For me, the best time to visit Asakusa is in the evening – long after the Sensoji Temple have closed their giant doors, the incense smoke has faded, the vendors have locked the registers and the tourists have stopped posing for photos. The popular side of Asakusa becomes tranquil and almost unrecognizable, yet remains captivating in the dark.
However, not many people know that there’s more to this tourist district than the traditional attractions and souvenir shops on travel guidebooks. Thanks to a friend who once lived in the area, I discovered another hidden spot, a place ideal for friends, couples, families, and solo travelers looking for experiences out of the ordinary.
A mere 5-minute walk from Sensoji Temple can take you to Rox Dome, an indoor batting stadium. Since I was a first timer, I got the cheapest ticket of 4 games at ¥1000. Players can choose the speed of the ball and even the pitchers on the field if you’re familiar with the baseball stars. I had no idea who they were, so I just chose the average speed of 90 kph and decided not to wear the baseball helmet mask.
If speeding baseballs cripple you with fear, you may also opt to throw baseballs and hone your pitching skills at the same price for 12 throws. Two cages are available for pitchers whose aim is to hit squares, which randomly light up on the wall. Exciting prizes, such as DisneyLand or DisneySea tickets, await those who get a perfect score.
Upon entering the cage, I felt a little nervous, being a newbie and all. I was also silently praying the ball wouldn’t hit my face. I chose the first leftmost cage, the only cage for lefties and stood on the right. I figured out the correct stance, relaxed my shoulders, and gripped the aluminum bat with all my might. (Remember to use the pink bat if you’re a beginner. I made the mistake of using the green one at first.)
I looked intensely at the life-sized pitcher projected on the screen then my focus turned to the tiny open square that was soon launching the balls furiously at me. The first few pitches were nerve-wracking but once I’ve overcome my fear, I started having a blast. As expected, I hit only about 6 out of 20 balls in the first round, but each time I hit a solid one, the loud sound of the ball hitting my bat gave me immense satisfaction. “This is fun!”, the aggressive side of me exclaimed.
It’s not surprising that salarymen swing by this place after work to blow off some steam. A group of high school students also played that night and some of them seemed like experts, hitting balls as fast as 150 mph. The boys were probably just showing off to the girls, who were cheering and taking photos. Oh, the joys of youth. On the contrary, my not-so-youthful joints and muscles were aching for 3 days from a few rounds of hitting baseballs. Another (obvious) tip: Stretch before and after any strenuous activity.
Now if you’re aspiring to be a pro someday, other batting centers in Tokyo offer regular lessons. Better yet, you can practice more regularly, even late into the night. Rox Dome is open until 1 AM so you can perfect your swing when insomnia strikes or after shopping for knick-knacks at the neighboring Don Quixote.
After a year in Tokyo, I still find joy whenever I discover places where the locals go. Here’s hoping that this not-so-secret hideout won’t become as crowded as Sensoji Temple on a weekend. Happy batting!
ROX DOME 2F
1-27-10 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to, Japan 111-0032
Opening Hours: 10:30 AM to 1:00 AM