Sunday, July 28, 2019

2019 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Home runs not enough in defeats

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 2-3 against the Rakuten Eagles and Nippon-Ham Fighters for the week. They currently sit in third place, but only by half a game above the Eagles.

Here is what happened:


The first game on Tuesday was scheduled to have Tatsuya Imai and Wataru Karashima, but it was rained out. 


Takahiro Norimoto instead too the bump for the Eagles while the Lions stuck with Imai for the first game played in Sendai. The Lions were unable to capitalize on early mistakes from Norimoto's control issues and they paid the price.

Imai failed to get a shutdown inning twice when allowing a home run to Hideto Asamura and "Ginji" Akaminai. Takeya "Okawari-kun" hit a solo HR to give the Lions a lead, but Ginji's HR was enough for the Eagles to take the series opener.

Eagles 4, Lions 3


Game two had Karashima taking on Wataru Matsumoto. Okawari-kun's solo HR started the scoring and consecutive base hits by the Lions had Karashima taken out by the 5th inning. Matsumoto hit a career high eight strikeouts and Ernesto Mejia had a modasho with a solo HR in the 8th. It was Matsumoto's fifth win of the year.

Lions 5, Eagles 1


The Lions week went back home with Takayuki Kato against Ken Togame. This one looked over early when Togame was tagged for seven runs in the first two innings. This included a HR from Sho Nakata and a bases-clearing double from Kensuke Kondo.

It wasn't over as the Lions fought back including home runs by Hotaka Yamakawa and Okawari-kun where it was eventually 7-7 after five innings. Ryosuke Moriwaki returned for hte top of the 6th and failed to get a shutdown inning. A bases clearing hit from Ryo Watanabe with Katsunori Hirai pitching was enough to give the Fighters the lead for good. It was a comeback just short.

Fighters 12, Lions 7


Shinsaburo Tawata came in for his second start since returning against Hiroshi Urano. The Lions had a 4-0 lead with four solo HRs from Shogo Akiyama, Shuta Tonosaki, Tomoya Mori and Okawari-kun. This didn't help for a win as errors and poor defense led to a six-run inning by the Fighters in the top of the 5th.

Mori hit two more HRs in the game, but it wasn't enough as the bullpen continued to be tagged for runs the rest of the night.

Fighters 10, Lions 6

-Game note: Ryuya Ogawa was called up for Shota Takekuma.


The final game had Zach Neal against Mizuki Hori. Yamakawa's timely hit had the Lions score first, but the Fighters responded with two runs in the second. He later hit a two-run HR and some timely hits appeared to have given the Lions a comfortable lead. After Neal gave up a run in thee 6th, he had no issues as he went seven innings for the night with a career-high seven strikeouts.

Sho Nakata hit a solo HR off Hirai, but it didn't look to be damaging as the Lions had insurance runs in the bottom of the 6th. With one out in the top of the 9th, Tatsushi Masuda allowed a three-run HR to Kondo and it was all tied up. In a game where Berry Goodman, the music group who performs Masuda's walkup song, "Raion (Lion)", he blew the save opportunity. Masuda had to escape with more runners on base and keep the game tied going to extra innings.

Fumikazu Kimura had a four hit game and successfully reached base with a single in the 10th. Shogo Akiyama hit a routine grounder to shortstop, but Takuya Nakashima misfielded it as the ball bounced into no-man's land and Kimura scored from first for the sayonara win, ending the small skid.

Lions 8, Fighters 7 (10 innings) 


This week could have been worse. It wasn't the end of the world, but the concern for Hirai is very real. Let's hope Masuda's blown save was just a fluke and only a Fighters issue, as his ERA against them is higher than 11.00.  Offense will have its up and downs, but the pitching has not been there aside from Zach Neal's great return.

There's a lot of baseball left, but on paper, the Lions pitching means they'll come up short.


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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Neal finally earned opportunity in Japan after long wait

Zach Neal's journey to Japan wasn't all rosy and simple out of the gate. In fact, his way of getting across the Pacific Ocean was delayed by several years.

