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

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review: Not As Cool

Don't let the post title deceive you: as far as baseball card collecting was concerned, I had a great year. Let's take a look at my 13 original goals for 2013 and progress:
1. Build my Japanese type collection.
I started the year at 35%, with a goal of 50%. I currently sit at 56% of known sets. I'd say that's a success!

2. Put together/buy some 2013 sets.
This isn't too hard, really. I bought flagship Topps, Gypsy Queen, and Allen & Ginter base sets, as I hoped to do. I also picked up base sets for Panini's Cooperstown and Golden Age sets and Upper Deck's Goodwin Champions. There are a few insert sets tossed in as well. I am not sure yet if I have a full Dealing Aces insert set from Gypsy Queen, though I think I was successful and thus my mini-master set of Gypsy Queen is done too! I haven't been able to do anything with Triple Play but I still call that another success!
3. Finish 10 sets from years past.
I had six sets completed halfway through the year, but my US card collection stayed stagnant through the fall. But some Black Friday purchases on got me beyond my goal and put me closer for several other old sets. That's three successes in a row!

4. Pay more attention to Panini.
As I mentioned in my second goal, I purchased a couple Panini sets this year and plan on tackling Triple Play at some point. I actually bought less Panini product this year but I have more on my want list - I would like to put together a mini-master set of Golden Age. Unless something really special happens in the next couple of days, though, without Triple Play I'd say this is a fail.
5. Visit the rest of the NPB baseball stadiums.
I went to five stadiums in 2012, leaving seven remaining for 2013. With careful planning I managed to get to games in all seven home stadiums, and see women's professional games at two other stadiums in Japan. Success!

6. "Fix" my MLB type collection.
My spreadsheets were full of cards from non-MLB issues - especially minor league team sets. As I said at the beginning of the year, I am interested in adding type cards from those issues into my collection, but the spreadsheets were massive and misleading. While I've been away from the blog, I haven't been away from the keyboard: I spent my evenings for a week or so pulling out minor league team sets. The minor league pack-based issues are still included. This is a success!
7. Complete at least 15 trades this year. (Card above from NPB Card Guy)
I don't recall exactly how many packages I mailed about a month ago but with the trades I did earlier in the year I think I reached 15. Minor success.

8. Finish at least two player collections.
Despite being quite easy, I didn't bother with my player collections for most of the year. I added a few cards to a couple players, and I could "cheat" by jumping on COMC and grabbing a few to complete a couple younger players, but I'm going to be honest and say this is a fail.
9. Post a year-by-year review of Calbee issues.
I started this, but I haven't had much time for posting over the past couple of months, after turning out a couple posts. I didn't abandon this goal, but I wasn't able to complete it: fail.

10. Do a better job picking up 2013 release singles.
2011: 22%. 2012: 13%. 2013: 7.5%. There is a package coming from the States with some more trades included and the number should rise, but I won't come anywhere near my 25% goal. Due to trading conversations I didn't really buy any cards from 2013, so I have to thank my friends for getting me to where I am. And I have worked on other parts of my type collection, with cards from the mid-90s and early 80s on the way. Fail, but not a big disappointment.
11. Make meaningful posts on the blog.
I made less posts this year (92, compared to 122 last year) but I think this year's content is a bit better. I cut back on the pure "look at this" posts and brought more information on stores and new releases. Success.

