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

Want Lists are located here. NPB Baseball Want List is located here.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Menko Madness: Teach Yourself Japanese!

How many times can I sing the praises of menko cards? The artwork ranges from crude cartoons to museum-worthy, and the backs have all kinds of interesting things you don't find on regular cards. Like monkeys.

I try to avoid buying cards that don't fit anywhere in my collection. Do I need a card of that player? No? Am I building that set? No? Does it fill a gap in my type collection? No? Then I'll pass. Except menko. They're just so cool! I've assembled a small collection of menko that have no home, and I'm fine with that. So it is with these.

Let's start with a card I can't identify. The Clippers existed only in 1950; they merged with the Pirates to become the Lions in 1951. The player is Shissho Takesue (I hope that link works).

After this card,the remaining cards come from a 1950 set titled "Animal Back" for obvious reasons. Given a rarity of R3, they must be pretty rare, but aside from the first card below these are commons.

Kaoru Betto. This card doesn't match the description in Engel's guide and might be a variation. Saru means monkey!
Kazuo Kasahara. Usagi means rabbit! Sailor Moon's "regular" name was Usagi. Her parents named her Rabbit or Bunny. No wonder she was so whiny.
Kikuji Hirayama. This card also doesn't match the description. Niwatori means chicken!
Shigeya Iijima. Suzume means sparrow!

 And thanks to a wonderful kid's card game, you now know four Japanese animal names.

Until next time..

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Today's Trio

No, I'm not putting together a new feature. I'm just showing off three cards that I've recently added to my collection. Because I can.
Another one of those ugly printing plates, and poorly scanned. But I'm always glad to have them for my type collection! This is Trevor Cahill, from 2012 Bowman. Cahill debuted with the A's in 2009, but has played for a total of nine teams through 2020, returning to the A's for a second stint in 2018. I'm counting his time with the Dodgers, since he did play in their minor league system.
This card didn't scan very well either. I'm still learning how to use this new scanner, and apparently the sun shining through my window in the morning causes my scanner to register edges of things poorly. Atsuya Furuta is another legendary Japanese player that most MLB fans probably don't know anything about. This card is part of the Upper Deck Ovation NPB mini-master set I'm attempting to complete. Again, I'm so close!
Haraguchi probably won't be winning any Best Nine awards, but he is a two-time All Star and a cancer survivor. And this jersey card is a nice addition to my NPB type collection.

Friday, February 26, 2021

So Close to Another Set!

In 2000, BBM issued a nearly-500 card set featuring the best players at each position over the 20th century. The set was given the creative name of Century's Best Nine. This set actually featured the 120 players nominated for the award, while a 2001 insert set featured the nine winners. 120 players, but 480 cards? Do the math and you'll see that each player gets four cards in the set. Hunting down all of those cards in a limited set featuring (arguably) the 120 best players to ever play in NPB (through 1999, at least) hasn't been easy. I have found several more cards needed to get this set done, and some of them are names you might recognize:

You probably don't know Kadota, but if you consider yourself a baseball fan, you should know who Shigeo Nagashima is.
Two more names you might not know. There are so many Giants in this set, so I'll instead point you in the direction of the logo on Harimoto's cap. And Harimoto is the only player to get 3000 hits in the NPB.
Another huge name. Ochiai is a member of the very-small 500 home run club. And he got a couple Triple Crowns here. So, I'm glad to knock this one off the list.
And then there's Ichiro. Because Ichiro. Luckily, his pictures ended up in the set. A couple other players didn't give permission and those are quite uninteresting cards.

What's left? Do you remember yesterday's post with Yutaka Fukumoto, and the signed Braves hat? Well, coincidentally, his card (#345) is all that's left to finish off this set. It's not a key card, but for some reason it's proven to be quite elusive.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hats Off To Me

A couple years ago, I went through all of the accumulated stuff from my life here in Japan, and made some decisions about what I wanted to keep versus what I didn't really want to keep. Some of it was worthless and is now in a landfill or properly recycled, while other things are in boxes waiting to be sold in some way.

