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Planning Your First Japan Trip, Part 3: Cheap Thrills

April 10, 2010

Click here for Part 2.

Yomiuri Giants game at Tokyo Dome

Tokyo Dome has both Yomiuri Giants games and a nice onsen

Here are some great ways to relax and be entertained without breaking your budget.

ATTEND A BASEBALL GAME
If you’ve never watched a Japanese baseball game, you’re in for a treat. The tickets are affordable (around $20-$45). The game is pretty easy to follow if you’re familiar with American baseball. And the fans can be as entertaining as the game itself. You can find baseball schedules in the Japan Times and Bob Bavasi’s Guide to Japanese Baseball. To learn some Japanese baseball vocabulary, check out Latham’s Guide to Japanese Baseball.

SPEND THE DAY WATCHING SUMO
Sumo can also be a lot of fun to watch. There are 6 sumo tournaments per year in Japan (one every other month), of which 3 are in Tokyo. The next one is in Tokyo from Sunday May 9th, 2010 through Sunday May 23rd, 2010. The good seats are quite expensive and can’t be bought from overseas. But that’s OK. Just show up first thing in the morning on the day you want to go, and buy the cheapest tickets, which are $40 or less for the entire day. For most of the day, while the younger, less experienced wrestlers are competing, you can sneak down and sit in the good seats. Later, when the big-name athletes such as Hakuho show up, you have to go back to your cheap seats. For all the information you need, including schedules, ticket info, and even a set of “sumo health exercises,” go to the Nihon Sumo Kyokai Official Grand Sumo Home Page.

SOAK IN AN ONSEN (HOT SPRING) OR SENTO (PUBLIC BATH)
One of the greatest pleasures of traveling in Japan, South Korea, and (I’m told) Taiwan is the vast number of hot springs and public baths where you can relax and let it all hang out for an hour or an entire evening. Prices start at around $5 for a small neighborhood sento and go up to around $25 for a pretty nice onsen. The SentoGuide sento locator site has a useful, detailed “how to take a bath” page. Other sites that list onsen and a few sento in Tokyo are the Secret Japan Forum and FlyerTalk’s Tokyo Onsen forum.

Tip: The Tokyo Dome complex has its own onsen, Spa LaQua, where you can have a good soak before or after a Yomiuri Giants game. Inside the onsen is a restaurant, Takanawa, that serves up a fine tofu teishoku dinner. It’s the perfect antidote to the yakisoba and strawberry churros you’ll likely be eating at the game.

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