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Baseball Stories: 2000 Japan Trip, Part 3

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Monday, March 27, 2000

We took two trains to get to the Meiji Shrine, which was built 85 years ago to honor Emperor Meiji. It's basically a nice park centrally located in Tokyo; it's got a New York Central Park sort of feel, but also has some Shinto religious shrines within.

It is also apparently a popular place for Japanese couples to hold weddings, and at 11 in the morning on a Monday -- there was a wedding party, walking pretty much right in front of us as we walked through the park.

After witnessing this wedding (hey, we had nothing else to do at that point, right?), we headed over to the Harajuku district, known as the "Champs Elysees" or "Rodeo Drive" of Tokyo, for some lunch and shopping. First stop, of course, for my kids, was Kiddy Land, six stories of just about everything you could possibly want for a kid. We also walked by, but didn't go into, what was then billed as the world's largest Gap.

And finally, it was off to the Tokyo Dome for the first ballgame of the trip, the Cubs/Tokyo Giants exhibition.

The dome was -- well, a dome. It reminded me most of the Metrodome in Minneapolis; the inflated-style roof is quite similar. The seats that I had bought through a New York travel agency were down the LF line, pretty good, though not as close to the plate as the original seating chart had led me to believe. I met someone originally from Chicago -- small world, absolutely! -- who was working for an international banking firm in Tokyo. He bought me a sake, and you'll see more sake adventures later in the week.

I found the prices at the Dome outrageous, though by 2005 standards they seem not so unreasonable. The US dollar equivalents for beer: $8, programs: $15, caps: $30. As I said, NOW those don't seem so high, but in 2000, they were about double what you would have expected. Tokyo was, and is, a very expensive city, perhaps the most expensive in the world.

The game was an anticlimax. The Cubs looked flat, perhaps still jetlagged, and the pitching was mediocre. The Giants came out looking as if it were their World Series, playing to win at every turn, and it showed in a 6-0 Giants shutout of the Cubs. I was going to put some game details in from my scorecard, but I can't find it. I know it's around the house somewhere, but I must have put it in a separate place from my regular season and playoff cards.

Photo: a Shinto wedding at the Meiji shrine -- we just happened to be there.

Photo by Al