Home of the Hanshin Tigers*
Official Name: Hanshin Koshien Stadium
Opened in: 1924
Stadium Capacity: 43,508
Dimensions: LF & RF: 95 m (312 ft) / CF: 118 m (387 ft)
Description: Originally built to host Japan’s annual high school baseball championship tournament, Hanshin Koshien Stadium is the oldest professional ballpark in Japan. It has ivy on its outside walls, the world’s last all-dirt professional infield, and is one of the few active ballparks in the world (along with Jingu Stadium) where Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig once played (during their 1934 tour). Per its original purpose, the ballpark hosts the “Koshien” high school baseball tournaments in spring and summer, forcing the Tigers on the road for long stretches of the season (called the “Road of Death”). The sanctity of the high school tournament is such that participating high school players keep a small amount of the infield’s “holy dirt” as a souvenir.
The stadium is not located in Osaka, but in Nishinomiya, Hyogo – roughly 20 minutes by train from both Osaka and Kobe. Get off at (you guessed it) Hanshin Koshien Station and walk three minutes south, and you’ll be staring directly at the most hallowed grounds in all of Japan. There is an excellent museum underneath the left field stands (accessible from outside the park) and a Shinto shrine right next to the stadium where fans pray for Tigers victories.
Though it has smaller dimensions than most stadiums, the deep gaps (same distance as to dead center) and a strong headwind from the nearby ocean make this an extreme pitchers’ park.
*The Tigers are forced to play their home games at alternate sites during the Koshien high school tournament. They most frequently play at Kyocera Dome Osaka, but also sometimes play at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.