When most people think of sports in Japan, baseball or the various traditional forms of martial arts generally come up. Unfortunately, ice hockey isn’t on the top of many lists but in my opinion, it absolutely needs to be included.
Recently I had the opportunity to watch 4 professional hockey games in Shin-Yokohama at the Skate Center. While I enjoy watching NHL games in the U.S., the Asia League (ALH) hockey games are a totally different experience that shouldn’t be passed up. The league consists of 12 teams that are based in Japan, China, and Korea.
First, you can’t beat the price of the games. We were able to watch 2 days of games, or 4 games, for ¥6000 in the unreserved section; you can, of course, pay more for reserved seats. That’s less than half the price of an NHL game in the nosebleeds or “bad seats.”
Being in a small ice center, we were extremely close to the action. We got to chat with the players, hear all the action from the bench, and watch pucks fly over our heads!
As expected with Japanese sports, the fans are also amazing. Both kids and adults were standing up and cheering throughout the entire game. These fans are absolutely passionate about their team and are not afraid to show their loyalty. I found the Nikko Ice Buck fans to be the best and truly impressive at cheering. Similar to Japanese baseball and soccer fans you can root for your team following set cheers and dances. Make sure you check out the large flags that fans wave around after a goal. They are huge!
Now you must be thinking about the food and merchandise that is available. They were also great. There was a nice mix of western and Japanese food for a reasonable price. If you don’t feel like buying food, you’re more than welcome to bring your own food and drinks to the game. A neat part about the weekend was that the 4 teams that played all had merchandise for sale in the same room. There were hats, shirts, jerseys, stationery supplies, and other small items for sale, varying in price.
So, why don’t you check out an ALH hockey game during your travels in Japan? For a great price and an amazing experience, you may become a passionate hockey fan. I’m sure you’ll be up cheering for your team throughout the game like I was cheering for mine, the Tohoku Free Blades. Let’s make hockey a top 10 sport in Japan and add it to our list of sports.
Shin-Yokohma Skate Center Location: