Japan Trip - Ajinomoto Stadium

>> Friday, April 16, 2010

There I am again--same pose, different stadium!

This time I'm visiting Ajinomoto Stadium, where FC Tokyo (a J-League soccer team) plays their home games. It's also the home of Tokyo Verdy, although they play in the second division, and get far fewer fans.

The stadium was built for the World Cup in 2002, but didn't host any games. Instead, it was used by Saudi Arabia as their main training facility. Since then, it's been used to host European football, American football, concerts, and even flea markets.

I cruised by the stadium a few hours before game time while I was out exploring the surrounding parks (pics coming in a future post) and found people already camped out for the game. I later learned it was a big match--the visiting Nashima Antlers were ranked second in the league. (FC Tokyo was much farther down the table.)

There is a train station five minutes from the stadium, but lots of people bike in. So many, in fact, that they have huge bicycle parking areas.

By game time, this lot will be filled with bikes!

Later that evening, I met up with ASIJ super librarian Marty Swist, who was to be my guide to the world of Japanese soccer. Soccer games here are a big deal--much bigger than the average baseball game, I've found--and the stadium was pretty full by game time. That upper deck eventually filled out.

Part-way through the game, I noticed the big empty areas in the stands, and asked Marty what the deal was. In some American sporting events, you see a big area where the marching band was sitting, but that wasn't the case here. The big space was there to separate the fans so they wouldn't get into trouble with the others. So unnecessary with Japanese fans! They're some of the most civil I've ever seen. Perhaps it's an international rule, to cut down on hooliganism in the stands? Still, it seemed overkill here. Marty told me that if you get a ticket to one side of the stadium, they won't even let you wander over to the other one. That's definitely not the case at most baseball games, even though the fans there are just as passionate.

Next up: my day at the park before the soccer game.


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