It all started in 2016, where he made his MLB debut for the Oakland Athletics and appearing in 24 total games for them. With six starts and 70 innings of work at the Major League level, Neal said in an interview on Japan Baseball Weekly that he had interest from teams in Asia and even an offer from a team South Korea's KBO League.

With Neal himself not getting any younger and already being 27 by the time he made it to MLB, he has shown interesting in going to another country.

"It's always been something that I've aspired to do," Neal said in an interview with Jim Allen. "Me and my wife always thought it would be so cool for the experience and learning the culture. We always thought it would be something that's fun and have always dreamed of doing it."

The Oakland A's were aware of the interest Neal had when the 2016 season ended and prevented this by placing him on the 25-man roster. During the 2016 season, the Yokohama DeNA Baystars tried to sign C Matt McBride, but the A's also prevented themselves from losing a player by placing him on their MLB roster to keep depth.

For Neal, the A's were the obstacle that stood in the way of another opportunity. He found his path to Asia to be nearly impossible. 

"I started learning how truly hard it is to get over here," Neal said. "Your stars really have to align. "I always tell my friends, if you get the chance and your stars do align, I think that you should do it. I can tell you first hand that it's not easy to get here."

Neal spent majority of 2017 in the A's then-minor league organization in Nashville (AAA) after struggling in 6 MLB games. Last year, he was part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and spent most of the season with their AAA affiliate in Oklahoma City.

He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds before going back to the Dodgers in the middle of the same year. Neal only had one Major League appearance in 2019 as a September callup.

The Saitama Seibu Lions were eyeballing him for some time and they approached him after the year while giving him his first offer to Japan. Neal joked that he had to make sure his agent was dead serious and not joking about this.  

Once Neal arrived in Japan, it wasn't the start he was hoping for. After winning his NPB debut on April 2, he was fortunate to have two five-inning outings before a rough start in Chiba which lasted only 3.2 innings. 

The Lions sent him down to ni-gun on April 24 shortly after his last ichi-gun game where he had to rehab. An injury set him back and he admitted he pushed himself a little harder than he should have.

"In spring training, I had a hamstring [problem]," Neal said. "I've never had that happen to me or miss time. That was a shock. I felt like I was a little bit limping into the start of the season, [but] I wanted to be ready for them and was putting pressure on myself. I did't feel 100% myself, then I get sent down to the minor leagues and had a chance to work with the coaches there."

Neal said his stint down in ni-gun was a plus, where he worked with coaches and had several starts to get back to full conditioning. He had to hit the weight room as he lost more strength than usual.

During the entire month of May while in ni-gun, he studied how NPB hitters approach pitchers and how its style of game differs from what he was used to stateside. He made sure to work with coaches and pay attention to the technical details throughout this time.

"I was inquisitive about everything," Neal said. "I wanted someone who has been here and throws like me to help me. I've never pitched in Japan. I'm not gonna tell you 'I know how to pitch in Japan.' I know what I can do well, so I was trying to learn the game and trying to learn from the coaches who've done it and had success. That was nice and a big step for me. I think it's been helpful."

Neal saw how it's hard to find a baseball job in Japan, let alone Asia. Being in Japan can also be an easy place to fail or struggle on the field. 

"From just learning the hitters and how they go about their business in the box, their strategy, the plan, for me I'm a contact guy. I try to throw strikes and force the issue. I try to pitch my game. At first, that was good in that place, but I've had to adjust and learn some new pitches. I've had to change the way from what has always been successful for me, I've had to make some new adjustments."

These adjustments have paid off recently. He was given his first ichi-gun start last June in interleague play and made the most of it, going five innings for his first win since the home opener. He has since won four consecutive decisions in as many starts through July 21.

His secret to all of this has been the work ethic to continue improving his game. There is nothing more than picking up more information on opponents and techniques to the game of Japanese baseball.

