Traveling to Ohtani’s Hometown, Mizusawa: Ben Verlander’s Japan Diary

by Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

Editor’s note: Ben Verlander is spending time exploring in Japan Same Ohtaniof roots, experiencing the country’s culture and meeting fans. This is the fifth in a recurring series It started on Friday 19th August.

Hello again from Tokyo! Today, I am writing from inside the legendary Tokyo Dome, sitting on a bench at the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Be sure to check back tomorrow to hear more about it!

Yesterday, we woke up in our tatami hotel room (check out yesterday’s recap to hear more about that) and headed straight back to Ohtani’s old school, Hanamaki Hagashi High School, where I stayed with his former teammate, Daiki Obara.

Ben Verlander met one of Shohei Ohtani’s high school friends, Daiki Obara. (Photo by Nick Rago/Fox Sports)

Daiki Hanamaki was a pitcher at Higashi and is now a member of the local sports media. You know him as reporter Ohtani slapped the game at last year’s MLB All-Star Game. I asked Daiki a lot of questions, but my favorite was when I pressured him to give me the worst on Ohtani, because – let’s be honest – he’s good at everything baseball-related.

After pointing out that Ohtani regularly beat the high school swim team despite not being on the swim team, Daiki finally relented and gave me some.

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

After saying goodbye to Daiki (and giving him some “Flippin’ Bats” gear as a present), I headed to my last stop at Mizusawa Town Hall Iwate. Mizusawa, in case you didn’t know, is Ohtani’s town.

Verlander spoke with the mayor of Ohtani’s hometown of Mizusawa. (Photo by Nick Rago/Fox Sports)

look”Flippin’ Bats with Ben Verlander“In youtube, Or subscribe to podcast platforms The Apple Podcast.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the mayor, as well as a group of old men wearing the same ridiculous Ohtani shirt I was wearing.

Meyer then showed me a perfect replica of Ohtani’s hand that visitors could shake, along with a banner of the Mizusawa legend’s MLB stats.

This replica of Ohtani’s hand is available to visitors at Mizusawa. (Photo by Nick Rago/Fox Sports)

Then it was time to head back to the train station and take the bullet train back to Tokyo.

A funny moment happened while we were waiting on the platform. We rode the bullet train in Iwate first, but I don’t think I really understood how fast this thing travels until I hit the station at 200 mph. shouted one of my team members as we collectively tried to put it together.

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

The culinary adventure continued with an 11-course dinner in Shibuya. (Photo by Nick Rago/Fox Sports)

My favorite round was the Japanese version of chowder served in an upside-down, hollowed-out crab shell. I had the cooking skills to learn how to make this back home.

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

Finally, we ended the night with a walk around Shibuya and stopped to take photos 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, as one of my makers started trying cartwheels down the street.

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

Verlander compared Shibuya Crossing to Times Square in New York. (Photo by Nick Rago/Fox Sports)

Ben Verlander is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports and “Flippin Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University when he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years with the Tigers. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.


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