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

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

New Release: 2017 BBM Hiroshima Carp

The Carp are probably the most popular team overall in Japan. Sure, the Giants are more famous, but Carp fans are amazingly devoted and can be found all over the country. So Carp sets are pretty common - there are several box sets issued every year. But this is the main team set that BBM issues, so what's in it this year?
 Here are the base cards. I really do enjoy BBM's team set designs; simple, clean, and unobtrusive in most cases.
The Titlist subset features players who won awards the past year. The back lists other Carp members who won that award - Kenta Maeda is shown from 2010 and 2015.
 The Brightest Hope subset has some of the better players on the team with some previous-year highlights and comparative statistics.

Oddly enough, there is a base set partial parallel which is serial-numbered to 100 copies. I believe the Carp are the first team to get a paralleled base set this year.

Moving on to inserts, all of the regular Carp inserts you'll see below come in parallels of 100, 75, and 50 copies. The 100 parallels really aren't different other than the serial number, while 75 and 50 have patterned holographic/refractive backgrounds instead of just foil backgrounds.
 RBI Leaders is self-explanatory.
 If you didn't guess that Quality Start has the team's top starting pitchers, you guessed wrong.
 Fighting Spirit has no real meaning, other than perhaps the players who appear to show the greatest effort on the field? What does that say about the other players?
 Fame of Carp has the famous Carp members. Mmmhmmm.
Matured has, um, mature players.

As you can see, the insert sets are the run-of-the-mill foil-covered nonsense that BBM always issues.

There's also a Phantom insert set, numbered to 25 copies. This is a limited, super-shiny card set that's being included in all the team sets this year. I've seen a couple on YJA, but I don't have one yet.

The Carp set includes the usual autographs for the whole team, along with the standard combo autographs, silver and 1/1 gold version autographs, and rookie autographs.

Furthermore, the Carp set also has a memorabilia set including a patch parallel.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Tackling a Grey Whale: 2011 BBM Dancing Heroine

I've been pushing hard to complete my collecting goals for the year. I'm about 35% done, with several not far from completion either. One of those unfinished goals is reducing the number of Japanese sets I want. I've found cards for several sets over the past few months, but one set that remained completely elusive - other than buying the entire set as singles - was the first Dancing Heroine set.
 If you've been living under a rock for the past five years, let me clue you in. Dancing Heroine is BBM's annual set showcasing the cheerleaders in the NPB. Yes, it's basically eye candy, but it sells well. It's so popular that BBM has been issuing two series each year and even released some team-specific box sets. When I first came to Japan, I probably could have found the 2011 set somewhere, but I never knew to look. Now, full sets almost never show up in auctions, and I've never seen one in stores.
 Last month, someone listed a couple opened boxes on YJA, and I jumped at the opportunity. I ended up getting pretty close to a full set with only a few duplicates, as well as the three autographed cards you see here. You may or may not be able to tell from my scans, but the image quality in the 2011 set is pretty poor - the photos look grainy or off-color a bit. Another aspect of the 2011 set that was changed was the use of regular base cards for the autographs - the foil numbering on the back (aside from the sticker for the autograph, of course) is the only indication that these are authentic.
The 2011 set was the largest, and this may be why BBM has released two sets each year since then - the full squad for each team can get cards and autographs and each set is under 100 cards.

With a little bit of searching a couple weeks ago, I found all the cards I needed to complete the set. So this one is in the bag!

If only I could find 2000 Century's Best or 2006 Nostalgic lots...