Don't worry, I kept most of the baseball stuff, at least. And last year, while I was cooped up in my tiny apartment, I went back through the boxes to photograph and catalog everything I kept. While organizing and inventorying the baseball souvenirs, I verified that I had at least one, but not too many, souvenirs from each NPB team. And that got me thinking: what if I had one souvenir for every defunct NPB team as well? That includes a few teams that have disappeared, but also teams which have changed their names.

If my research and memory is correct, this is a list of all NPB team names which no longer exist:

  • Pirates (1950)
  • Clippers (1950)
  • Robins (1950-1954)
  • Whales (1955-1977)
  • Unions (1954-1957)
  • Stars (1950-1956)
  • Flyers (1950-1973)
  • Orions (1950-1977)
  • Braves (1950-1990)
  • BlueWave (1950-2004)

Somewhere along the line I picked up a BlueWave souvenir. They aren't that uncommon - the team existed less than 20 years ago and was the home of Ichiro before he moved to Seattle. 

Last month, I finally got a Braves souvenir.

The easiest thing to find for the Hankyu Braves, other than cards, are hats. But most sellers have been asking more than I want to pay. This only cost me about 1000 yen ($10)! It's big enough to fit on a shelf but not too big to dominate it. I believe this is vintage.
 Oh, you noticed a signature. I'm pretty sure this is Yutaka Fukumoto, the Japanese Rickey Henderson. Or should I say, Rickey Henderson is the American Yutaka Fukumoto. Fukumoto broke Brock's career steals record before Henderson, and held the single-season stolen base record with 106 before Henderson broke that record. Fukumoto got 2543 hits and 1065 stolen bases in his career, and is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

I didn't bid on it because Fukumoto signed it, but if this is authentic (I have no reason to believe otherwise) it's a great addition to my collection and my first Japanese Hall of Famer autograph. (Apparently, the seller's kid got the hat signed at Nishinomiya Stadium.)

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find decent souvenirs eventually for the Orions, Flyers, and Whales. But the remaining teams only existed in the 1950s, so I might turn to replicas or other modern souvenirs.

And as a bonus, these bromide photo cards of Fukumoto were included with the hat:

I'm taking a stab in the dark here guessing they were probably sold at the stadium.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

It's Not a Card, It's Not Baseball, But...

My tastes are eclectic. I could write a couple 500-word essays worth of background to tell you all about it, but I'll spare you the pain. But one thing I do like in addition to card collecting is riding roller coasters.

I've ridden 652 coasters in 172 parks across 13 countries. 596 of those "count" as coasters, with the rest being powered, mountain, water, or undefined coasters. At least 147 of those are no longer operating. (Oh, and in case you're wondering, there's an app for that. There's no way I'm keeping up with all that data.)

I've amassed a decent collection of theme park souvenirs: shot glasses, keychains, magnets, and so on. But until now, I never had my own coaster train.

Okay, so it's a toy. Tomica is the Japanese equivalent to Hot Wheels, and may be even higher quality. They generally make regular cars, trucks, and buses, but they do have some unique items in their product line. One of those is item 123, the Fujikyu Highland Do-Dodonpa coaster.

Do-Dodonpa is one of the signature rides at Fujikyu, which is considered by many to be the best amusement park in Japan.

Side note: Disneyland or DisneySea is considered to be the best theme park in Japan, but Fujikyu is considered to be the best amusement park due to its selection of unique thrill rides. Think of it like a Japanese Cedar Point. Except I believe Nagashima Spaland is a much better park than Fujikyu; Fujikyu has some amazing rides but Nagashima Spaland has a better overall experience.

The detail is pretty good. I wish the people weren't all the same color as the seats. Most of the paint is already applied, but the box came with a set of tiny stickers to put on the trains where the steps and the top next to the seats are. I used a pair of tweezers and some other random nail tool to help me apply them properly.

The train can roll on the very short piece of track or be taken off completely. Each car in the train can spin completely independently of the other cars. And you can't see it in the picture, but the bottom of the train has brake fins and this track piece has brakes. It's a nice touch. In case you're wondering, the bottom wheels spin, though the top and side wheels do not.