12. Create a menu/table of contents for some of my posts.
I started this and one page sits as a draft. I am waiting to publish it until I have more material in the books. I still want to make featured set and Japan's card shop indexes. But nothing's live on the blog, so this is a fail.
13. Have fun collecting.
Ending 2012 with disappointment in Korea left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. But I've discovered plenty of new card shops and picked up hundreds of cards. NPB Card Guy visited Japan in February and I found new stores with him. Searching through boxes and binders for cards to add to my collections has provided hours of enjoyment over the past twelve months. Definitely a success.
Well, eight successes, five fails. Not a bad year, and the ones that are really important to me were all successes. Have a happy New Year, everyone, and see you then!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Expensive But Cool: A Japanese Baseball Collectible from Hokkaido

I've lived in Japan for almost two years now. While most people think it's expensive to live here, following a relatively Japanese-style way of life helps one save money - smaller apartments means lower rent (as does living farther from the station), taking the train means savings on vehicle costs (gas, maintenance, insurance, etc), and eating Japanese food lowers my meal budget. Sure, I enjoy American food fairly frequently, but eating rice dishes makes things more manageable.

However, my love of baseball has an adverse effect on my wallet.

You see, Japanese souvenirs are usually more expensive.

Trading cards start at 30 yen - about 30 cents - (50 yen at most stores), and the cheapest hits (plain relics of lower players) are usually 1000 yen ($10) or more. And the trinkets and other NPB merchandise can cost a pretty penny too.
 This is a souvenir sold in the Sapporo Dome. There are 30 different ones, and just like baseball card packs, you don't know what's inside until you open it. At 300 yen each, a full set without pulling any duplicates will set you back $90!

So, what's inside?
These little pennants are about 2" square with a tiny chain to hang it on your bag or in your room. They look pretty cool, but there's no way I'd be able to afford a full set.

Many smaller player-based souvenirs are sold at stadiums, such as figurines, pins and buttons, and miniature baseball helmets. And most of them cost 200-300 yen. So I generally pick one or two unique ones and see which player I get.

By the way, this year for Halloween I was a Hanshin Tigers baseball player - my students said I looked like Randy Bass. I don't know about that, but my secondhand jersey ran about 2000 yen ($20) at a thrift shop, while my new cap cost around $27. The cheapest new caps go for 2000 yen or so, far more expensive than the $5 snap-back caps you can find of MLB teams at Target or WalMart in the States. Even simple, small things like erasers and keychains start at $4-5 sometimes!

Of course, this carries over to other licensed merchandise as well - souvenirs for local tourist destinations, character toys and other goods carry a big premium here! At the same time, the quality of most goods is much better than what you'd find in America. Gift giving is an important part of Japanese culture - after holidays, our office is full of omiyage (souvenir foods) from our trips, and when someone takes a day off they usually bring a gift as well. We've had a lot of gifts this week just because one of our teachers is leaving.

Being a bit of a cheapskate, I try to find my stuff at the elusive thrift shops or pick the lowest-priced souvenir when picking up something for myself.

Have you ever spent "too much" on a souvenir? Do you collect sets of souvenirs like these?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

BGS in Asia

Grading services are not everyone's cup of tea - I understand this. But if you've been following the industry news, you know that Beckett Grading Services (BGS) is expanding to Asia.

I don't know any collectors in Japan, though I know there are plenty of Japanese collectors who go into card shops and drop a few hundred dollars or more on the latest product looking for big hits. And there are people who like to get cards graded for various reasons.

So I'm putting this out there for anyone into this - are you interested in information about the new service? If you are, let me know - I'll pass your name on. I'm not sure if being an "early adopter" will mean any kinds of discounts or anything, but since I'm going to be too busy to post anything else I thought I'd share. Just send me an email!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Arigato Gozaimashita, NPB Card Guy!

Somewhat recently, I received my first package in a long time from the states, sent by NPB Card Guy - you know, the one who writes the Japanese Baseball Cards blog. He had visited Japan earlier this year and we were able to get together and visit some card shops. As you know, that means we started talking about cards and want lists and stuff like that, and we've been putting together a trade for a while now.

