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Even though she grew up in Nagasaki, when it comes to baseball our Japanese-language correspondent Aya cheers for Nagoya’s Chunichi Dragons. Sure, the Softbank Hawks, who play out of Fukuoka, would be closer to her home town, but ever since Aya’s Dragon-loving friend took her to her first baseball game at Nagoya Dome, she’s been pulling for the serpentine team.

The Dragons have given their fans plenty of memories over the years, with the sweetest being the club’s Japan Series championship in 2007. But do they also provide a tasty meal at their home stadium?

The city of Nagoya is one of Japan’s most crowd-pleasing culinary centers. Local specialties like pork cutlet with miso sauce, chicken wings, and tempura rice balls sound like just the sort of strong-flavored, easy to share grub that would be perfect for a day at the ballpark, but sadly, the last two of those delicacies don’t seem to be on the menu at Nagoya Dome.

That’s not to say there’s nothing tasty for Dragons fans to munch on. Aya herself is a big fan of the Dome’s karashi shitaraba, imitation crab stuffed with spicy mayonnaise. With a strong kick, she always snacks on some while watching her favorite team.

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Aside from that, though, she’s stumped as to what to order. But even though she attends multiple Dragons games every season, Aya only became a baseball fan a few years ago, so she doesn’t have the same amount of experience as Nagoya residents who grew up watching games at Nagoya Dome. Maybe they know something she doesn’t?

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In order to get a better feel for the situation, Aya went around the various vendors and asked what their biggest sellers were. Hoping they’d fill her in on some menu item featuring unique seasonings or the official endorsement of one of the Dragons, she was disappointed when she got back just about the most pedestrian fare she could imagine.

“French fries.”

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“Fried chicken.”

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Two other popular choices probably seem a bit more exotic to non-Japanese sorts fans. One is deep-fried pork cutlet skewers, with either miso or a sweet sauce.

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The other was a miso pork cutlet sandwich, but while it sounded like a tasty nod to Nagoya’s culinary heritage, it was sold out.

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Also sold out was Nagoya Dome’s bento, called the kyu-ben. Sold with little fanfare, not only was Aya unable to track down one of the rumored boxed lunches, she’s never seen someone eating one in all her trips to the stadium.

Continuing her research, our reporter next decided to ask the other fans in attendance what they thought of the food at Nagoya Dome. Their responses generally fell into one of three categories.

1. People whose expectations have been ground down

“There’s nothing that tastes good, but what’re you gonna do?”
“Well, we have to feed the kids something, or else they won’t settle down.”
“It’s kind of like the food at a cheap cafeteria….except it tastes worse.”

2. People who say it all stinks

“The food at Nagoya Dome is amazingly bad. It’s not fit for human consumption.”
“There’s nothing worth eating, so I buy food at the supermarket nearby and bring it in with me.”

3. Senior citizens who wax nostalgic about the food at Nagoya Stadium, where the Dragons played from 1949-1996

“They used to have a tasty cutlet skewer called the yabaton at Nagoya Stadium.”
“Oh yeah, the yabaton was good!”
“One time, some guy screwed up while cooking yabaton, and a fire started! That dummy.”

Desperate to find someone with something good to say, Aya next approached people who were actually eating food they’d bought at the Dome. Did they like it?

“Not really, but whatever.”
“It’s tolerable.”

Atmosphere is an important component of an enjoyable meal, though, and maybe the grouchy responses Aya was getting had something to do with the Dragon’s poor on-field performance on the day of her visit to the ballpark. Finally, she decided to order some food to try for herself.

First up was an order of cutlet skewers, which came with their miso sauce in a separate package.

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These tasted fine and the breading was nice and crisp. Still, this wasn’t anything to get too excited about. Plus, with the smallest available order being four skewers, if you don’t have anyone to share them with, you run the risk of filling yourself up on these unremarkable pieces of deep-fried pork.

▼ With fried pork so easy to make absolutely delicious, it seems a waste to eat any example that’s sub-par.

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Next was an order of Dragon French Fries, which get their name from their resemblance to the long beards the mythical beasts sport in Japanese depictions.

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Thankfully, these weren’t soggy or flimsy, but the downside is that after putting in her order, it took 15 minutes for Aya’s fries to be ready. That’s a long wait under any circumstances, but when you’re away from your seat at a live sporting event, it’s a deal breaker, and our reporter said she can’t really recommend these extra-long spud slices.

Now thoroughly depressed, with the home team limping towards an eventual defeat, there was thankfully still one person in the ballpark who could put a smile on Aya’s face.

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Like all baseball stadiums in Japan, Nagoya Dome is patrolled by a corps of female beer vendors with chilled kegs strapped to their backs. While the combination of a friendly young lady, service with a smile, and alcohol seems to be tailor-made for male attendees, women like Miss Aya who love both baseball and beer will also be happy to know that while Nagoya Dome’s food isn’t anything to get fired up about, their draft Sapporo is as crisp and refreshing as you could ask for.

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Photos: RocketNews24
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