TOKYO -- A crowd of about 100 Japanese journalists and photographers greeted the Mariners as they arrived at Narita Airport on Friday with Ichiro Suzuki in tow, and a group of fans screamed when he got off the bus at the team's hotel in Tokyo in preparation for their Opening Series with the A's.
The Mariners and A's will play two regular-season games in the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday and Thursday, and Seattle's three Japanese players -- Ichiro, infielder Munenori Kawasaki and pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma -- figure to be the main attractions.
Ichiro has never played with the Mariners in Japan since coming to the Major Leagues in 2001. The Mariners and A's were scheduled to participate in the Opening Series in 2003, but that event was canceled at the last minute because of travel concerns raised by the U.S.'s military action in Iraq.
The two teams arrived in separate charters on Friday evening in Japan, completing a 15-hour travel day that covered nearly 5,800 miles.
The Mariners departed Phoenix at 1 p.m. PT on Thursday and landed at Narita Airport in Japan 12 1/2 hours later. It took another hour to get through customs, and then two more hours to bus from Narita to their New Otani hotel in Tokyo.
It was thus a bleary-eyed group of 30 Mariners players and 110 other members of the traveling party that finally checked into their hotel at 5 a.m. PT, which was 9 p.m. in Tokyo, with the 16-hour time difference.
The Mariners and A's have a workout in the Tokyo Dome on Saturday, then will each play exhibition games against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants on Sunday and Monday, followed by the two regular-season contests on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Opening Day game will be at 3:04 a.m. PT, with Seattle's Felix Hernandez facing Oakland right-hander Brandon McCarthy. Then it'll be Mariners lefty Jason Vargas against A's right-hander Bartolo Colon on Thursday at 2:04 a.m. PT.