So it was really great to see the little notice in my mailbox that there was a package too big to fit, and later that day the box was delivered to my place of work (you have to love Japanese postal efficiency!).
 Sitting on top of the box was a Korean card complete with its original holder. I love obscure foreign cards!
 Mixed in with a bunch of other stuff was a single card from one of the Ted Williams sets issued in the 1990s. I have both base sets and I'm eventually going to put together an entire master set (or did I finish that?), but I wanted another copy of the cards from the Women of Baseball subset for my Women In Sports collection. This one card finishes the (small) subset!
Speaking of women of baseball, Fritsch Cards has issued a few series of their AAGPBL cards, and NPB Card Guy had series 1 and 2 box sets. A simple purchase will allow me to complete the set sometime in the next few months!

Last, but not least, a bunch of cards from the 2000 Upper Deck Japan Olympic Team set filled up the box. After seeing all these cards, I have to finish the set! I don't think it will be easy, or cheap, but hopefully I'll come across a cheap unopened box or another large lot of cards. I didn't scan any of the cards because I hope to show them in complete set form in the future.

Actually, I hope to show off all the AAGPBL cards as well. I would love to post a card a day. Despite the lack of images in this post, these are some of the best cards I've added to my collection this year!

So thank you very much, NPB Card Guy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Release: 2013 BBM Fighters 10th Season in Hokkaido

The Nippon-Ham Fighters got their start back in 1946 as the Senators, joining the professional leagues as the Toei Flyers the next year. They have changed hands a few times over the years, but they called Tokyo their home through the 2003 season. Several stadiums were home to the team over the years - Korakuen Stadium (home to the Giants) twice, Komazawa Stadium (rebuilt in 1962 as a football/soccer stadium for the 1964 Olympics), Meiji Jingu Stadium (current home of the Swallows), and the Tokyo Dome (current home of the Giants). However, Tokyo is packed with teams - today there are five pro teams in the metro area, including Saitama, Chiba, and Yokohama. The Fighters shared the Dome with the Giants and had always been second fiddle, plus the rent was quite high.

The Fighters, owned by meat company Nippon Ham, became the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2004 after moving to Sapporo. They now play in the Sapporo Dome, which opened in 2001 and was used in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Ten years later, the Fighters still call the Dome their home, and this September it became NPB home stadium number 12 on my list, completing my stadium journey.

To commemorate the Fighters' 10 year existence on the Northern Island, BBM released a 90-card pack-based set featuring (obviously) Fighters players.
 The base cards remind me of Sapporo Dome - it is quite grey and blue. There are two subsets, the three-card "Great Sensations" with the three most important Hokkaido Fighters players, and a 14-card highlights subset. Card 90 is a checklist with the mascots pictured on front.
 Backs of the regular cards use the usual base design, including partial 2013 stats for active players. The card set is identified by the [10th Season] notation on the copyright line.
 The lone insert set is called Face of Decade, basically a Best Nine (All-Star) team for the past decade.
The backs look pretty cool; card numbers have an FD- prefix.

Three jersey relic cards were inserted into packs with Kaneko, Nakajima, and a Kaneko-Nakajima dual relic. I haven't seen any in person so I don't know of any parallels, though BBM's preview images show they have red facsimile signatures on the front.

Of course, sticker autographs are also included in the release, with 42 players and three mascot autograph cards. Player autographs are serial numbered from 10-120 copies, and mascots have 30 copies each.

I think NPB Card Guy is going to post about this set very soon too, so maybe he'll leave a link to his post at Japanese Baseball Cards in the comments below once he posts it...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