Given the language boundaries with teammates and coaches, he said body language is something is universal and how you carry yourself sends a message to anyone around. He has kept a positive vibe and has been welcomed by teammates for it. One common goal among any team in sports is to work together and win. Japan is no different than any place else on this matter, according to Neal. 

Neal said he wants to stay in Japan and has already liked what he's seen so far since joining the Lions. He continues to take it all in while also further his baseball career in NPB. 

"What I'm trying to do everyday is learn as much as I possibly can," Neal said. "I know coming that this is such a cool and unique opportunity. I don't want to foil that in any way. I come here trying to get better each and every day because I want to stay here. I want to play here. I enjoy my time [in Japan]." 


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Sunday, July 21, 2019

2019 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Nakamura's 400th HR becomes a sayonara


The Saitama Seibu Lions went 4-2 on the homestand against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Orix Buffaloes. They're currently on the bubble with A-class as the Rakuten Eagles could hold a slight lead in front of them by the end of the week.

Here is how it all went down:


The first game coming of the All-Star break had Tatsuya Imai against Daiki Iwashita. From the first inning, the Lions jumped out to a 4-1 lead thanks to a timely hit from Takumi Kuriyama. The top of the 2nd had things go south when Imai gave up three runs and tied things up.

Yuji Kaneko had a timely hit in the 6th to give the Lions a lead, but the top of the 7th proved to be the backbreaker, as Kyle Martin allowed a two-run HR to Brandon Laird. Even with all of this, the Lions had a last-gasp chance in the bottom of the 9th against Naoya Masuda with two runners on, but Tomoya Mori struck out and Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura had a weak flyout to end the game.

Marines 6, Lions 5


Game two had Ken Togame against Hideaki Wakui. Sosuke Genda had a timely hit in the third inning while Tomoya Mori added one in the 6th, but this outing was all about Togame going seven shutout innings for his 50th career win. The Lions pulled away in the 7th inning with three more runs in a comfortable victory.

Lions 5, Marines 1


The final game of the series had Keisuke Honda facing Kazuya Ojima. Takashi Ogino hit a solo HR in the third inning, but this game had Honda escaping several jams with double plays. In the second, he had a bases-loaded and no out situation, but a key 1-2-3 double play ended any chance.

It wasn't until the 5th where the Lions would score four runs from a bases loaded, no out situation. Shogo Akiyama and Shuta Tonosaki had timely hits to make it 4-1.

Katsunori Hirai struggled in the 8th giving up two runs, but Tatsushi Masuda closed this out without any fanfare as the Lions took the series.

Lions 4, Marines 3


The first game against Orix had Kona Takahashi against Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Takahashi gave up several hits, but didn't allow many runs until the top of the 6th inning. With the bases loaded and Shota Takekuma coming in, all three runners scored from a timely hit and a home plate throwing error to make it 4-0.

Orix gave a run back on an error in the 7th, but Yamamoto was lights out for the night. However, this game wasn't over when Yuji Kaneko hit a game-tying three-run HR off Brandon Dickson in the bottom of the 9th. Kaneko had to throw someone out in the 11th inning when a base hit was given up too.

With the game tied and Hirotoshi Masui pitching, Okawari-kun had an opportunity. With no doubt, he hit his 400th career HR into the Lions Oendan for a sayonara in what was a storybook finish.

Lions 5, Buffaloes 4 (11 innings) 

Game note:

-Kaima Taira made his ichi-gun debut in the 9th inning while the team was trailing 4-1. He induced a double play.


The second game had Daichi Takeyasu facing Shinsaburo Tawata, where the latter made his first ichi-gun start since May. Tawata gave up a solo HR to Shuhei Kojima while Fumikazu Kimura tied the game on a timely single.

Masataka Yoshida broke the tie in the 6th inning with a solo HR and another timely hit made it 3-1. Tawata wasn't awful, but he was outpitched by Takeyasu, who went seven strong innings and a few baserunning blunders led to double plays by the Lions as the three-game win streak was snapped.