I would like a real piece of a coaster someday. Owning a coaster car is probably unlikely, but a piece of track (replaced, of course) or an old wheel would be neat. I have a piece of the Golden Gate Bridge, after all, it can't be too tough to get a roller coaster piece, can it?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Don't Be A Player Hater

Yesterday's MJ card was for a US player collection, but I can't neglect my player collection for the NPB! With no cards being released these days (it is the offseason, after all) I'm starting to look for older cards that I've been missing. And I found this card recently:

The Yomiuri Giants have had special Players Day events in the past which included the distribution of trading cards. These cards came in special folders; above, you can see the front and inside front of the folder for Alex Ramirez. These folders are about 5x7", big enough to hold the actual card inside.

 And here is the card. It's shinier than it looks, with a nice finish. The back of the card tells us the date this particular card was distributed: June 8, 2009.

The Giants issued cards for Players Day events in 2008 and 2009 in this manner, and other promotional items in other years, such as small towels and caps. 

I didn't know this card exists until I happened to see it searching through some listings. Unfortunately, there are probably at least a dozen cards for Rami-chan I don't know about. But that does make things interesting when card hunting!

Monday, February 22, 2021

My Most Expensive Minor League Card

I have several player collections, but keeping up with them isn't too tough, because most of them are just Topps flagship base cards. But I have put together a few more comprehensive collections.

Michael Jordan is known more for his actions with an orange ball than a white one, but at some point I decided to put together a full collection of all of his base and insert baseball cards. That collection isn't quite finished, but the last "hit" is in the books:

This card from 2002 Upper Deck Minor League has a piece of his jersey with the Scottsdale Scorpions. I picked up a bat relic pretty early on in my quest to find all of Jordan's baseball cards, but jerseys have been more elusive. All that's left are a few 1994 inserts (which won't come cheap, I think) and one of those Upper Deck 20th Anniversary cards from 2009. This year, I hope!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

It's Just a T-Shirt

 There aren't many American cards I don't know about. I don't mean I've memorized my 2008 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards from cover to cover, and I can't tell you how many cards were in the 1952 Topps set, and honestly the 1990 Donruss set just has way too many meaningless variations. But I know how to find information about sets, cards, and players pretty easily using the multitude of resources available to me. (And I have at least flipped through every page of the Beckett Almanac I bought back in 2003.) 

Japan is a different question. You must think I'm a broken record when I talk about this, and it's definitely become a cliché on this blog. But even for modern sets issued by major manufacturer BBM, there just is no comprehensive guide out there. So I was a little surprised to see this card pop up on Yahoo Japan Auctions:

Rie Tanaka is perhaps the most famous Japanese female gymnast in the past 20 years. She's certainly the most popular. She has appeared in several of BBM's Real Venus sets and even had her own box set issued in 2013. I don't know of any other gymnast who has received their own full set.

This card features a piece of cloth cut from a t-shirt she wore inside a gymnasium. I'm pretty sure she just wore it for the photo, though it comes from the university where she used to teach. It is identified as a "practice shirt", but how often do gymnasts practice routines in t-shirts? Perhaps it was worn during workouts or warm-ups.

The card itself is from the 2012 BBM Real Venus set, but wasn't included in packs. Instead, it is a "Fuji Television Limited" card. I have no clue how it was distributed, nor have I tried to find out. I know there was at least one other year where promotional memorabilia cards were issued. I should note that Real Venus has no memorabilia cards in the regular packs.

This card is numbered 112/200, and has card number RVM-R. There is a patch version numbered out of 20 copies, using the logo found on the front. It is possible there are more promo relic cards out there that I don't know about. But if there are, I don't know about them.

Did I make you laugh?

This isn't my first Rie Tanaka relic card, nor my first Tanaka shirt relic card. The 2013 box set included several relics, and I've found a black shirt, a blue shirt, and a leotard from that issue. There's also a towel and another leotard relic I'm on the lookout for.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Oh, By The Way... 10 Years!

 So there's another anniversary I missed...

This blog has been going on for ten years. I can't believe it.

Here's my first post. February 10, 2011.

The first year of blogging, I wasn't working, so I had plenty of time to devote to finding and writing about cards. And boy did I ever - I published 614 posts that year. Many of those weren't exactly Pulitzer Prize-worthy. Okay, none of my posts are. But there were a lot of simple pack-opening posts mixed in with posts focused on actual thoughts and topics.

