It’s a cliche at this point to say that the Japanese treat baseball like a religion. Like any religion, it has its cathedrals: some, like the storied Korakuen Stadium were demolished to make way for bigger ballparks, and others like Koshien Stadium in Kobe and Meiji Jingu Stadium are still going strong. To stretch the analogy just a bit further, Fukuoka Yahuoku! Dome, home field of the Softbank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball league franchise, would be the equivalent of a suburban megachurch. A day out at the ballpark in Fukuoka satisfies local boosters and baseball purists, but there’s plenty for even the most casual fan to appreciate.
Upon arriving at Tojinmachi Station on the Kuko Line of the Fukuoka City Subway, the Hawks’ presence is apparent, even before the dome appears on the horizon. The Hawks Town complex—in the process of being redeveloped and possibly renamed by Mitsubishi— spreads out around the stadium, hosting retail outlets; the Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk stands nearby, as well as the Zepp Fukuoka concert venue.
Even if you’re not headed to the Fukuoka Dome for a game, it’s worthwhile to stop by the Oh Sadaharu Museum and take a tour of the facilities. Sadaharu Oh is a national legend, with a stature and records that make him the equal of Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Born in Tokyo to a father from Zhejiang (still in the Republic of China, at the time, and Oh maintains Taiwanese citizenship) and a mother from Sumida, Oh is most closely associated with his hometown Yomiuri Giants but he ended his career in baseball as a manager for the Hawks.
(The Oh Sadaharu Museum is temporarily closed for renovation, and planning to open in the spring of 2020.)
The tour of the dome departs from the Oh Sadaharu Museum on the hour, every hour between 10am and 4pm, except during game days or special events. The tour grants access to the backstage area of the dome, including the locker rooms and press area.
If you’ve never experienced a baseball game in Japan, or you simply want to appreciate the spectacle, getting tickets to the dome on game night is worth the effort. Like stadiums in the States, the hotter the team, the more rabid the fanbase, and the tougher to get tickets. After struggling in the basements of league standings for years, the Softbank Hawks have emerged as a juggernaut in the past decade. Loyal fans never abandoned the team, but now that the Hawks are a legitimate dynasty, tickets are snapped up fast.
Tickets can be purchased online or through convenience store vending machines, and range from affordable to pricey. For lower stakes games and during the pre-season, there is also a counter at the dome selling same-day tickets, and you can usually get, at the very least, standing room privileges. Even in the cheap seats, game night is a great experience. The Fukuoka Dome is not much different from a Major League Baseball megastadium complex, with plenty of opportunity to drop cash on fancy snacks and souvenirs—but most are just as happy with a hard seat, draft beer and a hot dog. Show up early for the game or nip out during slow moments and visit the dome’s concourse for more gourmet options, including outlets of local Hakata ramen shops.
The close of a Hawks game at the Fukuoka Dome, complete with the explosion of jet balloons and the crackle of fireworks, is truly a sight to behold. Whether you’re a fan of baseball or a neophyte, coming for a Hawks game or just wandering the grounds, Fukuoka Dome doesn’t disappoint.