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From the City of Trees to Oaktown?

Sendai, Japan

The Athletics recently won the bidding for Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. Patrick Newman published some great thoughts on this pitcher who could be headed to the East Bay.

Iwakuma’s team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, has been around just since 2005. The team sponsor, Rakuten, owns a huge e-commerce site that is sort of Japan’s Amazon.com and is actually Japan’s second most-visited site (after Yahoo.co.jp, which is sort of Japan’s Google).

The Golden Eagles are located in Sendai, a city about three hours northeast of Tokyo that most Americans probably aren’t too familiar with. Sendai is home to numerous universities, even though its population is only about one million, and in a neat parallel to “Oakland,” its nickname is “City of Trees.” It is regarded as one of Japan’s greenest cities, featuring many bough-shaded boulevards.

Sendai offers local sports fans several options beyond baseball, including soccer (Vegalta Sendai) and basketball (Sendai 89ers). Additionally, the official municipal website boasts of the Golden Eagles stadium experience:

“The team creates new ways to make baseball enjoyable through the events for fans and entertainment found at every home game in its stadium. The stadium is turning into something more than a ballparkā€”a park that can be enjoyed without ball play.”

Apparently even in Japan, teams worry that baseball alone won’t fill all the seats.