Nippon Professional Baseball (an organization similar to the USA’s MLB) consists of two leagues, the Central League (Chunichi Dragons, Hanshin Tigers, Hiroshima Toyo Carp, Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Yokohama DeNA BayStars, and the Yomiuri Giants) and the Pacific League (Chiba Lotte Marines, Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Orix Buffaloes, Saitama Seibu Lions, and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles). There are also two minor leagues, the Eastern and Western Leagues respectively.
Baseball season in Japan starts in late March or early April with spring training and continues with games nearly every day, six days a week with Mondays off, until October, when the annual playoffs called the “Climax Series” decides which team from each league will compete in the Japan Series, for a shot at the national championship.
After the devastation of WWII, the Nippon Professional Baseball League underwent an expansion process to create two separate regional leagues for new teams to join. In December of 1949, Hiroshima Prefecture happily took part in this positive baseball movement by establishing their first professional team within the Central League, the Hiroshima Carp.
Following a shaky start with insufficient funding, a lack of solid recruits, and an unfortunate losing streak, Hiroshimans had to fight to keep their new team from being disbanded and having to merge with another team. Barely hanging on at the bottom of the NPB rankings, the Hiroshima Carp managed to stay strong and persist thanks to the loyal support of Hiroshimans and the determination of the players. In 1968, Toyo Kogyo, Mazda’s former title, became the main sponsor of the team, changing the name accordingly to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
Following the new name and sponsor affiliation, the Toyo Carp went on to win a series of championships, quickly becoming a Central League powerhouse. Despite an unfortunate decline since their glory days, the Carp are still hailed proudly in the hearts of Hiroshimans as a source of entertainment, rivalry, and a symbol for overcoming hardships.
These days, regardless of win or loss, attending a Carp game at the new Hiroshima Municipal Stadium (officially titled the MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium) is sure to be a fun way to spend an afternoon. With a capacity of just 32,000 seats, the stadium is the smallest in Japan, but thanks to the energy of Carp fans, the small size only adds to the experience.
Each seat offers a good, up close view of the field, and each is bound to be surrounded on all sides by some of the most notoriously spirited fans in the country. A close-quarters, high energy environment like this makes it impossible not to get into the spirit of the game, as Carp fans seem to be in constant cheer. For every player, the fans have a specific chant, and regardless of the score, this chant will be on repeat until long after the player has finished batting.
Even if you’re not a super fan, however, everyone loves an opportunity to catch a homerun ball, and the low outfield fences of this field provide ample opportunities. Despite the recent addition of a high-tech scoreboard, the stadium carries an old-fashioned charm, complete with a natural grass outfield and bullpens along the foul lines.
The MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium
With a multitude of spring training and pre-season games coming up, you can be sure to find at least one to fit your schedule! You can purchase your tickets from the stadium directly, or on the Carp’s official website, either pre-sale or on the day of the game.
Since this process can seem a bit overwhelming with all of the different seating options available, be sure to check out this page for a comprehensive guide. As mentioned previously, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, but sometimes the volume of people in attendance makes it hard to secure a place with your group. This is especially true of the cheapest, non-reserved seat option, so get there early!
You can find more information on buying tickets by clicking through to this article, also on Japan Info Swap: Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Baseball Tickets in Japan
Image by “unknown” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons