Okay, first, let’s make something clear; you probably don’t hate baseball! You probably just have literally no interest in it and/or are confused by its rules.
After all, it’s probably not a huge exaggeration to say that only Japanese and American crowds truly love this game, and I’ve known even some Americans who still hate it. But that’s okay, continue to read! You don’t even need a game ticket to enjoy the versatile Koba baseball stadium — one of the most recognisable landmarks in Sendai City, Miyagi.
The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (Rakuten Eagles for short) are a baseball team owned by the biggest Japanese online shopping company, Rakuten. The base ballpark of the one and only Tohoku baseball team faces Sendai station’s east exit, about a 20-minute-walk away. You can also take a shuttle bus from the station for just 100 yen on any game day for 5 minutes.
This is what the entrance of the stadium looks like:
The traffic light switches really fast so you gotta hurry! Hence those helpful guys in yellow stripes there to maintain the order of crossing pedestrians!
During the game season (from March to October), the place is full of hustle and bustle every day there is a game held (which is almost every other day)! If you are like me, and have no idea what to expect before entering the somewhat underwhelming gate, you are likely to be pleasantly surprised!
It felt pretty much like an amusement park to me (it does come equipped with a small amusement park), even more so for adults who love beer and food, I presume. But first, you will need to get your tickets (if you are going to watch the game but the peripheral area is actually free to enter). There will be some booths set up beside the gate for you to exchange your voucher, confirmation email, etc. to real tickets. There are also windows on the right side for you to buy tickets directly.
We reserved three ‘international special tickets’ and exchanged them at the designated booth. The international special ticket is a promotional ticket from Rakuten to invite foreigners to watch the game at a cheaper price.
Besides tickets, we were also given a paper of translated lyrics of each Rakuten Eagle player’s theme song. (So you can mumble along!)
Before the game starts, you can see a lot of people either wandering around the site, lining up in front of popular food stalls, savoring beer and fries at the tables or shopping inside the souvenir store. The choices of food and beer there are way more than any Japanese festival (祭り, matsuri) I have ever been to! Sometimes the food stalls are different countries’ specialty, other times they are from popular restaurants around Sendai. They also sell player’s bento (選手弁当), which are lunchboxes made according to a particular Rakuten player’s taste and recommendation. The space to dine is also plentiful and often wide open. You will always have a seat with a good view. Honestly, it’s just a good atmosphere overall, full scale holiday vibe! Oh, they have free wifi, too! So, feel free to take advantage of the likely lengthy baseball game and chat with your pals or work on your Macs.
Okay, now that we had fun outside it’s about time to go inside for game itself.
There are 19 gates around the stadium for you to enter from. Depending on your seat, the closest gate is printed on your ticket. You can bring anything you bought at the site into the stadium and there are plenty more food/drinks to buy again once you are inside. The view of the sports field is just simply amazing! They have a wide range of different seats to suit different customers’ needs (at different prices). Whether you are going with your friends, kids or parents, you can always find seats best for your group. Also, don’t worry about the angle of which your seat views the game if you are not a really serious baseball fan, for there is a big screen hanging on top of the field broadcasting the game. And even outside the field, there are several other screens spread out around the stadium doing the same job, so you won’t miss anything on a short stroll or toilet break.
About the ‘boring’ part——the game itself — I’m just going to offer two simple viewing tips! First, if the person with a stick (the batter) hits the ball, that’s good and it’s usually fun for the next few seconds to focus on the field. Second, if the batter hit the ball and started running, that’s even better, continue watching the game until he stops running. You will know what to do and how to not look like an idiot so long as you follow the crowd.
The rest of the time? Drink yummy beer sold by cute, dressed up Rakuten girls and boys, eat your delicious bento or play a round of baseball batting yourself for as little as 200 yen.
Or you can take commemorative pictures with the cartoon statues of famous people whom you don’t really know… or you can try out the Rakuten souvenir shop and experience being a fake sports fan!
I had never been to a live game before we went to Kobo stadium the first time, so the novelty of it might have contributed to my awesome experience. But why don’t you give it a try yourself? After all, you will be watching an exotic game among an interesting audience, who never seem to fail at making you feel welcomed and surprised at the same time.
https://www.rakuteneagles.jp/index.html (Rakuten Kobo Stadium official website, tickets and game dates inquiry, only in Japanese)
Google map of the stadium: