Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Baseball Card Stores in Japan: Omiya's old toy shop

It's time to go back to Omiya.

My first baseball card shop experience in Japan wasn't a real card store at all. Instead, it was a tiny closet of a shop filled floor to ceiling with old toys and junk, with a small assortment of cards. You can read about some of my finds here. I made a return visit a couple months ago, and I am just finally getting around to showing you what I bought. How's that for a quick turnaround time?

There is something totally awesome in this post. You just have to wait, though.

 I grabbed some more of those round menkos. This one is much smaller than the others, which is why it has a black background - I can scan it in my sheet-fed photo scanner like most normal cards.
 I also bought a couple more large menkos.
 There are a lot of Dragons in the set!
 I found this baseball-related menko which features the local team - the Seibu Lions.
 And I had to grab this when I saw it.
 I picked up another Batman menko, and some other cartoon menko.
I then went for the tobacco-style menkos, including trains, cars, and... is that the Thunderbirds?
 Rock on, movie style.
 Here's a fairly unique set of menkos. They are made of aluminum or tin, and are quite thin. The fronts are gold with the photo in the middle, apparently of some TV or movie personalities. The writing on the front is black and embossed.
You can see the embossing from the silver-colored backs, with some standard menko things like random numbers and a rock-paper-scissors (janken) symbol. Too bad they didn't have baseball players. Speaking of random Japanese idols:
 There were some 1980s(?)-era idol cards in the shop. This one is nearly 8 by 10 inches, and features Yoko Minamino (spelled Yohko Minamino on the card). She was an instant star on TV and had a singing career too.
 This and the next two cards are all around standard size, and feature other random stars (though Yoko may be one of them - I'm not paying enough attention). This card has some kind of game on the back.
 Ooh! Holographic foil! Like the previous card, this one has a game on the back.
While the backs are slightly different on each card, you can see different symbols and such give different results, and I suppose this card back is worth 200 points. The other one is 450P.
 This is a blank-backed card with no discernable purpose other than collectability.
 OK, back to baseball. This is a Yomiuri Giants postcard. I don't know much else about it.
 This bromide "card" was issued in 1960 and is called Doyusha 4 in 1 B & W. I bet you can't figure out why. The cards are generally seen in this format. They aren't entirely valuable, though they have a fun playing card back. There is a colorized version of this set as well.
 Here are the backs.
 Wait, a 9-card sheet for a 4 in 1 card set? This is a prize sheet of some sort, and they can come up to 54 cards per sheet. Wouldn't that have been awesome? Again, not entirely valuable, but a nice find.
 Here's the back. The backs don't match up to any particular player, and you have to figure it out by the team and player's pose to identify each little card.

I decided to call it a day after pulling down these two last cards. There are more menkos that I didn't go through, because I knew I could easily spend too much time and money looking through menko cards. My next visit (whenever that can happen) will probably focus on that, though.

As is my custom when I'm about ready to check out, I took another glance around the store. Tucked away in the back, hiding around some toys where nobody would find it, was a find of a lifetime.
No, not that.

What's that? Oh, it's only an UNCUT SHEET OF MENKO CARDS.

Issued around 1949-1950, this is the Green and Red Stripes round menko set. This is designated as Horizontal Sheet 2, with a book value of $500! It features (in no particular order): Shigeru Sugishita, Chusuke Kizuka, Fumio Fujimura, Tsuguhiro Hattori, Masumi Isekawa, Noboru Aota, Osamu Mihara, and Tetsuharu Kawakami. The quality isn't 100%, but this was an awesome find. I paid nearly nothing for it, and it is the oldest Japanese card (er, cards?) in my collection so far. They don't get much older than this - all but 10 of the cataloged sets were released in 1947 or later. I'm super happy to have this. It's certainly the highlight of my collection, despite the poorer condition.

The shop I found this card at is located next to Omiya Station, across the small street from the East exit. It's nestled in among the cell phone shops and other tiny stores. I have no idea about hours, and selection is really limited. (If you read my first visit post, I found a small selection of Calbee cards and some other cards from baseball, soccer, and non-sport.) However, if you want some menkos, toys, or the experience of searching through piles of stuff for some random find, head out that way.


  1. Is that a Bruce Lee tobacco style card?

    Great finds!

  2. Quite probably. I don't know Bruce Lee enough, though it is a tobacco-style/sized menko card!

  3. Be sure to let me know when you plan on starting your Japanese Card Shops by Proxy service and I'll send you a shopping list :)

    So I wonder if menko sets were just issued for most movies/tv shows like Topps used to issue sets in the 60s-80s.

  4. Jason: if you have anything specific you want me to keep an eye out for let me know, though it's always hit-or-miss. I can always use more PayPal funds for US card purchases, and this time of year I try to visit card shops every week or two for current releases. Plus I'm still exploring new card stores in the Tokyo area for this post series.

    I get the feeling that there were several menko or bromide sets issued for super-popular TV shows and celebrities either with or without proper licensing. These days, I see plenty of AKB48 (a mega-popular J-Pop girl group) stuff, and some of it might still not be fully licensed. Plus, cards of popular kids shows/characters (Super Mario, Power Rangers, some girly show which spawned that Cure Sunny card above) are available. There may not have been full sets for any particular show, but instead just a few cards packed with other shows. Many of the baseball menko sets were issued with cartoon characters, including the set my uncut sheet comes from.

  5. Among the shops you've visited so far, how well organized are their singles? Do they have them sorted by brand/year, or are they just randomly piled in boxes? Aside from a 1994 Chiba Lotte Marines menko of Hensley Meulens (I've only ever seen the uncut set once, never seen any singles), I'm mainly just looking for more Tuffy Rhodes cards.

    But if the shops aren't well organized, I wouldn't you to waste your time wading through random cards to find them. Otherwise, my Tuffy Rhodes wantlist is linked on the upper right of my blog. I've got a fresh $100 AmEx prepaid gift card itching to be used up.

  6. Jason: I've had mixed results as far as how organized card shops are. The store in Omiya is completely disorganized, but then they wouldn't have any Tuffy cards. The Akihabara Mint has made an attempt at organization but it looks like people have shuffled cards around a good bit and I don't think the cards were ever sorted by number. Some of the other Mint stores seem to be much more organized, especially a store like Ikebukuro. I'm thinking of visiting a card shop tomorrow or next weekend, and if I do I'll be sure to carry your list with me. Keep in mind most singles I'm guessing you need will probably run $3 or more (base cards are usually at 50 yen each, but inserts start around 200-300 yen).