Jingu Baseball Stadium is a baseball stadium in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. It is the oldest baseball stadium in Tokyo and the home field of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows professional baseball team. It also hosts college baseball, high school baseball, and other events. In this article, we will explore the history, features, and future of this iconic stadium.
History of Jingu Baseball Stadium
Jingu Baseball Stadium was built in 1926 as a memorial to Emperor Meiji, who died in 1912. The stadium was originally named Meiji Shrine Outer Gardens Baseball Ground. It was the first baseball stadium in Japan to have a grass infield and a dirt outfield.
The stadium has witnessed many historical events in Japanese baseball history. In 1934, it hosted the first professional baseball game in Japan, between the All Nippon and the All American teams. The All American team featured legendary players such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. The game attracted a crowd of 65,000 people, the largest ever at the stadium.
In 1964, the stadium was used for an exhibition of baseball when Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics. The United States team of college baseball players, including eight future major league players, defeated a Japanese amateur all-star team, 6–2.
In 1965, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows moved into Jingu Baseball Stadium, replacing Korakuen Stadium as their home ground. The Swallows are one of the six teams in the Central League of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the top level of professional baseball in Japan.
Jingu Baseball Stadium Features
Jingu Baseball Stadium has a capacity of 37,933 spectators. The field size is 97.5 meters (320 feet) for both left and right fields, 112.3 meters (368 feet) for both left-center and right-center fields, and 120 meters (394 feet) for center field. The height of the outfield fence is 3.5 meters (11.5 feet).
One of the unique features of the stadium is the hybrid turf, which is a combination of natural grass and artificial turf. The hybrid turf was installed in 2013 to improve the drainage and durability of the field. It also reduces the maintenance cost and water consumption of the stadium.
Another distinctive feature of the stadium is the scoreboard, which is manually operated by staff members. The scoreboard displays the score, inning, count, and other information using wooden plates. The scoreboard adds a nostalgic touch to the stadium and is popular among fans and visitors.
Home Team: Tokyo Yakult Swallows
The Tokyo Yakult Swallows are the home team of Jingu Baseball Stadium. The Swallows were established in 1969 as the successor of the Sankei Atoms, a team that was founded in 1950. The Swallows have won the Central League championship six times and the Japan Series, the national championship, five times. Their most recent title was in 2015.
The Swallows are known for their passionate and loyal fans, who have a unique way of cheering for their team. Whenever the Swallows score a run, the fans open their umbrellas and sing a song called “Tokyo Ondo”. The umbrella cheering tradition started in 1978, when a fan suggested that everyone uses something they have at home to cheer for the team. The umbrellas symbolize the hope for more runs and the protection from bad luck.
The Swallows have produced many famous players, such as Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Shingo Takatsu, Norichika Aoki, and Tetsuto Yamada. Some of them have also played in the Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States, such as Aoki, Takatsu, and Masanori Murakami, who was the first Japanese player to play in the MLB in 1964.
Jingu Baseball Stadium Location and Accessibility
Jingu Baseball Stadium is located in the Meiji Jingu Gaien, a large park complex that includes the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The stadium is surrounded by green plants and trees, creating a contrast with the urban landscape of Tokyo.
The stadium is easily accessible by public transportation. It is within walking distance from several train and subway stations, such as Sendagaya, Shinanomachi, Gaiemmae, and Kokuritsu-Kyogijo. There are also buses that stop near the stadium.
Jingu Baseball Stadium is not only the home of the Swallows, but also the venue for many other baseball events. The stadium hosts the Tokyo Big6 Baseball League and the Tohto University Baseball League, two of the most prestigious college baseball leagues in Japan. The Tokyo Big6 Baseball League consists of six universities: Waseda, Keio, Meiji, Hosei, Rikkyo, and Tokyo. The Tohto University Baseball League consists of 12 universities: Komazawa, Senshu, Aoyama Gakuin, Chuo, Kokushikan, Nihon, Asia, Tokyo Keizai, Takushoku, Toyo, Gakushuin, and Tokai.
The stadium also hosts the East Tokyo and West Tokyo high school baseball tournaments, which are the regional qualifiers for the national high school baseball championship, also known as the Koshien tournament. The Koshien tournament is the most popular and prestigious high school baseball event in Japan, attracting millions of viewers and fans every year.
In addition to baseball, the stadium has also held other events, such as concerts, festivals, and ceremonies. Some of the famous artists who have performed at the stadium include The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and U2.
Jingu Baseball Stadium is facing a major redevelopment plan in the near future. The plan calls for the demolition and reconstruction of both Jingu Baseball Stadium and the adjacent Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, which is another historic sports venue in Tokyo. The new stadiums will be built with modern facilities and designs, while preserving the legacy and atmosphere of the original stadiums.
The redevelopment plan is expected to start in 2024 and finish in 2027. During the construction period, the Swallows will temporarily move to another stadium, such as the Tokyo Dome or the Yokohama Stadium. The new Jingu Baseball Stadium will have a capacity of 40,000 spectators and a retractable roof. It will also have a museum, a hall of fame, and a memorial park to commemorate the history and culture of Japanese baseball.
Jingu Baseball Stadium is more than just a baseball stadium. It is a mecca of Japanese baseball, a witness of history, and a symbol of culture. It has been a part of the lives of many baseball fans, players, and visitors for nearly a century. It will continue to be a place where people can enjoy and celebrate the game of baseball for many years to come.