JapanCulture•NYC Explores Tokyo

JapanCulture•NYC is in Tokyo! I’m here on a tour with JapanBall, a company that brings baseball fans to Japan to experience a different look at the game. Usually the tour covers five different cities in seven days, but this week fourteen of us from all over the US – and two Americans living in England – are staying put in Tokyo as MLB begins the 2012 season in Japan.

The Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s will play two games against each other on March 28 and 29. Until then, our group has been enjoying exhibition games. The first was between the Seibu Lions and the Yakult Swallows at historic Meiji Jingu Stadium.

The MLB exhibition games began with a day/night doubleheader on Sunday, March 25. More than 42,000 people attended the matchup between the Hanshin Tigers and the Seattle Mariners, partly because the Osaka-based Tigers have rowdy and loyal fans who travel well, but also because Japanese fans were eager to see Ichiro Suzuki.

With every Ichiro at-bat flashbulbs lit up the Tokyo Dome as if it were the 4th of July. The superstar, who spent nine years with the Orix Blue Wave before becoming the first Japanese-born everyday position player in MLB, went one for four against Hanshin, who won the game 5-1.

Ichiro Suzuki, MLB, NPB, Tokyo Dome, Seattle Mariners
Ichiro takes the field at Tokyo Dome

The nightcap between the Oakland Athletics and the Yomiuri Giants was somewhat more subdued, despite being on the Giants’ home turf. Ichiro may have received the most attention at Tokyo Dome, but another Suzuki made more noise. Oakland catcher and Hawaii native Kurt Suzuki cracked a two-run home run in the 7th inning, and Oakland’s pitchers stifled Yomiuri’s bats, holding the “Yankees of Japan” to two hits in a 5-0 shutout.

For me, this trip isn’t only about baseball. During my two-week stay I’ll explore the parallels between New York and Tokyo. With Japan Society’s latest exhibit, Deco Japan, I’ll look for examples of the deco style here. Perhaps I’ll take in a kabuki show since I can’t attend the Nihon Buyo performances at Japan Society. I won’t have to look far in Tokyo to find Beauty in All Things, the subject of the current exhibit at MAD Museum, or Storytelling in Japanese Art, on view at the Met. Since shochu is becoming popular in NYC, I’ll raise a glass or two of the distilled beverage. What will I find in Tokyo in relation to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011?

Think of it as NYCulture•Japan. If you have suggestions, send them my way at susan@japanculture-nyc.com.