The Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium: Experience Japan’s Baseball Culture at the Historic Holy Ground of Japanese Baseball!
Baseball has long been a beloved sport in Japan, and nowhere in the country does it shine brighter than at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium, where thousands of fans gather to cheer on their favorite baseball teams and players. In this article, join Canadian "Rakugo" storyteller Katsura Fukuryu as he rediscovers his love for Japanese baseball and Koshien through a tour of The Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium and the stadium itself. If you're a baseball fan, you absolutely can't miss exploring these dream travel destinations.
Mar 03 2023 (Mar 09 2023)
*This article was written by Canadian Rakugo performer Katsura Fukuryu in collaboration with Hanshin Koshien Stadium.
The Hanshin Koshien Stadium and Me
When I first came to Japan, I lived near the Hanshin Koshien Stadium in a place called Amagasaki. All my neighbors at the time were fervent Hanshin Tigers fans. Hanshin Tigers games were shown almost every day at the local “izakaya” pub.
The baseball games were, of course, fun, but I was particularly struck by the intensity of the cheers of the fans at the stadium that I saw on the screen. Before I knew it, I became enough of a Tigers fan that I would hurrah when a Tigers player made a good play and started to go to baseball games with friends who were fellow Tigers fans. I’ll never forget the fervor of the cheers of the 40,000 fans that filled the stands when I went to see games at the stadium.
The Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium: A Place to Experience Japan’s Baseball Culture at Koshien, the Holy Ground of Japanese Baseball
Hanshin Koshien Stadium, which is known as the holy ground of Japanese baseball, is located about a 15-minute ride on the Hanshin Electric Railway away from Umeda in the heart of Osaka.
It is, of course, wonderful to go to the stadium to watch baseball matches starring the professional Hanshin Tigers team and high school baseball teams, but for this feature article, I donned my favorite Hanshin Tigers jersey to visit a museum that was opened in 1924 where I could see, hear, and experience the 100-year-long history of the Hanshin Koshien Stadium packed with the history of the Hanshin Tigers and high school baseball.
A Museum Integrated With the Hanshin Koshien Stadium
“Koshien Stadium, the holy ground of Japanese baseball” appears in Japanese after getting off the train at Hanshin Electric Railway’s Koshien Station, passing under the highway, and continuing south.
The commercial complex Koshien Plus appears after heading to the left of the stadium’s entrance.
The Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium’s reception is on the second floor of Koshien Plus.
Experience the History of the Hanshin Tigers
The “Museum Gate” is located at the entrance to the “PLUS area.” There is giant, panoramic, and powerful footage of the Hanshin Tigers and high school matches unfolding at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium being projected.
The exhibits and footage in the following areas, such as the “Championships of Pennant Race” that focuses on the years that the Hanshin Tigers won the league championship and displays the winning pennants and trophies, and the “Great Players Series” that introduces the performances of famous players throughout the years, clearly trace through the history.
I did not know the Hanshin Tigers’ history before I came to Japan, so it was very interesting and somehow felt a little nostalgic.
Packed With Opportunities to Feel as if You’ve Become a Japanese Pro Baseball Player
“Touch the Baseball” is an area with a variety of interactive activities. There is a “Player Selection Draft Experience Corner” where you can experience a mock Japanese professional baseball draft meeting. It has multilingual displays so that even those who don’t speak Japanese can also enjoy the experience.
The “VR Corner” has a 360°video of the Hanshin Koshien Stadium that enables you to enjoy the atmosphere of the stadium from the perspective of a baseball player. It was a novel experience to feel the vibe of a baseball game at the stadium even on a day without a match and to see how the players prepare for the next inning on the field from up-close.
Understanding High School Baseball, Which Plays a Key Role in Japan’s Baseball Culture
The first section of the Stadium Area is the “Historical Beginning Ball,” where the ball that was used in the opening game of the first National High School Baseball Championship of Japan is displayed. It shows how the country’s high school baseball started.
There are many more exhibits related to Japan’s high school baseball, including the “Schools Participating in Koshien,” which is made up of 4,253 baseballs (4,253 is the number of schools affiliated with the Japan Highschool Baseball Federation in 2005, when there was the largest number of schools).
There are also exhibits about numerous high school baseball teams and players that captivated fans at Koshien. They reveal that Major League players such as Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Shohei Otani (who is still an active player) were once star high school baseball players.
High school baseball in Japan is not professional baseball, but the sight of high school students striving daily to enter the championship and giving their absolute all in the games move and excite Hanshin Koshien Stadium audiences. The exhibit was a wonderful way to learn about the history and passion behind the sport.
Looking Back at the History of the Hanshin Koshien Stadium
A unique section of the “Hanshin Koshien Stadium Zone” is “’KOSHIEN’ in Manga,” which introduces manga about Koshien. It shows that Koshien appears in a variety of baseball manga, both new and old.