New Release: 2013 BBM Genesis

BBM's lone(?) pack-based premium set came out in September, and Genesis provides the same basic big hits collectors come to expect. Opening Genesis is probably similar to busting packs or boxes of Triple Threads, Museum Collection, or Tier One, though Genesis only has active, single-player hits.
 The base sets this year feature a baseball seam-styled curve using gold foil, with the player's name, position, and jersey number. The typical "Engrish" writing appears below that: Honda's card above says "Hawks play for victory as a united body. The player always show the team spirit." Other teams simply replace the team name with the rest of the text remaining the same. The cards are printed on thick card stock.
 The backs have a few more design elements than other BBM sets, but the same basic information is provided in roughly the same layout as always. "BBM Baseball cards Premium 2013 (Genesis)" appears near the top of the base cards and on the backs of all cards in this release. Card numbers appear at the bottom; there are 108 cards in the set.
 A blue-foil Book Store Special Card was issued to sell through stores like Kinokuniya. The backs are the same, though cards are numbered with an RP prefix.
 The most-common parallel is a green-foil parallel. The backs are serial-numbered to 100.
 The next parallel has a red foil seam design. The red parallels are numbered to 50.
The rarest parallel has a titanium foil - it's almost holographic and is much more attractive than BBM's normal silver parallels. These are serial numbered to 25.

Cross Wind, BBM's cross-brand subset this year, is found in Genesis, with a total of 36 cards (3 per team).

A 12-card team checklist set was also inserted into packs. This year, they don't have any photos on the front and have simple text instead.

There are five insert sets in Genesis, each limited to 50 copies per card. There are 12 cards in each set.

  • Jet Black, touted as "super black" cards
  • 3D Royale, "Ultra 3D" cards
  • Elite of Nine, plastic cards
  • Ultra Nova, which appears to be holographic
  • Cross Wind
Yes, Cross Wind has a /50 parallel. I haven't seen any checklists so I don't know if it's an actual parallel or if there are different cards.

Genesis is about the hits, though, and each box has a relic or autograph.

Relic cards can be found in three tiers: regular edition (20-400 copies each), big version (with patches or barrels, 15-20 copies each), and super version (with large patches or knobs, 1-7 copies each). Some players don't have a regular edition (for jersey cards) or a big version (for cap relics).

Rookie memorabilia cards have two tiers: regular (100 copies each) and super version (4-8 copies each). Hiroyuki Shirasaki has only one card in this set, a 1/1 bat card.

Ball cards are either seam versions (50 copies each) or logo versions (10 copies each).

Baseball signatures (similar to UD's Sweet Spot, but with game-used balls) are 10 or 20 copies.

Finally, Cross Wind autographs are numbered to 10, 15, 19, or 20 copies each.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Release: 2013 BBM Bright Carp

BBM seems to have released more box sets this year than last, but I haven't really checked for sure. One of the many team box sets to be released lately focuses on the Carp stars.
 There are 18 regular cards in the base set, all with the same design seen above. Team colors and fish scales are very prominent in the set.
Backs continue the carp design with black backs and the usual statistics and write-up.

Each box set contains three random special cards. These all seem to be either relic or autograph cards. There are various versions of memorabilia and autograph cards, and I think all 18 players have relics and autographs. Despite the always high price tag on boxed sets, this might be one of the better deals, as you have a better chance at a good hit - there don't seem to be any photo cards or other non-relic/non-auto special cards in these boxes.

The first relic is the basic bat (#/200) or jersey (#/180) piece.

Gold leaf signature relics (#/80) appear to exist for all relic cards.
Jersey cards have patch versions (#/50), some with very nice patches!

Bat cards have barrel versions (#/20).

All 18 players apparently signed for the set, and there are two versions of each autograph.

Vertical versions are serial numbered between 20 and 40 copies.

Horizontal versions are serial numbered between 14 and 70 copies.

Twelve OB (retired/legend) players have autographs in the set; they appear to be sticker autographs using the same autograph card designs, but with golden colors instead of red, white, and black.

Vertical versions are serial numbered between 10 and 50 copies.

Horizontal versions are serial numbered between 20 and 100 copies. Yes, it seems like there are exactly twice as many horizontal cards as there are vertical cards for each player. (This does not hold true for the active players.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Two Packs of Calbee Series 3

I've been posting quite sporadically lately. I've just been busy, as always, of course. I intended on shipping out a bunch of trade packages and such over a month ago, but the pile of cards is just waiting for me. My weekdays/nights are generally full as I find myself working about an hour of overtime every day, and I've been dragging in the morning too.