Buffaloes 3, Lions 1


The rubber match had Zach Neal against Yudai Aranishi. Steven Moya started the scoring for Orix with a two-run HR in the first inning, but the Lions responded with an RBI groundout as a triple from Sosuke Genda put them on the board.

Both sides squandered chances, but the Lions ended up taking another unconventional run in the 4th with a fielder's choice. Yoshida hit a solo HR in the top of the 6th to give Orix the lead again.

However, the bottom of the 6th had Hotaka Yamakawa come back with a three-run HR off a relief pitcher as Buffaloes lead disappeared quickly. Neal kept the Lions in the game with six decent innings and was rewarded with a win. A timely hit from Shogo Akiyama and a flurry of extra runs in the 8th put the icing on the cake as the Lions took their second straight series.

Lions 10, Buffaloes 3

Game note:

-Okawari-kun left the game in the 8th after fouling a pitch off his foot. 


This was a good week, but it could've been close to a sweep if it weren't for a few hiccups. Given how the first game against Chiba was, it's easy to think this should have been better, but it wasn't worse. The real series test in Sendai will be huge and telling one way or another. We'll see what happens.


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Thursday, July 18, 2019

2019 Japan Trip Report: Nagoya Leg

With the Kanto Leg already done, the next portion of this trip went into Nagoya to see a three-game series of the Saitama Seibu Lions and Chunichi Dragons. Here's what happened while in the Tokai Region: 

Day 6: Arrival

Rode the Shinkansen (bullet train) for the first time and left Nagoya Station before checking in to my location within Naka Ward. This time, the sun was up and it easy to find the building without trouble. There was a blooper after I checked in.

While attempting to get to Otobashi station, I ended up on an express train towards Ogaki and chose to exit in Gifu City, which is in Gifu prefecture. Rather than just turn around, I figured I could use my JR Pass and take a stroll around for about 40 minutes. It wasn't a bad walk around the city.

The Main target of course was Nagoya Stadium, the Chunchi Dragons farm team building and former ichi-gun stadium. Any fan knows this is also where the film Mr. Baseball took place. 

Walking around the area being a residential was a pleasant surprise. Can't imagine how rocking this area was before 1997.  

After exploring the rest of that afternoon, I walked through the Osu shopping district.

By recommendation unanimously among my friends and even a few on Twitter, everyone told me to head to Yabaton, a local chain which is known for a Nagoya specialty of Red Miso Tonkatsu. The real thrill I got out of this besides the tasty meat was the unlimited rice and iced green tea that kept coming.

I didn't even read the menu close enough, but when the waitress said "Okawari" with "Gohan", I knew it was a meal where I could get as much rice as I wanted. Was waiting to say Okawari in a non-baseball setting and finally got to do it here. A good six bowls of rice worked perfectly. 


Day 7: Beach/First Game

I took the train down to Taketoyo and continued to Mihama where I saw Nagoya Bay on the southwest side of Aichi prefecture. The train ride felt scenic to say the least.

Another walk through the Osu district had me check out one particular restaurant to try Miso Nokomi Udon. This Udon had a very distinct broth that wasn't too heavy, but also thicker than usual. Because Nagoya is known for Chicken, I asked for the bird along with some egg to go with it. The chef was surprised to see a foreign tourist like me there for baseball and even made a joke about how the Dragons aren't up to par.

Eventually hit Nagoya Dome going to Ozone station as it was the final day of my JR Pass before it expired.


The game itself was a crazy blowout where Shuta Tonosaki had a three-hit game and several home runs made a traditional pitchers park look tiny. At 16-2, it was the largest blowout I witnessed on the trip. 


Day 8: Nagoya Castle

I walked through the heart of Nagoya to reach the park featuring Nagoya Castle, famous for being built on the rocks. There is also a replica Honmaru Palace that was restored for anyone to walk through. It was fun walking through with no shoes on. 

