For those of us accustomed to police-grade body searches on the way into a sporting event, it’s stunning to discover that many Japanese sports arenas turn a blind eye to fans slipping in with their own alcohol and munchies. Of course, it’s not a boozy free-for-all and some caution is required. But with a little preparation, you can enjoy your refreshment of choice without having to look over your shoulder—or pay stadium prices.
Here are some tips on packing your own goodies to Tokyo sports events.
The easiest place to smuggle in your own food and drink is at a sumo tournament, such as at the Kokugikan in Ryogoku. Security officers here don’t check bags upon entry so pretty much anything goes here. We like to spring for one of the masuseki (tatami box seats) down close to the dohyo (ring), where there’s enough space for us to unpack a picnic basket. Our wine, cheese, sliced meats and bread always get admiring glances from neighboring sumo fans. Alternatively, do it Japanese style and fill your bag with some cup sake, sembei (rice crackers), saki-ika (dried and shredded squid), edamame or omusubi (rice balls).
Baseball stadiums are a little trickier for beverage bringing, since glass bottles and aluminum cans aren’t permitted into most venues. This doesn’t mean you’ll be stopped at the gates, however. At the Seibu Dome in Saitama, for example, the staff will give out plastic cups to those who’ve elected to bring their own cans of brew, and you can enjoy watching guests crack open a can and pour its contents into a cup—if not several cups—before entering the stadium.
If you don’t want to forcibly relocate your libations, try packing soft-paper boxes of wine or sake, which are widely available in many supermarkets and convenience stores. Each pakku (beverage box) will usually contain 180ml of your favorite tipple, complete with a small straw for easy access. Some liquor shops also carry wine in squeeze packs (also ideal for hiking), which we like to put into the freezer the night before. Not only are they frosty all day long, they also act as coolers to keep our snacks nicely chilled.
Another helpful tip is to shop closer to home—or at least far from the arenas. Waiting until the last minute to do your conbini run can lead to frustration, as most of the the shelves are picked clean just before a match. Your best bet is to do your shopping just before getting on the train.
Finally, pack a few oshibori (wet towels) and some plastic bags for your trash, then go have a grand old time. Watch the camaraderie grow as you share a few goodies with your fellow sports fans nearby. And then follow in the footsteps of Japanese fans at Brazil’s World Cup games and make sure you clean up after yourself when you leave.