Weekends aren't much better, because I am in a period of six weeks were something special is happening for work on five of them; this weekend is my only break but I'll still be doing "work" things as I'm helping my coworker clean her apartment - for a delicious cheeseburger and a banana split, of course.

So while I have stuff to post - Calbee history posts, a few new things here and there - I haven't been to a card shop in a few weeks and a lack of time and energy makes it real hard to push the keys.

Oddly enough, I've been trying to get my card fix through other means. One of those is by buying bags of Calbee chips with the baseball cards. I've bought a few bags for myself at the same time I've been picking up packs for Fuji. Here are a couple packs of cards. And by pack, I mean bag of chips with a pack of two cards super-glued to the back.
 For a base card, I was pretty happy to get Matt Murton. He's one of the better foreign players over here and as such is pretty popular. Coincidentally, I dressed up as a Hanshin Tigers baseball player for Halloween this year. My students tell me I look like Randy Bass:
I don't have a beard, though...
 I pulled two All Star Game subset/insert cards in my two packs. Hirano plays for the Buffaloes.
 Maru plays for what might be my favorite team, the Carp. If only I could have found a Carp jersey. The Tigers one I have is road grey with only Hanshin across the front.
I pulled one real insert, a Starcard of Giants pitcher Yamaguchi. I'm not sure why, but I've had better luck this year pulling inserts than in the past. Granted, I haven't bought many bags of chips to begin with, but it's nice to spend less than 100 yen and get a couple cards I need instead of spending 200-300 yen in stores per card.

I opened a few more bags but I haven't scanned those cards yet. I might get to that eventually... if only I have more time!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New Release: 2013 BBM Young Lions

In late August, BBM released a box set for the rookies and younger players on the Seibu Lions. It wasn't until mid to late September that I finally picked up a few cards and now, a month later, I'm finally posting about the set. Given the quantities of all the insert cards and autographs, 3000 sets were printed overall. In typical fashion, each box contains one complete base set plus one of the special cards. The suggested retail of each set is 4200 yen; autographs fall one in every three boxes on average.
 There are 27 cards in the base set. They have a design similar to the Lions set this year; a Young Lions 2013 logo is at the bottom. All 27 cards have the same design with no subsets.
 The backs have the traditional BBM layout. Statistics have career totals through 2012, and 2013 statistics through July 17th. The copyright information identifies the set as Young Lions 2013.
 There are a few inserts in the set. One is a die-cut nine card set. Each card is die-cut to the shape of the player's jersey number; the fronts have the typical foil background. Here you see the rarer red-foil-text version.
 Red foil cards are serial numbered to 50.
 A less-rare gold-name version exists.
The gold cards are numbered out of 125.

There is a three-card Photo Card set. They have a very large border, typical of BBM photo cards. Two of the cards are serial-numbered to 145, with the third numbered to 146.

Finally, there are 26 autographs with print runs between 30 and 40.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Calbee By Year: 1974-75 Calbee

 Calbee's next set was issued over two years, starting in 1974 with card numbering continuing through 1975. Then, at some point in 1975, they started numbering over again for the next issue. All cards in the 1974-75 set seem to have the same layout on front: borderless photos with one or two lines of text at the bottom in either black or white print.
The backs all seem to be essentially the same as well; "Pro Yakyu Card" and the series name appear across the top with the card number, followed by a waving team flag (some cards have two waving team flags). All the backs are grey. Cards issued in 1974 don't have a specific series name, but do list the year 1974. 1975-issued cards have no year, and instead have the actual short-series name.