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yui! Album Jacket Trading Cards

Do you love music and trading cards? Do you remember collecting CDs or record albums, and all the space those awesome covers took up? Well, do I have the product for you!
 I don't know much about these, other than the only ones I've seen are what I'm sharing with you. Yui is/was a Japanese musician who got her start in 2004. She retired in 2012, but returned the next year before eventually getting married and having kids - that was a couple years ago, so she seems to be on extended hiatus or fully retired at this point.
 .These are a little smaller than standard sized cards across and are square shaped. The card stock is thicker, too.
 The fronts have the images found on the CD covers. Backs give various details - what album or single it is, the release number, and title is at the top. The release date is followed by a track listing and some Japanese text that gives the smallest bit of information about the release. A "Yui" logo, "Jacket Trading Card" and the copyright is at the bottom.
 As you can see here, multiple covers get multiple cards - Namidairo has two identical releases other than the front image and release number.
 I've never heard Yui's music, but when I saw these little cards I had to pick them up.
 As I mentioned, a very quick search didn't turn up anything other than Yui having these cards, so it could have been some kind of campaign. I don't know anything about how or exactly when they were issued, though my "newest" card has a 2010 release date, so they're no more than 7 years old.
 I love this concept. The size isn't convenient for storage, but since they aren't much narrower than standard cards they'll fit well into card boxes. I would totally collect these for a lot of my favorite artists - everyone from Queen, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Madonna, to Avril Lavigne, Ben Folds, and Britney Spears. And in this day of digital music, having a cool card "album cover" for Taylor Swift and other modern artists would be awesome.
And for those who are wondering, here's a Yui song:
(You might be able to watch more through YouTube but I had a hard time finding one that wasn't blocked by Sony.)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

It's A Pack: 2017 Calbee Series 1

I've shown a Calbee pack before, but as I mentioned then, I had another sitting around. So, what was inside?
Luis Mendoza's line is better than the Mendoza Line. Though he's a pitcher. He has a losing record over his career here in Japan, though he has a relatively respectable ERA (3.78 career in the NPB to date). Looking at his batting stats, in 14 plate appearances he's never reached base, striking out 10 times and grounding into a double play once.
The second card is a Starcard, which is about as good as you could get, other than the foil signature version of them or maybe a Lucky Card. The player is Hisayoshi Chono, who last year batted .283 but is only at .224 this year.

So there you have it. Two cards, two mediocre players. But wasn't that fun anyway?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Japan National Jersey!

Yes, it's been a long time. It's been two weeks since my last post, again not due to a lack of interest or psoting material, but due to a lack of time and other projects. Actually, I was getting sick as I was writing my last post, and that cold knocked me out for several days. I'm still trying to recover, stuck around 95%. This past week, I've been working on a project that has nothing to do with baseball, so I won't bore you with the details. I finally finished that a couple hours ago.

Meanwhile, I've picked up some great stuff off Yahoo Japan Auctions and new cards at the shops, so you'll see those soon.

But first, today.

Today starts with tomorrow, for tomorrow, I will finally go to Tokyo Disneyland for the first time. Yes, I've lived in Japan for five years, and have not been to TDR (Tokyo Disney Resort). Yes, I'm a theme park junky and a Disney fan, and have not been to TDR. Yes, I went to Hong Kong Disneyland a couple years ago, but have not yet been to TDR.

The real reason for that is crowds. The Tokyo park is probably the most consistently crowded. Lots of people visit the park at least once a year, and many have annual passes - which run about $500 each. Seriously, don't go to TDR on the weekend - wait times are consistently in the hours. Pass holders will go with friends and chat and ride one or two rides in a day, watch a show, and grab some food.

So I've been waiting for a good weekday, and between weather, money, and energy, there just hasn't been a good opportunity. But over the past few months, I've worked a shifted schedule where I have Mondays and Tuesdays off, and Tuesdays are much better days to visit. June is a good month, too, though even on a Monday - a school day Monday - Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain had over two hour waits this afternoon.

I'm going tomorrow, a Tuesday. Crowds should be lighter, but I'm still planning on long lines for the popular attractions. So I planned out my day - I made an itinerary to help me get the most important attractions as quickly as possible in the morning. People in Japan start their day early, too - the park opens at 8 AM every day and admission lines get long well before that. You can buy tickets at the park in the morning, but that's another line to wait in. You can buy tickets at convenience stores, but it looks like they need to be exchanged for regular tickets before going into the park. And you can buy online, but they need to be printed - I could do that but printed tickets wear out pretty fast.

