A roller coaster and the meal of a lifetime: Ben Verlander’s Japan Diary

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

Editor’s note: Ben Verlander is spending time in Japan exploring Shohei Ohtani’s roots, experiencing the country’s culture and meeting fans. This is the eighth in a recurring series that began Friday, Aug. 19.

Hello again from Japan! I’ve made it to Hokkaido, the site of the Sapporo Dome.

Day 7 was mostly dedicated to traveling, but it did not lack excitement.

The day began as every day should — by riding the Thunder Dolphin, the roller coaster directly next to the iconic Tokyo Dome. The flight to Hokkaido was looming, so I quickly had to hop over there and figure out how to get on the roller coaster. It was quite the process.

The ordeal began by heading to the ATM, because the ride was cash-only. I was at the ATM for a good five minutes before being told it was exclusive to the bank I was standing in front of. From there, we went off to a 7-Eleven nearby, to acquire the necessary Yen.

I headed straight to the Thunder Dolphin, hopped aboard and was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was.

Ben Verlander waits to board the Thunder Dolphin. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX Sports)

From there, it was time to hop on a quick flight to Hokkaido. The airport provided a unique experience in its own right due to a lack of space to record my daily podcast. We finally found a tiny phone booth that was about three feet by three feet.

Hours later, I landed in Hokkaido and proceeded to have the best dinner of my life in Sapporo. It was an incredible Sushi restaurant called Tanabe, and we ate an Omakase style dinner — meaning the chef was making what he wanted. For us, that meant incredible piece of sushi after incredible piece of sushi kept coming our way.

Dinner at Tanabe. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX Sports)

After the meal ended, just when I thought the day was coming to a close, my interpreter — and savior on this trip — Masa, informed us that he had another surprise up his sleeve. The surprise, as it turned out, was an incredible dessert he had ordered to the restaurant, and the wonderful staff served it for us. 

It was a dessert unlike I had ever had and, to be honest, it’s very hard to explain. It was similar to an ice cream sandwich. But the ice cream was perfect and there were raisins in it. It know it sounds odd, but it was fantastic.

Masa’s dessert. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX Sports)

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

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