There are several series in this release spread over two years:
  1. 1-72; some cards have baseball terminology on the back
  2. 73-90 Chunichi Dragons
  3. 91-126 Kansai Region Teams
  4. 127-144 Western Japan Teams (regional issue)
  5. 145-216 non-Western Japan Teams
  6. 217-288
    [note that cards 289-324 were not issued]
  7. 325-396 "Shoot Out Series" notation on front (in Japanese); backs have two team flags
  8. 397-432 "ON Series" notation on front (Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima)
  9. 433-504 "Scenes Series" notation on front, lots of Oh and Nagashima again
    Several cards in the Scenes Series appear in sepia colors
    ---Begin 1975 issues
  10. 504-576 "Thrilling Race Series"
  11. 577-648a "Camp Series" (Spring Training photos)
  12. 648b-755 "Opening Series" (Opening Day photos)
  13. 756-827 "Slugfest Series" (sluggers, generally, but also some pitchers?!)
  14. 792-827 "First Place Battle Series" (Chunichi Dragons)
    Note that these card numbers overlap the Slugfest Series. 
  15. 828-863 "Fierce Battle! Reversal Series"
  16. 864-899 "First Place Battle Series" (Hiroshima Carp)
  17. 900-935 "First Place Battle Series"
Note that according to Engel there are supposed to be 21 series but I only list 17, using the series breakdown from a Japanese collector. Some of these series splits seem to be ambiguous; cards 1-288 all seem to have the same design; likewise, the First Place Battle Series cards could be considered one series.

The latest edition of SCM (as of this writing) that lists Calbee cards puts the commons at 500 yen each; cards issued in 1974 carry a premium over 1975 with the first few series carrying a much higher premium. Of course, card values aren't always reliable, especially with vintage cards.

Monday, October 21, 2013

New Release: 2013 BBM Young Tigers Box Set

One of the late-season releases issued by BBM this year is a 27-card box set featuring rookies and younger stars on the Hanshin Tigers team.
 The base cards have a yellow and black background with two photos as seen above.
The background photo is reused on the back of the card along with the usual stats, data, and write-up. Again, the yellow and black color scheme is used.

Most people will buy the box set for the chance at a big hit. One of the following card types is included in each box:

Three memorabilia (jersey) cards were issued: Hiroaki Saiuchi, Akira Iwamoto, and a dual-relic card with both players.

There are three different photo cards.

Foil-signature cards with gold signature (/100) and holographic signature (/50) - there seem to be 9 of them. I can't verify that all cards have the same print run and additional parallels may exist.

The big hits will be the autograph cards. They all seem to be serial-numbered to 30.

Unknown parallels could exist for any of the special cards.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Release: Orix Buffaloes Rookies & Young Stars

A few teams have had some boxed sets this year that weren't issued by BBM: Carp, Lions, BayStars, and now the Buffaloes.
 The Buffaloes set is made by the same company that released the Lions and BayStars sets, as all contain the same "ry STARS" logo you see on the front and back of the card. The company has played with the set design over the year; I think the Lions received one single card design, the BayStars had several designs, and the Buffaloes have just one (with a variation). All the cards feature the team logo at the top with the "ry STARS" logo beneath. The bottom of the card has a three-line banner with ORIX Baseball Club or ORIX Buffaloes, the player's jersey number, name, and position, and finally the name of the set. Members of the 2013 All-Star team are noted on the fronts between the team logo and ry STARS logo.

Cards 1-11 have a dark blue color scheme, 12-17 use pink, 18-21 have lighter blue (seen above), and 22-27 return to the dark blue color but also use a jersey-styled "R" in the background of the photo. Cards 1-11 are the manager and stars, 12-17 are young stars, 18-21 feature former BlueWave legends, and 22-27 are rookies.
The backs have the same photo as the front in the upper half, with a long write-up at the bottom. Cards are numbered in the lower-left and say "Copyright ORIX BUFFALOES" but they do not have a year or manufacturer information.

The 27-card set was sold in box-set form along with autographed cards. One autographed card was inserted in each box; some "hot" boxes could have multiple autographs.

