 13.) We took a trip to the Tokyo Dome to see the team in action.

Before the game started, we had a couple hours to kill. Luckily, Tokyo Dome City is a great place to kill time. An entire entertainment complex has sprung up around the stadium, with arcades, roller coasters, bars, restaurants, a mall, and even a hotel occupying a towering 47-story skyscraper. We went to the top of this building for a view over the dome, and then stopped by the arcade to challenge each other to a fierce match of video game pogo-jumping.

But the game was about to start, so we raced over to the 7-11 to stock up on beer and snacks — the ability to bring in your own supplies remains my favorite aspect of baseball in both Japan and Korea. The regular seats were all sold out, so we bought standing-room-only tickets, but I wasn’t too bothered… at least the stadium would be full, in stark contrast to the Swallows game we’d seen in April. But it turns out that standing-room in the Tokyo Dome is not good. There are only certain areas in which you’re allowed to stay, and the best spots are reserved by groups who have come in early and laid down their mats.

So we couldn’t see much. We maneuvered into an uncomfortable position behind the first-base line and, from our tiptoes, were able to catch some of the action. The Giants got off to a horrible start, dropping three runs in the first inning, and the crowd wasn’t exactly jubilant. Between each inning, we moved to a different spot, but never found a place which afforded a decent view. I don’t like leaving a match early, but the standing-room tickets had been half-price, so I felt justified in going home at the halfway point. The Giants ended up losing 7-2.

As a stadium, the Tokyo Dome leaves a lot to be desired. Baseball is meant to be seen outside, and being indoors ruins the atmosphere. That said, we’d have had more fun if we had planned properly and gotten actual seats. And the entertainment complex of Tokyo Dome City is certainly worth some time, even if you’re not going to the game. Overall, we enjoyed everything about the evening, except actually watching baseball.

Location of the Tokyo Dome on our Map

Great Gifts From The Japan

Yomiuri Giants Tokyo Dome City
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July 5, 2014 at 11:11 am Comments (2)

The Modern Side of Yokohama

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After dedicating the morning to Yokohama’s historic harbor district and grabbing lunch in Asia’s largest Chinatown, we moved farther north up the bay and spent the afternoon in the more modern part of town.

Modern Yokohama

The 1980s were an exciting time for Yokohama. At the beginning of the decade, it surpassed Osaka in population to become Japan’s second-largest city. In 1983, work began on Minato Mirai 21, a sprawling complex built on reclaimed land that was destined to become the city’s new business and entertainment district. And in 1989, Yokohama unveiled both the world’s tallest Ferris wheel (the Cosmo Clock) and the 860-meter Yokohama Bay Bridge.

Modern Yokohama

Our afternoon began at the Red Brick Warehouses, located across from Osanbashi Pier. These twin buildings were built in 1905, and managed to survive the disasters that leveled the rest of the city, thanks to the durable material with which they were constructed. Today, they host upscale shops and provide a unique setting for special events.

Modern Yokohama

From here, it was a short walk to Cosmo World, home of the aforementioned Cosmo Clock. The amusement park is free to enter and we wandered underneath a roller coaster to watch a steady procession of screaming adolescent girls splash down the water log ride. (Amusement parks in Japan seem to be popular with screaming adolescent girls.) We considered riding the Ferris wheel, but the sky was turning a strange color, so we decided to keep our feet on the ground.

Modern Yokohama

Sure enough, as we crossed a bridge into the Minato Mirai 21 district, an astounding wind storm kicked up. I hadn’t felt wind like this for a very long time, nearly strong enough to knock us both over. Umbrellas and hats were flying, bikes were being blown over, and hairstyles were being ruined all around us. This was chaotic fun for a couple minutes, but made it impossible to appreciate the architecture of this modern urban district, whose name means “Port of the Future in the 21st Century.” Soon, we were running for shelter in the Landmark Tower.

Modern Yokohama

Until being bested by Osaka’s Abeno Harukas in 2014, the Yokohama Landmark Tower was the tallest building in Japan. Completed in 1993, the tower boasts an observation deck on its 69th floor, and elevators that reach speeds of 28 mph.

Modern Yokohama

Almost two months after having arrived in Japan, it was from atop the Landmark Tower that we finally saw Mount Fuji. The wind storm had removed some of the smog, revealing the famous flat-capped mountain on the horizon. We sat down in comfortable chairs facing west, ordered wine, and stayed put as the sun went down. It was the perfect way to end an exceptional day in Yokohama.