After passing through a corridor with hand-written player nameplates and reliefs of players who were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I arrived at the “Back Screen View,” where I could gaze upon the stadium from right below the scoreboard.
It was snowing at the beginning of the day I visited, offering a different scene than usual, but once the snow stopped, the true Koshien appeared.
This was a Hanshin Koshien Stadium without any spectators, and I had a view from below the back ground, which fans are not allowed in during games. The perspective was that of neither the audience nor players, and it felt as if I was in another world. I was once again struck by how large the stadium is.
*The museum may be closed during events, including baseball games, and stormy weather.
Experience Baseball Virtually at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium
Once you’ve learned more about baseball at the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium, the next thing to do is to experience playing baseball at Koshien!
On the second floor of Koshien Plus is a facility called “BE-STADIUM KOSHIEN supported by STAND IN,” where you can enjoy batting and pitching by facing a jumbo screen that perfectly recreates the Hanshin Koshien Stadium with CG. There are four levels of ball speed and defense to choose from, so everyone from beginners to experienced ball players can enjoy themselves.
When I gave it a try, it felt like I was actually pitching and batting at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium. Sadly, I was not able to hit a homerun, but it was fun to move my body to have the virtual experience of playing at Koshien!
Grab Baseball Gear and Hanshin Tigers Goods
If you want to buy baseball-related souvenirs, I recommend “STAND IN KOSHIEN” on the first floor of Koshien Plus. It has a wide range of products, including baseball gear for players and MLB items.
The “Stadium Shop” on the Hanshin Koshien Stadium side of the first floor has items related to the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium’s history, as well as goods that commemorate the upcoming Koshien 100th Anniversary, and even original Hanshin Tigers merchandise!
Discovering a Popular Ramen Shop at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium
Before going on the stadium tour, I stopped for a bite at Strike NOODLE STUDIO. It is actually where the entrance to the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium used to be.
As expected of a baseball-themed ramen shop, all its ramen have names that are related to baseball. This time, I ordered “Chuka-soba (Straight).” It is truly a classic ramen, with its archetypal appearance, niboshi (dried baby sardine) flavored soy-based soup, and toppings of naruto (cured fish cake with a pink swirl), menma (seasoned bamboo shoot), and nori (dried seaweed).
If you like soy sauce, this Japanese ramen that is simple and “straight,” both visually and in terms of flavor, is definitely worth trying. If you don’t like soy sauce, I recommend the shio (salt) ramen “Daida no Shio” (Pinch Hitter’s Salt) with its light flavor!
Finally, I Stood on the Field of the Hanshin Koshien Stadium
I’ve been to the Hanshin Koshien Stadium to see baseball games before, but this time I’m going to join a stadium tour for the first time and am really looking forward to it.
To participate in a stadium tour, you can register at the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium’s reception. The fee for the stadium tour is 2,000 yen for adults, 1,800 yen for high school students, and 1,400 for children ages 4 and up (this includes admission to the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium).
On this day, I will participate in a tour that will take me around the bullpen, lockers, and benches near third base. (There are other tours that go to different parts of the stadium. There is a tour that allows visitors to see pre-game practice and warmups when there are official Tigers games.)
We will meet at the No. 16 gate with our tickets. By the way, the ticket holders that are given to tour participants can be taken home as souvenirs.
The first stop was the bullpen on the third base line. Actually, the bullpen on the third base line is where pitchers practice pitching before taking the mound, and Koshien’s case, it is indoors. After that, we saw the players’ lockers, which are usually off-limits, and took pictures—all very fun experiences.
Then finally, we headed to Koshien’s field. It was wonderful getting to sit on the benches and feel what it’s like to be a player, as well as look at the perfectly maintained field.
When the high school baseball championships are held, players often take home the dirt from Koshien as a souvenir when they lose a game or when they win the championship.
The Hanshin Koshien Stadium is famous among Japanese baseball fans for the high standards of its grounds maintenance. I have seen on TV numerous times how the grounds are restored with superhuman skills before the start of a match after heavy rain threatens to cancel a professional or high school baseball game. If you have the opportunity, between innings or when there is bad weather, be sure to pay attention to the groundskeepers’ maintenance work.
On the tour, I was able to see scenes that I could not as a fan watching games. Standing on the field and seeing the lockers and other behind-the-scenes areas, I realized that the excitement in the stadium is created not only by players and fans, but with the involvement of various different people.
If you have the opportunity, why not visit the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium, where you can experience the appeal of Japanese baseball, which is different from baseball anywhere else?
●Click here for more on the Museum of Hanshin Koshien Stadium and stadium tours
●Click here to reserve a stadium tour online
●Click here for more on “BE-STADIUM KOSHIEN supported by STAND IN”
Photography date: 1/27/2023
From Osaka-Umeda Station, take a Hanshin Electric Railway Limited Express or Rapid Express to Koshien Station (12 - 15 minutes, 270 yen one-way)
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.