Since January 2012, I've been living in Japan and working full time, and the majority of my posts since then have focused on Japanese cards. Let's face it, it's easier to get Japanese cards in Japan than to get American cards. My posting has been nowhere near as consistent as it was that first year. 2012 saw 122 posts, 2013 had 93, 2014 was my biggest other than 2011 with 288 posts. 2015 saw 107 while 2016 had only 30. I got back into it a bit in 2017 (187) but only posted 135 times in 2018, just 48 times in 2019, and only 59 times in 2020.

The funny thing is this: there are plenty of things I can post about. There are plenty of things I want to post about. I've acquired some amazing cards in the past year or so, and plenty more in the past ten years, that never made it to the blog. Life gets in the way of my life in cards.

Working definitely takes away my time. Sightseeing and exploring Japan takes away my time. I devoted a lot of time to Pokemon Go (semi-regrettably). That 2016 year? My grandmother passed away and I started the position I have now. That was a rough year but it also meant the start of a great new part of my life.

So I've faded in and out of blogging. But I've stuck with cards the whole time. Even if I'm not writing, I am thinking about the blog. And I'm still reading everyone else's blogs, even if I don't comment more than about once a month at best. I've been following the baseball card subreddit, too, which is an interesting place to be.

Hopefully, this year, I can semi-keep up with posting. I picked up a new portable scanner, and I might start carrying it with me when I'm working away from home. Actually, I am in such a situation now, and that portable scanner is right here in front of me. Hopefully, having easier access to a scanner will help me be more active here. As you can see, I have pumped out five posts in a row before today. (Yeah, I go in spurts. We'll see.)

For those who have stuck with me through these past ten years, thank you! This blog has always been about me sharing my favorite hobby with the world, and knowing there are people out there who enjoy at least some of my posts makes it that much more meaningful. Now, back to work!

Friday, February 19, 2021

It's A Big One! 1958 Fujiya Signature Premium with Printed Name

I love oddball cards. It's not because they're rare - sometimes they are. It's not because they're valuable - usually they aren't. It's because they're different. Some have airbrushed logos, others have logos or ads for cereal, soda, cars, hotels, or tobacco companies. And many come in different shapes and sizes.

Japan went through a card boom of sorts in the 1950s and early 1960s. While there was no set issued similar to what Bowman and Topps were doing, many companies issued game cards, "bromide" photo cards, or cards to be inserted into gum or other food products. I guess you could say it was similar to the card situation in the US in the 1900s through the 1920s.

Some of those issues came with larger premium prize cards. Most used the same design as regular cards, just in a larger size, but because they were prizes, they are much more difficult to find.

This card is an example of one of those premiums. Fujiya Caramel issued a small-size card set in 1958 along with several different premium large-sized sets. This is JF 24b, which has the team and player name printed at the bottom along with a facsimile signature. The backs are blank. Measuring about 5" x 7-1/2, this was definitely not found inside individual packs of candy. While I have no idea exactly how they were distributed, my guess is candy packs had regular cards inside or accompanying them, with winning cards or tickets randomly inserted, to be redeemed at the shops. A color set of premium cards is known to have been distributed in envelopes, so these might have been similarly packaged.

If you're wondering, the player is Motoshi Fujita, who played his entire career with the Yomiuri Giants. This would have been issued just after his ROY-winning rookie year, and during his first of two consecutive MVP seasons. Fujita would go on to manage the Giants for two stints totalling seven years in the 1980s to early 1990s. He won two Japan Series titles as a player and two as a manager, posting a nice 2.20 ERA on the mound.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Unknown Japanese Cards; February 2021 Version

 If you look back at my post history, in April 2020 I made a series of posts of unknown Japanese cards. These are cards that aren't catalogued in Engel's guides (as far as I can tell) and I can't identify on my own. For modern cards where I know the issuer (usually for team cards), I can usually narrow down the years a bit, but without knowing the exact year I leave them as unidentified.

I don't think I've found any new "lost children" after that, until earlier this month, when I got a couple little packages in the mail.