But then there's the Disney Store. And there's a Disney Store about a 30-minute walk from here. Not having left my apartment and the one-block surrounding area (I love that I can walk to a grocery store and 24-hour convenience store both in 5 minutes) I figured it'd be a great way to get some exercise.

Not only could I get my Disney ticket for tomorrow, but on the way home I could stop at the two secondhand shops to browse around. And I found this at the first:
Yeah, that's a Japan jersey. It's not an "authentic" jersey - it's like the fan jerseys worn at NPB games. That said, the design is similar to one of the jerseys the national team has worn. And it fits - not terribly well (I need to lose my Homer Simpson stomach) but I'm glad it's wearable.

That shop has a good stock of Marines and Giants fan jerseys, and occasionally other jerseys too. I've also found a few baseball souvenirs there but the good stuff is overpriced. I didn't strike out at the second shop, but you'll have to wait to see that til later.

So until then, thanks for reading!

Monday, May 22, 2017

I'm a Winner! Bromide Prize Cards Galore!

It's safe to say I lucked out with this lot. Three bromides, all premium prizes. One of them is uncataloged, even!
 First, this is JBR 9a: 1950-51 Large Black & White Marutoku 3rd Prize. Except for size, these are basically the same as JBR9. The regular cards measure 1-9/16" x 2-1/2", while this 3rd Prize version is 2-5/8" x 3-5/8". There is a 2nd Prize larger version (3-9/16" x 5") and there must be some first prize as well. Engel's guide mentions a color variation for the regular set, but not the prizes. Furthermore, there are two more sets issued by Marutoku in 1951 which are wider than JBR 9, though he doesn't mention any prize parallels.

The player above is Shigeru Chiba of the Yomiuri Giants. The top line mentions the league and team name, while the bottom line is the player's name. The backs are blank.
 Also issued in 1950, this is JBR 87c: Bromide Game 2nd Prize Premiums. The JBR 87a set has several variations in ink color - my card is black and white, but brown and green ink versions are known as well. There are also game cards with a baseball play (hit, double, triple, home run) instead of the regular text at the bottom - these variations are prize cards; a hit brought a 4th Prize, double 3rd Prize, and so on. JBR 87a measures 2-1/16" by 2-3/8".

Engel doesn't mention any 4th Prize premiums, and based on my experience I'm guessing 4th Prize was just another regular bromide. 3rd Prize are larger - 2-15/16" by 4-1/16".  The card you see above is a 2nd Prize, at 4-7/8" x 6-7/8", which makes it a good bit larger than a postcard. That would make it perfect for displaying on a kid's wall. The player above is Hiroshi Ohshita (or Oshita) of the Flyers. The text line has the player's name followed by the team nickname in parentheses.
Finally, the uncatalogued card. Does this look similar to the card above? It should, because I believe this is the First Prize (or home run) card for this release. The player is Fumio Fujimura of the Tigers, and the photo shows him diving into what I believe is home. This card is described in the 2nd Prize and regular set as well, and it's such a good photo I'm not surprised it would be used as a 1st Prize as well. It measures about 8-3/8" by 10-1/4".

Both my 2nd and 1st Prize cards from the 1950 Bromide Game set have tape/glue remnants at the top on the back. This could have been from the owner displaying it in a book or on a wall, but given how bromides were sold, these could have been attached to the packaging/display for the bromides.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Unknown Menko: Explosion Small Menkos

I haven't shown many lately, but there are several unidentified Japanese cards in my collection. Here's one of my newer ones.
Much smaller than the usual menko cards, this little guy has a color photo over an exploding background. Given what I saw when I bought this one, other cards might just have regular photos.

The backs have the same usual stuff as found on other menko, but the order is somewhat unique. The menko number is in the middle, with the janken symbol at the bottom and a robot cartoon above. I'm not sure if the other cards I saw had robots or some other art.

Given the quality and the card stock, I would guess this is post-1960.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bigger, Longer, and Uncut: JCM 14e: 1962 Bat on Right

A prime example of the recycling of card designs comes in the Bat on Right series. Issued by Marukami from 1959-64, the seven series of cards measure 1-13/16" by 3". It's so standard as a Japanese menko that it's nicknamed "J206" after the famous T206 tobacco series. It's the most commonly seen, about the same size as T206, and there are a few back varieties. Those varieties usually come in back color variations and variations in card stock.

