The Seibu Dome is a great place to watch baseball. I went here with my Japanese colleague to take in a game between the Seibu Lions and the Tokyo Giants in interleague play (Pacific vs. Central League). This stadium is unique in that it is domed but there are no walls in most sections of the stadium. And where there might have been partial walls, they did not meet the roof. As such, it is still partially open air. This offers the pleasant feature of allowing enjoyment of the game in the fresh air without it being affected by the elements. The stadium concession stands were a little primitive by US stadium standards but they were still extensive. There were several food choices including noodles, sushi and other Asian fare as well as Western stadium food such as KFC. Japanese baseball is a unique experience as the fans from the two teams sit, for the most part, on opposite sides of the stadium. In this case, there were a large contingent of Giants fans since Tokyo was an easy train ride from Saitama. When each team is at bat, their fans are led in organized chants and cheers to support their teams. For the home team, this included a drum (a la the movie "Major League") and a horn. There were also notable differences in some details such as the fact that the Manager can remain on the field as a new pitcher is warming up, players can play catch in front of the dugouts during the game and other such nuances. But the key thing is that the quality of play has always been very good from what I observed. The play tends to go on for a while (almost 4 hours in this case) as Japanese hitters are more patient and pitchers tend to nibble the corners instead of challenge the hitters. This makes for deep pitch counts and longer playing time. This was the eighth Japanese Major League, or Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), stadium to which I have been and this was probably one of the most enjoyable games I have witnessed. It helped that there was an exciting finish with a two-out, 3-run single (yes, single) in the ninth inning by the Tokyo batter (I think it was Abe) who had two strikes on him at the time. It was a hit that fell between the 2Bman, CF and RF and was off the glove of the 2Bman who unfortunately fell injured and had to be carried off the field by stretcher. That hit erased a 3-1 Seibu lead. Overall, it was a fun game to watch. If you are visiting Japan, a visit to an NPB game can be a very enjoyable experience. Even if you are not a baseball fan, it is an interesting window into Japanese culture. While Sumo might be the uniquely Japanese sport, Baseball is still the National game and the populace follows their teams passionately. The manifestation of this passion is intriguing to witness.
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