Inside the park, there was a restaurant that featured Kishimen, a Tokai regional variant of Udon. Broth had a different spin to it while the noodles were more flat. 

While heading back, I also stopped by a place to eat Hitsumabushi Unagi (grilled eel). This was by far the most luxurious meal I ate while in Japan and it was interesting to have the eel with different condiments versus just by itself. Personally, I thought it tasted good as is, but using teh dashi and other elements didn't hurt. As you may have noticed, I had no shoes on eating at a small table.

As for the game itself, this was the one to remember with the Lions being no-hit through four innings and not tying the game until the 7th. It was an entertaining affair where the Lions came out on top with three clutch runs in the 9th inning. Nothing more than remarkable from this thriller.


Day 9: Eating Differently? 

I walked towards Kanayama Station and knew of a place that served Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki, something I've always wanted to try. Given Hiroshima was not on my itinerary, had to settle for something in a big city.

What was funny is the guy cut it up for me and almost offered a fork, but I said no, as I wanted the true spatula experience. Only thing was being distracted by so many condiments and the yakisoba being overcooked as I took awhile to eat it. It was tasty. 


While heading back, I also walked through a grocery store for the first time, which in my opinion, is an underrated fun experience when traveling anywhere in another country. It was a "Max Value" store and I enjoyed seeing all the fish being sold or noticing how they're packaged compared to the States. The beverages I bought were also much cheaper than a convenience store or vending machines. 

What stands out when taking the Nagoya Subway to Nagoya Dome is the long walk through all the Dragons posters through the station. It's a nicely decorated walk on an elevated surface as you get to Nagoya Dome itsel. 

This Dorayaki ended up being one of my favorite desserts on the trip. Castella covering red bean? Can't go wrong!  

This game had a pitcher's duel written all over it. In a 2-1 affair, both sides couldn't capitalize on chances, but it was great to see Zach Neal come back to the ichi-gun and get a win in his return.

I also ran into some very awesome fans where Takeshi (right) recognized my face from earlier.

The long conversation I had about Ikkyu in Kanto led to me see someone's friends in Nagoya. Mami (left) and Miri (right) were very nice with the latter being a college student wanting to practice English. Miri is also a descendant of Fukuoka, where her family followed the Lions likely from their Nishitetsu days.

Because the Lions were the winning team for all 3 games, the Oendan did an after party celebration each time. Here's a clip of what it looked like.


A fun thing to note while in Nagoya, I stayed in a house with a lot of Americans and none of them liked drying their laundry outdoors. I was the only one who had the nerve to hang everyone on the roof like someone traditionally would. Got a nice view out of it.


As a whole, Tokai had a lot to offer and see and it felt like Nagoya was off the beaten path for a normal tourist. I didn't see any big crowds and it felt like everything was localized. Even at Nagoya Castle, the crowds were small, only saw a handful of domestic tourists while those exploring were mostly from China or Taiwan.

Given Nagoya is usually just a stop on the Shinkansen towards Osaka, I'm happy I was able to get off and see this area for what it is. It wasn't boring and had plenty of food options to keep me interested. Seeing a Lions sweep was just a bonus.


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Sunday, July 14, 2019

2019 Japan Trip Report: Kanto Leg

My first career trip to Japan took place in June of 2019 during a portion of the interleague season. Call it a long time coming, call it overdue, but it finally came. Due to some crazy workload since coming back combined with a busy season picking up, it has been hard to put together a post about my trip and travels through observation. 

I live tweeted anything I saw on @GraveyardBall throughout the time, but rather than do everything in 140 characters, I'll summarize my day by day adventures here by each leg. 

Day 0: Hawaii Layover

The Prince Hotel can be seen in gold, as the sun rose near Waikiki Beach.
Rather than go in one long flight from California like most would, I had an extended layover in Hawaii for 13 hours and caught up with a friend. From a few meals to a walk around Waikiki at night, I saw the Prince Hotel while wandering around the streets in Honolulu. 