Locations on our Map: Red Brick Warehouses | Cosmo Clock | Landmark Tower

Hotels In Yokohama

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June 26, 2014 at 6:50 am Comments (2)

After One Month in Tokyo

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Well, we blinked. We tried our hardest to resist the impulse, but three seconds after stepping off the plane, we blinked… and here we are, a month later. Understand this: Tokyo warps time. This city causes hours, days and weeks to collapse into a blur. A colorful, wild and entertaining blur, but still just a blur.

Most Memorable

Mike: Sakura season in Tokyo is magical. It’s the end of winter, and everyone goes out to celebrate hanami, or flower viewing parties. Our visit to Inokashira Park, where we rowed around a pond with blossoms falling around us, is an experience I’ll always remember.

Jürgen: On our first day, we went up on top of the Tokyo SkyTree. Unfortunately, a snow storm had settled in, completely obscuring our view, but the clouds eventually lifted and we saw for the first time the sheer size of Tokyo. It took my breath away.
Favorite Food

Mike: The food is possibly the best aspect of Tokyo, and I’m sorely tempted to give a cop-out answer like “everything,” but I won’t. So I’m going to go with sushi. That’s really obvious, but the sushi here is unbelievable. Cheap and delicious. And whenever a day goes by that we didn’t eat some, I feel like we’ve wasted time.

Jürgen: I’m obsessed with the noodles. Soba for breakfast, udon for lunch and ramen for dinner. Now that’s a perfect day!
Most Surprising

Mike: It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was on the toilet when I felt my very first earthquake. Just minding my own, tending to business, when everything started to shake. Thank god it wasn’t the “ultra-quake” that’s due to strike Tokyo, because the stall would have been an ignoble place to die.

Jürgen: Normally, if you ask me what I wanted more of, my answer would be “money.” But in Tokyo, “money” only makes it to third place. Here, what I most desire is “time.” I hate how fast days fly by! And second place would go to having more space. More money would be nice, too, but here in Tokyo it’s not all that important! Or rather, not as important as other things.
Most Disappointing

Mike: Even though I don’t read Japanese, and can therefore only appreciate a fraction of it, the entertainment culture here is every geek’s fantasy. Anime and manga and trading card games and Pokemon and Gundam models and weird candy and mind-blowing arcade games. So, I’m disappointed that I didn’t grow up in Japan, because there’s so much I missed out on.

Jürgen: I’m disappointed that I can’t understand Japanese. The city is fun for a foreigner, but if you could speak the language and communicate with people, read the menus and newspapers, you’d be able to appreciate Tokyo on a whole different level.
Funniest/Weirdest

Mike: A difficult category, because Tokyo is the undisputed world capital of weird and funny things! I guess I’ll go with the rockabillies in Yoyogi Park. I’ve never seen such an awesome clash of cultures… actually, I’ve never seen anything like that at all.

Jürgen: The strangest thing is how quiet people are on the morning metro. The trains are crammed with people, but you could hear a pin drop inside! It’s like everyone is trying to escape into themselves. In the evening it’s a whole different story with people in much louder spirits, probably thanks to Happy Hour!
How Expensive? From 1 (cheap) to 10 (expensive)

Mike: 7. Compared to how expensive I expected life to be, Tokyo has been a pleasant surprise. It’s possible to live here without busting the bank. Yes, apartments are small and pricey, but day-to-day expenses are reasonable. Some of our favorite meals have been bargains, and you can even find clothes at decent prices.

Jürgen: I would say a 8. To live comparably to how people in Europe live, you’d need to shell out. But you can live cheaply too. But I’m not even trying to save any money… not with all the great things to buy here!
People from Tokyo Are…

Mike: … usually in a hurry to get somewhere. They’re thin and nicely dressed, although I must say I’ve never seen so many women just absolutely unable to deal with their high-heels. Tokoyites are mostly polite, but can be quite pushy in certain situations, like when claiming a seat on the subway or getting ahead of you in a line.

Jürgen: … very polite and forgiving to foreigners when we make silly cultural mistakes. And I love how organized they are. Everything in its correct place. Very efficient!
Tokyo in Three Words

Mike: Suits, Sushi, Subways

Jürgen: Packed, Cute, Overwhelming
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May 13, 2014 at 9:24 am Comments (4)
The Yomiuri Giants & Tokyo Dome City The Yomiuri Giants are the the New York Yankees of Japan. You can love them or hate them, but ambivalence is not allowed. They're by far the richest and most successful team in Japanese baseball, with 22 titles under their belts. (The Saitama Seibu Lions are in second place with 13.) We took a trip to the Tokyo Dome to see the team in action.
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