Baseball / Japanese Baseball | NPB NOTEBOOK

Eagles announce plans to make Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi world's first cashless stadium

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles want you to leave your cash at home.

The Pacific League club late last week unveiled a plan to make its home stadium, Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, completely cashless in 2019. The Eagles say it will be the world’s first such stadium.

“The cashless movement has been going forward around the world, and there are countries where cashless payments are used more than cash,” the team said on its website.

Having had success with its QR code service, Rakuten Pay, the Eagles have decided to take the plunge and attempt to go completely cashless at their ballpark.

Fans will be able to purchase tickets, food and goods with Rakuten Pay, which allows for payment through smartphones, and Rakuten Edy, a prepaid smart card, as well as credit cards. The club also plans to set up some sort of support for children and those without any cashless payment options.

The move, if successful, could put the Eagles near the front of the cashless movement the Japanese government is trying to promote.

In a Forex Bonuses study published in The Telegraph, a London-based newspaper, in October of 2017, Japan ranked ninth among the world’s top 20 economies in terms of embracing going cashless. In March of that year, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry revealed its Cashless Vision, which touched upon ways to promote the advantages of going cashless to the Japanese public.

According to a report by Kazuaki Nagata in this newspaper last month, the country wants to increase cashless payments to 40 percent by 2027, which would double the amount registered in 2016.

The Eagles are promoting the benefits to fans as being able to avoid carrying around a lot of small change and shortening waiting times at shops, among other things. The club has planned discounts and promotions around cashless purchases.

Japan is in catchup-mode in terms of the cashless movement. If Rakuten’s gambit, which it also stands to profit from, goes well, the Eagles could have an impact on society that goes beyond their stadium experience.

Apple power

On Thursday, beverage-maker Suntory tweeted an announcement for a new flavor in its popular line of Horoyoi chu-hi drinks called Apple Punch.

While the tweet may have been aimed at chu-hi aficionados, it’s gotten the attention of Seibu Lions fans.

The reason is the Lions’ Shuta Tonosaki, a rising star coming off his first All-Star season. Tonosaki is from Aomori Prefecture, which is famous for its apples, and his family runs an apple farm there.

So naturally his exploits on the field were met with fans having fun with his origins via signs and cheers. Tonosaki also joins in, sometimes ending hero interviews by leading a “3…2…1…Apple Punch!!” cheer.

Unsurprisingly, many of the replies to the Suntory tweet came from Lions fans.

“Please use Tonosaki in the commercial!!” Twitter user @1220Yukimura wrote. There were similar sentiments from many.

Learning the ropes

Nippon Professional Baseball held its annual rookie workshop on Friday in Tokyo, drawing 115 players (rookies and those who missed last year’s workshop) to the capital.

The event drew some of the biggest names from last fall’s draft, including the Chunichi Dragons’ Akira Neo and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ Kosei Yoshida.

The players heard lectures on various topics including anti-doping, concussions and taxes at Tokyo Dome Hotel. Among the speakers was Hitoki Iwase, Japan’s all-time leader in saves and games played, who retired last year after 19 seasons with the Dragons.

The players also took a tour of the nearby Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.