Of course any NPB fans would know Prince Hotels are one of the many things that the Seibu Lions own and the their Prince Waikiki is one of three stateside properties. Wes, the founder of his blog, has stayed at several of these prior to being a Lions fan. Quietly, he's been donating to the Lions unconsciously. 


Day 1: Arrival

Even through customs, it was funny when I wrote I was here for Baseball or 野球 on my card. The security guard got a smile out of it. 

Got through the airport no problem and this was probably the only scary part of the trip for me. The SIM card I purchased prior to departing failed and had to give in to Pocket Wifi. Therefore, I donated about $100+ to the Softbank Hawks, so you're welcome.  

What made this nerve wrecking was how I didn't get the address of my crash site until I landed and then navigated on the fly. After picking up the JR Pass, I got the first train experience going through the edge of Chiba prefecture and calmly looked at the paper map I was given.  

When transferring at Akihabara station, I won't forget how someone approached me in Google Translate and felt excited to see a Lions tourist as I was decked out looking at the train map on my ride. This man was willing to help me even though I was going far away. We exchanged contact before I transferred to Ikebukuro. 

After a first Seibu Train experience, I arrive at Higashikurume station and tried following Google Maps to the address I was given. Of course this was a newcomer mistake given it took me through the back streets and I got the full "scenic" views as a result through the neighborhoods. 

It was an unforgettable experience when two strangers (with no English) helped me find the place after I couldn't see the address at night and eventually I found the key. Even in my broken Japanese with incomplete sentences, they knew what I was looking for. I wanted to tip them badly for spending 35+ minutes searching for my crash spot. Eventually I just relaxed after walking to a 7-11 to print the prepaid game tickets.  


Day 2: First game, main tourist spot

I head over to the old Tsukiji Fish Market even though the auctions take place elsewhere. Specifically one egg omelette spot from an infamous BuzzFeed video which made me happy it was ¥100 a piece. 

Couldn't help but buy two of them as with the dashi flavor, it was amazing. I also bought Tuna on a stick for ¥500. Probably a little touristy and maybe a trap, but tasty. Walking around the market was still fun even with it being a tourist thing. 

The only thing I laughed at was some Kimchi sample that had no spice or kick. Guess Japan doesn't like the flavor in Kimchi eh?  It was a fun walk down the streets because I woke up early (slightly after the sun at 5:00AM) and there wasn't any crazy crowds. 

Strolling down the Sumida River was also a fun bonus. 


After buying a few souvenirs for friends it was time to head to MetLife Dome and pickup my first ever game attended. Seeing the building after leaving the main train station still had me in awe, only because it was nice to not see this place through a\ computer screen. 

On the field, this game was a dud with the Yomiuri Giants having their way against Chun-Lin Kuo. Regardless for my first career sighting of MetLife Dome, it was something to sink in seeing all the scoreboards and fans in action. 

Also in a hilarious manner, Ginjiro Sumitani's HR went right to my section. Had I been more aggressive, the ball almost got to me. 

Day 3: More exploring of Kanto

I spent the day going around Shibuya and walking around Jingu Stadium. The first photo from this post came from Shinjuku station. It was a nice walk and the tourism didn't feel as heavy or crowded
at least.


The real gem was walking to the Selection Int store in Shinjuku where there is a great amount of choices for NPB gear if needed. Wouldn't say it's the best or the cheapest, but for anyone that is only staying in Kanto, it is a decent option to find NPB stuff. I mostly purchased for other people while I didn't take much for myself inside. 

I did notice how some teams had cheaper quality replica uniforms while others had their uniform suppliers like Majestic or Descente make them. Was interesting to note.  

This time I made sure to walk around the exterior of MetLife Dome and saw the Indoor practice facility painting the logos on it as they were putting the finishing touches in. Was something to also see the new store which opened earlier this month. I ended up going through the old store which was inside the Seibu indoor skiing facility. 

You can definitely see the contrast in the new dorms (above) versus what the old dorms from Seibu II (below) look like in difference. It was fenced off when I was there, but the walk ways should be open today, like the store on the left side of the stadium entrance. 