Several cards from these series were imported to the US, and those cards are frequently numbered with a stamp or by hand by the importer in a more traditional manner (1, 2, 3...). This is common for several sets that were brought to the States in the 1960s.

There are seven distinct series that Engel has included in his guide as complete listings; he mentions that types a-d (the earliest series) are scarcer than the last three.
 Fronts of JCM 14 have vertical kanji with the player's team and surname. 14a includes the position, while 14g includes the position but no team name on the front. In some cases, as with 14e seen here, the team name is in parentheses. Cards from all series have color photos on the front and white borders.
The backs are printed in one color, but that color can differ by series, and some series have multiple colors. The set gets its name from the large bat on the right side, with a janken symbol beneath. The top line lists the team name, while in 14f it includes the player name and team name. Various information about the player is found in the middle, and a menko number is printed at the bottom.

Menko numbers can be repeated in a series, which is very visible in my uncut sheet above. Furthermore, those numbers are repeated from series to series, and some players have the same number from series to series as well. This can make it difficult to identify cards at times, but each series has its own unique quirks to make it easier to figure out.

Here are the known back ink colors by series:

  • a: green ink only, gray or white stock
  • b: green or purple ink, gray stock
  • c: aqua, blue, or purple ink, white or gray (scarcer) stock
  • d: blue, aqua, or green ink, gray or white (scarcer) stock
  • e: brown, green (scarcer), or  occasionally blue ink, gray stock
  • f: brown ink only, gray or white (scarcer) stock
  • g: brown ink only, gray stock
While these cards define menko sets, and thus are very run-of-the-mill, having an uncut sheet of a scarcer color makes it all the better. I love uncut sheets, so this is a great addition to my collection!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Not a Menko? JBR 5: 1959 2 in 1 Marukami B&W

As far as most of you can tell, menko are pretty standard - image on the front, game stuff on the back. And these cards are no different in that respect. But one thing you don't usually see, and I never really mention, is that menko are generally very thick. Some of the die-cuts I have are thinner than the rectangular ones, but they still are thicker than the Allen & Ginter cards sitting beside them. This is because menko is a game, and cards are designed to be tough, so they last in battle and actually fly like you want them to.

Bromides are much thinner. Some are basically the same thickness as photo paper, though most are pretty standard in their thickness. Also, while not necessarily the case every time, bromides get their name from the photographic process originally used to make cards. So when it comes to cataloging a card, not only the design but the thickness and manufacturing techniques come into play.

While more menko sets have been released for baseball than bromides, you can still find the modern version of bromides in various entertainment industries. What translates as "life photographs" are extremely popular for many idol groups; some AKB48 photos can sell for hundreds of dollars! I've also seen similar products offered for some baseball products. The cheerleader team box sets BBM has issued over the past few years have included these as box toppers, and I've seen some teams issue larger bromide/life photograph style products. Furthermore, bromides can be found in some snack shops for popular music groups.
 This is JBR 5. Issued in 1959 by Marukami, the name of the set refers to two cards being attached to each other. The combined cards are 2-3/4" by 2-1/8".

The player on the right is Yosio Yoshida of the Tigers. While this is a 1959-designated set, my The History of Uniform book identifies that cap logo as belonging to the 1960 uniform. It's possible that the book could be wrong about the cap change date. The player on the left is Yoshikazu Hamanaka, of the Whales (I think - determined by his hat logo and pose). The same book identifies his uniform as being from 1960 as well; the Whales didn't use jersey numbers on their fronts until that season. It's possible this set was issued in 1960 or the uniform book is incorrect.
The back of each card has a playing card number and symbol as well as an animal, along with a janken symbol at the bottom.  The backs don't match to specific fronts, as each front could have any playing card symbol on the back.

The set has 60 baseball cards plus many actors and actresses. Regular cards came sold uncut in pairs, but there are display sheets with 4, 12, and 32-card layouts.