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

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Friday, April 7, 2017

The 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge (Day 7)

Day 7: A card you bought in person and the story behind it
I'm not the first to post a scan of this card, and I won't be the last. There are two cards in this "Special Member" insert set, and I have them both now.

Yasutake Kageura is the titular character from the manga Abu-san, written and illustrated by Shinji Mizushima. It got its start way back in 1973, finally reaching its last chapter in 2014. With 107 volumes making up 976 stories, it was undeniably popular and well-received critically, winning the Shogakukan Manga Award. 

The manga follows Yasutake from his start in 1973 all the way up to his retirement in 2009, at 62 years old. Yes, Kageura was such a great player that he was playing in the NPB into his sixties... in the comic book. He plays for the Hawks over his 37-year career, and several real baseball players make appearances in the comic, giving it a parallel to the real world.

In fact, the story was written to parallel the Hawks' performance on the actual baseball diamond as closely as possible, though due to deadlines and such it didn't always work out as planned. They've managed to work this into the storyline as one of the character's dreams.

When Kageura retired in the comic book in 2009, the real-life Hawks retired Kageura's jersey number, 90, in a ceremony in late October. That number kind of remains retired to this day, as the manga is a very important part of Hawks history. It also appears that statues of Kageura and others are in Niigata, which is supposed to be his hometown.

I mentioned that the jersey number 90 isn't exactly retired, as Roberto Suarez, a pitcher with the Hawks, wore the number in 2016. He is back with the team this year as well.

While there have been some unique retired numbers in MLB, I don't think anything comes close to this. And as a part of my "Retired Jersey Numbers" collection, I had to have a card recognizing this number.

It's been difficult to find - the card was issued in 2002 by BBM as a part of the Hawks team issue, and that is "vintage" enough in Japan that it's tough to find in shops. I finally found one at my favorite place that I never get to, Quad Sports in Takadanobaba. And it didn't come cheap - 500 yen for this insert of a player that never touched a field.

And not only does this card fill a spot in my Retired Jersey Numbers collection, it was the final card I needed! Well, again, kind of. Hiroki Kuroda's number is now retired, so I'll have to grab a card of him. But as far as legacy retired numbers, the collection is done. And this was a cool card to do it with!


  1. That's awesome that they semiretired his number. I love the fact that a comic means so much to the team that they would do that.

    1. Comics are a very important part of Japanese society, and definitely not just for kids. Voice actors are just as popular as real actors, too, because of the importance of anime. Many of my students tell me their favorite movie is a Ghibli movie... or Disney.

  2. Oh man... I wonder how much 1st issues of that Manga fetch. Gotta be big $$$. Cool card w/ a cooler story.

    1. That's a good question. Actually, you're asking two different questions, because like most manga, the first "issue" would have appeared in a collection of serialized comics or in a magazine. The first Abu-san-only manga volume came out the following year. It's hard to even find these books, because they're usually printed on cheap paper and most people don't keep their manga after reading it. And I'm not aware of many collectors out there, either. That said, you can find old magazines and stuff at a few locations around Tokyo.