Chiba Pref. (Kyodo) New York Yankees outfielder Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui, who became the first Japanese player ever to hit a home run in a World Series, returned to Japan on Friday after completing his first season in the major leagues.

News photoHideki Matsui walks through
Narita Airport on Friday after
returning to Japan following
his first season with the New
York Yankees.

Matsui, 29, who arrived at Narita Airport to come home for the first time since Feb. 3, was the only member of the Bronx club to take part in all 163 games this past season.

“It was my first time, so I didn’t produce as many results as I did in Japan, but I did the best I knew how,” Matsui said after being greeted by nearly 350 fans at the airport.

“Next year, my goal will be to produce better results than I did this year,” he said, reflecting on the season in which he hit .287 with 16 home runs and 106 RBIs second on the team to slugger Jason Giambi.

Matsui was also voted by fans to start in the All-Star Game and played an integral role in helping the Yankees win the American League championship.

He was effective during the World Series, though the Yankees eventually fell to the Florida Marlins in the best-of-seven series.

“Every day was so wonderful because it was a unique experience to play in the major leagues. It was incredible. It’s too bad we missed the chance to become world champions, but this will be my ultimate goal,” Matsui said.

Also on the same day, right-hander Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who could choose to declare free agency and leave the Seattle Mariners next year, returned to Japan after completing a seventh season in the majors and going 2-4 with 16 saves and a 1.48 ERA in 63 games.

Hasegawa, who made his first All-Star appearance in the majors this summer, is expected to reach a decision on where he will play next season before he leaves for the United States again in mid-December.

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