As for the game itself, it was a fun exciting blowout as Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura smashed his 18th career grand slam, which is a category he already has the NPB record for. The place was rocking and it made me happy.


This time I was able to nab some food, including the Ernesto Mejia beef plate and some Lions Yaki (Taiyaki variant). Because they were playing the Swallows, they had a special flavor with a Yakult taste to it besides tehir custard cream default. I missed on the Mango from the previous game against the Giants. Couldn't believe I waited 40 minutes for two snacks. 

 The real bonus was the on-field hangout after the game. From throwing a pitch on the mound to even catching one from kids, it was fun. A few fans approached me in broken English while I responded in my broken Japanese. The man pictured here is a college student Shishito, who was very good with his English saying he enjoys my tweets and posts to practice.

All in all, this was a fun day from the win and the other activities.

Also if you didn't already know, the Lions post the scoreboard at all their Seibu train stations, so you don't need social media to find out who won or lost. 


Day 4: Final Home game

I spent the early afternoon in Iruma, Saitama hanging out with locals and kids with some friends from Hope Alive that I know. Lots of fun talking with the kids and practicing Japanese/English besides food. Was a fun little gathering before I went to the game. 

As for the game itself, I did purchase the Tomoya Mori bento box and it had some thrills with a big bases-clearing double from Okawari-kun, but Tatsushi Masuda blew it in the top of the 9th for a Lions loss. Regardless, I made a friend just asking about what Ikkyu is when I saw an add.

I also went on the field for the after-game hangout. Wondering how much electricity this costs? Even though it was raining, I'm thankful MetLife Dome has a roof, or else I wouldn't have been able to see this one! 

My scorekeeping kept me watching, though it was tricky given a few things happen very fast. MetLife Dome's scoreboards don't show all the details outside of a few things behind home plate, so you're really forced to watch closely. 


In a very random surprise, I went to an Onsen experience right in Higashikurume with my friends at Hope Alive. I didn't have this in the travel plans, but I'm thankful I got to do it, because it didn't feel like some place to go alone. 

From what I observed, it was cool seeing fathers and sons there together besides bonding with some of the teams I saw that just arrived. This is definitely something to do with people you know. 


Day 5: Last Full day in Kanto

I chose to do some hiking around Saitama prefecture hearing about the hills and Hachikuyama park. Ended up walking around Lake Tama and seeing MetLife Dome and even Mt. Fuji from the distance.

If anyone is familiar with My Neighbor Totoro,  Hachikokuyama is where the artists stood and drew the landscape for the film. I had to go through given it's in Tokorozawa. I also walked through another park called "Totoro's Forest" which is a preserved area and has graphics on their maps.  This was a nice little walk through nature. 


Without even trying, I walked to MetLife Dome given I had to take the train elsewhere to get to Hope Alive. I ended up donating some money to the Lions through buying a Sosuke Genda Bento box and a Chocolate Banana Crepe (Kona Takahashi's dessert). It is a nice bonus you can just walk around the exterior and have plenty of stadium food without going to the game. 


I walked through the Tokorozawa probe which was a nice stroll before my final night in Kanto at Kokukoen. I didn't have time to see the Aviation museum, which is a significant part of flight history that took place in Tokorozawa. 

This was a fun little hangout after a service with Hope Alive as we played cornhole, sang songs and continued to hangout as the sun set. Was a nice quiet park to walk through.

My final meal from Kanto was some fried chicken (Tori-ten/Tendon) with Udon with Hope Alive inside Tokorozawa Station. Was a fun time and I'd like to once again thank Hope Alive for bringing some extra experiences to my time in Kanto.


Majority of my meals in Kanto came from a convenience store, whether it was 7-11, Family Mart or Lawson. My food portion really came in the Following area. The next leg of this trip was in Nagoya... which is something I'll save for my next post.

Matane, MetLife Dome. 



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