This little POG-sized disc may be just that - a POG. It carries the Tokyo Giants copyright but no other logos or trademarks, so it might have been a team issue. Here is Hideki Matsui, who is number 3 in the set.

And this is Daisuke Motoki, card number 8. The players also appear to be ranked by position - Matsui is the number one outfielder, and Motoki is the number two infielder. I suppose.

The text on the back talks about how great the player is. Matsui's card talks about his sweet swing and hitting line drives into the stands, and that he is expected to be the Giants cleanup hitter (if I am translating correctly). Given that it talks about him as a young player and eventually being the cleanup hitter, this could be a 1994 or early 1995 issue (Matsui would first bat cleanup for the Giants in August 1995, according to his Japanese Wikipedia page).

Here's an old menko for you. I can't read all the kanji at the top of the flag, though the big text seems to say Victory. There is also text at the bottom, but I can't make that out now either.

The text in the box says Sanaka. I haven't been able to identify any menko with this back design in Engel's guide, though Sanaka appears a few times for other sets. It's possible this card comes from a set of "generic" baseball menko. Or maybe the kanji I haven't translated gives a bigger clue as to a particular team represented on the front. It could be related to a specific baseball tournament as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Another Set Marches Forward

 Yesterday, I shared my recent 1995 BBM finds. The other major Japanese set I'm working on is the 1996 BBM set. It, too, has several short-printed subsets in the regular series and a high-number update series for one team. I haven't been focusing as much on this set as I have the 1995 series, so I am further behind, but I did finish off the regular cards for the regular set with these three:

I'm not sure why the Lions were so hard to find for 1996. Perhaps it's just luck. Nishiguchi was the PL MVP in his career year of 1997, though he put up good numbers throughout his 21 year career. He's now a pitching coach for the Lions. Katori played for the Giants and Lions for about 19 years and posted good numbers, and now works with the Japan National Team. Koishizawa apparently only saw action with the top team in 1998. While Nishiguchi and Katori had long playing careers and are still active in the NPB, there are other big names that you would think would be tougher to find.

Speaking of tougher to find, with these three cards scratched off the list, all that's left are short prints. I still need two Dragons cards from the regular series and four Record Breaker subset cards. And from the high series Dragons cards, I'm still missing twenty cards! Maybe I'll have some luck card hunting later this year.

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Slowly But Surely, A Set Moves Closer to Completion

Pick a regular card from a major card company from 1952 onward. A Topps card will most likely be your choice, but Donruss, Score, Fleer, Upper Deck, Bowman, Sportsflics, Ted Williams Card Company. Any of those can probably be found right now. Almost every one of them is on eBay or can be found on Sportlots or COMC. (I said regular card. Don't bring up the 1990 Topps George W Bush card.) I'm sure there's a 1952 Mickey Mantle out there, and if there isn't, it's probably available in a big auction sometime in the next month or two.

Now try to find Japanese singles, especially from pre-2001. It gets a lot more difficult. There are regular-issue sets from even 10 years ago that can be really tough to find. I'm two cards away from finishing the 2008 Calbee set, but those two cards seem to have never been issued. (They have, I just can't find them for sale now.) Card shops usually carry minimal inventory, and other online resources are limited almost exclusively to Yahoo! Japan Auctions. There is no COMC or Sportlots here. Japanese people generally don't use eBay (which is why YJA still exists.)

The 1995 BBM set is one of the toughest to finish. There are several short-printed subsets and a high-number update series which makes one team's (and several other players') cards short-printed.

I have picked up a few cards to get me closer to a full set. In fact, I'm pretty close to finishing the regular set without the high numbers.

First, I finished off the Untouchable Records subset with these two cards.
Next, there were two four cards from the Then and Now subset I needed.
I managed to get all four together along with some extras.
Do you remember Pete Incaviglia? He managed to hit 206 home runs over 12 seasons with six teams. He spent the 1995 season with the Chiba Lotte Marines, and as such ended up on this high-series card.

Another former MLBer is Julio Franco, who also was with the Marines in 1995 and thus ended up in the high series. 

With these cards obtained over the past six weeks or so, I now need just four regular-series cards (including one Ichiro puzzle subset card) and nine high number cards! It would be awesome to finish this set this year, but those high numbers are a doozy.