The autograph issues break down as follows:

  • A seven-card regular autographed set with black ink signatures and a red ink signature parallel.
  • Two combo-signature cards with red ink parallels.
  • Four "Foreigner" signature cards with red ink parallels.
  • Six "Young Star" autographed cards with red and blue ink versions.
  • BlueWave Legends Combo cards (2 cards) with red ink parallels.
  • Six Rookie autographs with red and blue ink versions.

Note that blue ink versions might replace the black or red ink versions; it's difficult to tell. With 27 autographed cards, I think everybody appears in the set on one autographed card; the All Star members have second autographs on the two combo-signature cards, and the Legends only have combo autographs.

It appears the manufacturer of the set is named Frontier International.

The boxes are quite expensive for a small set and a single autographed card, though I guess buying a case would possibly give you a hot box or two and I'm guessing that a couple good pulls will net bulk buyers a decent profit - a single-digit serial-numbered dual-legend autograph card will bring big bucks in Japan.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How Important is the Mascot to Japan?

Kids love mascots. That goes without saying. If they didn't, the Phillie Phanatic, the San Diego Chicken, and Ronald McDonald wouldn't exist. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse wouldn't troll around theme parks. And Japan would be nowhere as cute.

Where do you see mascots in Japan? Everywhere. They're on the trains - railroad companies have mascots, and sometimes individual rail lines have their own mascots. There are at least three shinkansen (bullet train) mascots that I know of. The post office, convenience stores, point cards, manufacturers, and just about every single entity that deals with the public has a mascot. The English school I teach for has a mascot, and our elementary school textbook line has its own macsot of sorts.

Japan itself must have an official mascot - possibly many more. Each branch and division probably has a mascot. Prefectures have mascots, and towns even have their own mascots. Fukushima is the prefecture and major city most affected by the earthquake in 2011 - the nuclear power plants are located in the prefecture. It is also the name of a company that makes refrigerators. Here is that company's mascot:

It's name is Fukuppi. That's pronounced "Foo-koo-pee" and is a combination of "Fuku" from Fukushima and "ppi" or "ppy" from the word "happy". Unfortunately, they named their character "Fukuppy" using English characters, which sounds a lot like the adjective form of a dirty word. 

The image spread quickly around the internet and in fact we were talking about it at work today. The simplest, most effective change is to simply change the y to an i - and some other ideas would be Fukupi, Fuku-Pi, Fuku Pi, or some other variation which would keep the pronunciation the same while looking less offensive.

Now, how important is the mascot? The company has issued two apology letters on its website about the name already and removed the English text from the graphic. And because the company has the same name as the town, many people (including myself, until I had a chance to see the actual website) associated the mascot with the town. 

But I like the little egg, and the name is cute if pronounced properly.

Japanese baseball teams have mascots too. Each team has a few, actually - one or two main characters (usually a male and a female)  and three or four extra characters, which might be family members or friends of the mascots, or completely unrelated characters. Plus, some mascots have multiple versions (note the eco-friendly mascot below). And the first set to exclusively feature mascots (that I'm aware of) was released in 2011 - it's a box set by BBM titled Our Friends. The cards from that set are shown below.

Not all mascots are in the set, by the way. BBM released a second Our Friends set this year with even more cards, and that means even more mascots. I have been looking for a set lately but haven't come across one.

This 2011 set has posed pictures behind a starburst style background, with the character's name, jersey number (if applicable) and team name, and the set's logo at the bottom. The backs give a bit of history on the characters (back-of-card scan is at the end of the post). The box set includes the 45 base cards you see here, plus one of 40 autographed cards.

I am curious about who signs the mascot autograph cards. Does only one person play each character, and thus have a unique, distinct signature? How often do mascots change performers? Mascot signatures have appeared on BBM cards for several years now - are the signatures on the 2013, 2011, and 2008 cards from the same person?

Anyway, here are the cards in order.

Sorry, Fuji. I know you just posted this set too, but the timing of the Fukushima mascot just made it too tempting.