Big in Japan: Red Sox season opener will take place in Japan

Looking for another reason to visit to Japan?

Baseball may be as American as apple pie, but it’s also as Japanese as cod-roe spaghetti and green tea ice cream.

Although few Americans are aware of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), it has produced a number of major Major League Baseball (MLB) players including Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka among others.

Known as the Puro Yaky? (???????????) in Japanese, the NPB has a long history dating back to 1934 when it was originally founded as the Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club (?????????????????????, Dai-nippon T?ky? Yaky? Kurabu).

Of course, all of this may soon become common knowledge to Bostonians as this March, the Red Sox season opener will be a pair of exhibition games against the Hanshin Tigers on March 22 (11:07 p.m. EST March 21) and the Yomiuri Giants on March 23 (6:07 a.m. EST).

Despite the lack of publicity that the Ricoh Japan Opening Series 2008 has received in the States, the event is being billed here in Japan as something akin to the real ‘World Series.’

Here’s the answer to your first question: who are the Hanshin Tigers?

The Hanshin Tigers (阪神タイガース, Hanshin Taigāsu) are a NPB based in Nishinomiya, which is a city in the Kansai region near Osaka.

Of course, since this is Japan, the team is owned and named after the Hanshin Electric Railway Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Hankyu Hanshin Holdings Inc.

Interestingly enough, the Tigers are often portrayed by the media as being the Japanese Red Sox since they have historically been underachievers.

In fact, they even have their own ‘Curse of the Bambino!’

After winning the 1985 Japan series, Tigers fans dressed up like their favorite players, and jumped into the adjacent Dotonbori Canal.

However, because none of the fans resembled first baseman Randy Bass (he was bearded white guy from Oklahoma), fans threw a life-sized statue of the Kentucky Fried Chicken mascot Colonel Sanders into the river.

To this day, the statue has never been recovered, and legend holds that until the Colonel is rescued from the river, the Tigers will continue to have bad luck.

Here’s the answer to your second question: who are the Yomiuri Giants?

The Yomiuri Giants (読売ジャイアンツ, Yomiuri Jaiantsu) are a NPB based in Bunkyo, which is a district in Tokyo.

Of course, since this is Japan, the team is owned and named after the Yomiuri Group, Ltd., a behemoth media conglomerate of television stations, newspapers and magazines.

Interestingly enough, the Giants are often portrayed by the media as being the Japanese Yankees since they have historically dominated the NPB (and they’re the richest franchise by a long-shot!).

Want to know more about Japanese baseball? Love the Boston Red Sox? Why not check out their season opener over here in the Land of the Rising Sun?

Here is all the info you need:

General tickets for all four Red Sox games in Tokyo go on sale Feb. 9. For more information, call 011-81-3-5777-8600 between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. EST.

In addition, Fenway Sports Group, through its Red Sox Destinations program, has put together a full travel package for the Japan Opening Series.

Standard Red Sox destination packages to Japan start at $4,999 and are available now. Upgraded packages, including business class seating on the charter flight, a hotel suite, and premium game tickets, are also available on a limited basis.

For more information, visit, call 617-226-6400, or e-mail