• Take in a game at Japan’s oldest ballpark, built in 1924
• Learn the ropes of cheering along with baseball-crazed Osakans
• Savor delicious local ballpark snacks
If you’ve only seen baseball played in North America—and thought no culture could love the game more—you’re in for a delightful surprise. Japan is about as hard-core devoted as it gets to the so-called American pastime, and while the rules of the game here are essentially the same, the experience is something else entirely. Osaka’s home team, the Hanshin Tigers, play at Hanshin Koshien Stadium, the oldest ballpark in Japan, opened in 1924. (Fun fact: Boston’s Fenway Park is America’s oldest professional park, and, much like the resident Red Sox and the New York Yankees, the Hanshin Tigers are longtime rivals with the bigger-city Yomiuri Giants, from Tokyo.) Before the game, you’ll definitely want to stock up on some vital fan equipment: perhaps a pair of plastic cheer bats, or a tiger-striped towel to wave at appropriate intervals. And you’ll absolutely want to scope out the snack bar. Instead of peanuts and Cracker Jacks, try chewy dried-eel sticks, or dig into bento boxes filled with pickled fish and vegetables. Once the game starts, the nonstop cheering might make you hoarse. No need to wait in line again for a drink—just flag down the neon-clad beer girl hustling up and down the aisles for a cold pint of Asahi or Kirin, which she’ll pour from a mini-keg strapped to her back. Remember to be respectful when the other team is at bat—no taunts or booing at this ballpark. And make sure you’re in your seat for the bottom of the seventh inning, when fans inflate and launch thousands of colored balloons into the air, engulfing the stadium in a rainbow-hued cloud. Win or lose, a Tigers game is always a thrill.
Japan’s baseball season begins in late March or early April and runs through the playoffs in October. Game tickets can be arranged in advance by the Conrad concierge. A taxi from the Conrad Osaka to Hanshin Koshien Stadium usually takes about 30 minutes, but can vary depending on traffic, which may be heavy on game days. To take the train, walk to either Fukushima Station or Umeda Hanshin Station (both are five minutes from the hotel) and take the Hanshin Line to Koshien Station (15 minutes); the stadium is a five-minute walk from the station.