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Baseball Stories: 2000 Japan Trip, Part 4

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Tuesday, March 28, 2000

I woke up this morning on a mission -- to find a USA Today. There are a few English-language Japanese newspapers, but they don't have much international news in them.

This mission, unfortunately, failed. I walked all the way to the Tokyo Tower (in the photo you saw in part 1, it looks pretty close, but that was a good mile-and-a-half walk), thinking that being a tourist area, there might be an international newsstand around, but there wasn't. However, it was a nice walk.

The rest of the day was spent on baseball, as it required a 90-minute ride each way to Seibu for the Cub exhibition game against the Lions.

The three of us managed to get quite lost trying to get from Shinjuku station, which is absolutely enormous, to Seibu-Shinjuku station for the train to Seibu. Despite the names, they weren't in the same place at all.

Fortunately, a young Japanese woman who spoke flawless English came up to us, realizing we seemed lost, and pointed us at the right train.

Or I should say two trains, because that's what it took to ride the 90 minutes to Seibu. The Seibu Dome is a retrofit of an outdoor stadium, so it is only partly enclosed -- as you can see in the photos below, there's a gap between the roof and the stands. It keeps out the wind and the rain, which was a good thing on that day, because by the end of the game it was indeed raining.

The Cubs won this game 6-5 on a Damon Buford two-run HR in the 9th. Five minor league pitchers (Scott Downs, Todd Van Poppel, Mike Heathcott, Daniel Garibay and Danny Young) pitched pretty well. It's a scary thought to read those names five years later, though, isn't it?

And here's what I wrote back then, presciently:

The Lions ran like crazy on Joe Girardi. This is going to be a problem this year.

We met yet more people from Chicago, who told me they'd be on my return flight on Friday; one of them told me he lived less than two miles from my house.

After the 90-minute return trip (which, we later learned, we missed by one train sharing a ride with the entire Cub team; they'd decided that traffic was too snarled and got off the team bus), Jeff & Krista went back to the hotel, while I went on my second mission of the day -- to find an ATM. Cash was (and maybe still is) king in Japan -- I found virtually no one (apart from the hotel and the toy store) who accepted credit cards.

Further, the only bank in Japan that is guaranteed to take your USA ATM card is Citibank. Other Japanese banks might, but there's a chance you might get your card eaten by the ATM.

Under those conditions, try to find a Citibank branch, with no map that would show these sorts of things, knowing almost no Japanese, and it's pouring rain.

Thanks to a friendly police officer who I found in the train station who knew a bit of English, I did find the Citibank ATM. Flush with cash, I found something to eat (a plate of pasta and a diet Coke, approximately $10).

Observation: everyone in Japan is unfailingly polite. Even when I try to let people out of the hotel elevator in front of me, they won't allow it.

Photos: me, outside, and inside, the Seibu Dome

Photos by Al