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

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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?


  1. I haven't really decided if or how much I regret it, but this summer, on my vacation to San Francisco/Yosemite, I picked up a Hensley Meulens 2010 World Series away jersey from the game used store at AT&T Park for $200. Yes, you read that right. I dropped $200+ (tax, doncha know) on a jersey of the Giant hitting coach. Given that it landed on my AmEx, there's no telling exactly how much that will truly end up costing, but that was the most expensive thing I've ever picked up for my collection that has absolutely no hope of a monetary return.

    Here's a good financial tip when on vacation, kids: don't take a credit card with you on vacation where you might end up surrounded by pricey souvenirs!

  2. Apparently, Randy Bass looks like everyone - Col. Sanders, Santa Claus, you. Or maybe it's the other way around - everyone looks like Randy Bass.

  3. Jason - that's a big chunk of change, but at the same time it's probably a cornerstone of your collection! I've made big purchases before, but I can't remember dropping more than $50 on a single item! ... Now that I think about it, my "authentic" Braves jerseys (you know, the ones the pros wear that you can buy in stores) were certainly more than that, and they weren't used in games. To have a game-used/worn piece of equipment of one of my favorite players would be really awesome though.

    NPB Card Guy - yeah, he doesn't exactly look unique. And that he's a bit heavy-set makes him a better match for me than Murton or other foreign Tigers.

    I wonder if Randy Bass's beard is anything like Chuck Norris's...