Travel to Ohtani’s hometown, Mizusawa: Ben Verlander’s Japanese Diary

Via Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

Editor’s Note: Ben Verlander is spending time exploring Japan Shohei Ohtaniroots, experience the country’s culture and meet fans. This is the fifth installment in a recurring series Starting Friday, August 19.

Hello again from Tokyo! Today, I’m writing from inside the legendary Tokyo Dome, sitting on a bench in the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame. Be sure to check back tomorrow to hear more about that!

Yesterday, we woke up and rested in our Tatami hotel room (check out yesterday’s recap to hear more about that) and went straight back to Ohtani’s alma mater, Hanamaki Hagashi High School, where I sat down with his former teammate, Daiki Obara.

Ben Verlander meets Daiki Obara, one of Shohei Ohtani’s high school teammates. (Photo by Nick Rago / FOX SPORTS)

Daiki used to be a pitcher at Hanamaki Higashi and is now a member of the local sports media. You might know him when reporter Ohtani playfully slapped him last year MLB All-Star Game. I asked Daiki a lot of questions, but what I liked the most was when I forced him to give me something Ohtani was terrible at, because – to be honest – he was good at everything baseball related.

After pointing out that Ohtani used to regularly beat the high school swim team, despite not being on the swim team, Daiki finally gave in and gave me something.

“He doesn’t like tomatoes,” he said with a laugh.

After saying goodbye to Daiki (and giving him some “Flippin bat“device as a gift), I headed to my last stop in Iwate, Mizusawa town hall. Mizusawa, in case you don’t know, where Ohtani town comes from.

Verlander chats with the mayor of Mizusawa, Ohtani’s hometown. (Photo by Nick Rago / FOX SPORTS)

Clock “Flippin ‘Bats with Ben Verlander” above YouTube, or subscribe on podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the mayor, as well as a group of elderly men wearing the grotesque Ohtani shirt I was wearing.

The mayor then showed me a perfect replica of the Ohtani hand that visitors can shake, as well as a banner of the legendary Mizusawa’s MLB stats.

This replica of the Ohtani hand is available to visitors to shake in Mizusawa. (Photo by Nick Rago / FOX SPORTS)

Then it’s time to head back to the train station and head back to Tokyo by bullet train.

A hilarious moment happened while we were waiting on the platform. We’ve taken the bullet train to Iwate before, but I don’t think I really understood how fast this thing moves until one crossed the station at 200 mph. One of my crew members yelled as we tried to hold it together.

We finally made it back to the city and went to have dinner at a small place in Shibuya. Over the next two hours, we went through an 11-course meal that I will never forget.

The culinary adventure continues with an 11-course dinner in Shibuya. (Photo by Nick Rago / FOX SPORTS)

My favorite round is what I call the Japanese version of chowder served in an upside down hollowed-out crab shell. I wish I had the cooking skills to learn how to make this at home.

The highlight of the meal for Verlander was this chowder-esque. (Photo by Nick Rago / FOX SPORTS)

Finally, we ended the night by walking around Shibuya and stopping to take pictures at the world famous Shibuya Crossing. It’s like Tokyo’s version of Times Square. We stayed long enough to soak it all in – maybe a little too long, since one of my makers started trying out street cart wheels.

What a perfect way to end another perfect day in this country I’m in love with.

Verlander likens Shibuya Crossing to New York’s Times Square. (Photo by Nick Rago / FOX SPORTS)

Ben Verlander is FOX Sports’ MLB Analyst and Host”Flippin bat“podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an all-American at Old Dominion University before moving with his brother, Justin, to Detroit to make it to the 14th round of the Tigers in 2013. He spent 5 years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter at @BenVerlander.

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