Growing up in a neighborhood where I was the only Japanese kid... and one of only a handful of Asian kids... I adjusted to my surroundings and turned into what my relatives in Hawaii referred to as a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside).
That's pretty much how I lived my life the first thirty-something years. Sure... I ate rice with most of my meals at home, ate a Japanese restaurants from time to time, went into San Jose's Japantown on a regular basis, played baseball in a Japanese youth league, and joined a Japanese Boy Scout troop. But outside of that... I didn't do much to draw extra attention to my ethnicity. I was very content with being a banana.
Then in my mid 30's, I met a girl who changed that. She encouraged me to learn about my culture, talk to my parent's about our history, and be proud of my heritage. This was the same person who encouraged me to collect cards again, so it only made sense that I'd start collecting cards related to Japan and Japanese athletes.
Over the years, I've built a collection that fills up eight binders and a two-row shoebox. And if I had to guess... I'd say the blogger donations to personal purchase ratio is close to 1:1... which just shows how influential fellow collectors are to my collection.
Today I wanted to show off a few things I've recently added to the Japan PC. Let's start off with a card produced over a century ago:
1910 Helmar Seals of the US and Coat of Arms
of All Countries of the World 2nd Edition #NNO
I stumbled across this card on eBay and was drawn to the vibrant colors and the mountain that I assume is Mount Fuji.
Unfortunately the card is stamped and stained, but that also helped keep the price down to a few bucks.
On the other hand, the other purchase I made was close to 10x the price and not nearly as cool:
2022 Topps Project 100 #51
I bought this card direct from Topps back in December. I'm pretty picky about purchasing online exclusive cards, but once again Mount Fuji caught my eye.
Before I show some cards that were donated to my collection by fellow collectors and bloggers, I've been sitting on these two newspapers I picked up in Japantown back in January:
Nichi Bei News 1/1/23
Ready for some trivia? The article mentioned that in 2022, there were more Japanese-American baseball players and managers in the MLB than in Japan... which was kind of surprising. But even more surprising was discovering that Christian Yelich and Dave Roberts are part Japanese. I guess I'll need to add them to the binders.
The other newspaper highlighted the only exciting thing about the 2023 Oakland Athletics:
The entire newspaper is in Japanese, so I wasn't able to find out what was mentioned about Shintaro Fujinami, the A's biggest signing in the offseason.
Okay... let's get back to more cardboard. First up is this graded Paul Kariya that I've been sitting on for over a year:
1995 Bashan #2
Reader X sent me this a long, long, long time ago. In fact, it's been so long that I don't remember if I received it in 2021 or 2022. But for those who don't know, Kariya is a fourth generation Japanese-Canadian whose father was born in a World War II internment camp in British Columbia.
Even before I discovered that he was Japanese, I liked Kariya. I had the opportunity to meet with him at one of the Duck's Casino Night in the late 90's and he was very friendly with all of the fans he interacted with.
Xavier has sent me a bunch of Japanese trading cards over the years. Here are four that stood out from his latest care package:
When it comes to NPB players crossing the Pacific Ocean and finding success in the MLB, these are three of the greatest. And these four cards were some of the shiniest in the bunch.
Next up are some cards Dennis over at Too Many Verlanders sent me back in December:
2008 UD USA Baseball Japanese College All-Stars Jersey #JN-12
I'll start off with this sweet looking relic. I fell in love with this set over a decade ago... and actually built it. If any other fans of Japanese baseball players can use this for their collection, email me your address and I'll pay it forward.
When this card was produced, Mr. Nemoto was only twenty-one years old with a bright future ahead of him. According to Baseball Reference, he went on to play seven seasons in the NPB.
Dennis also sent me an eight-pack of Hideo Nomo's for the collection. Let's start of with some Dufex:
1996 Pinnacle Starburst #54
I know 90's inserts and parallels aren't everyone's cup of tea... but I'm guessing most collectors can appreciate a gorgeous card like this.
Here is Topps' version of Dufex:
1996 Stadium Club Midsummer Matchup #M1
After scanning the card... I feel like it's giving off more Fleer Metal vibes than Pinnacle Dufex. Regardless, it's a very cool card.
And rounding out the eight pack of Nomo cards from Dennis are these six:
He went 8 for 8 with these in the sense that they were all new to my collection. Dennis also sent me cards for a few other collections that I'll eventually write about. The reason I focused on Japan is because their citizens are celebrating a special holiday today: The Emperor's Birthday.
This annual holiday is celebrated on the birthday of the reigning Emperor where there is a public ceremony held at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Moving along, here's one more Nomo:
1998 Topps Super Chrome #15
This card is kind of a mystery. It was in my box of cards needed to be blogged, but I forgot to label who gave it to me. I have a strong suspicion that it was part the care package Jim @ cards as i see them gave me last month when he was in town, but I'm not 100% sure. If you sent it to me, please let me know down in the comment section below.
I am 100% sure that he hooked me up with these three Kurt Suzuki cards:
2014 Topps Update All-Star Access #ASA-BM
2020 Heritage #328
2011 Heritage Chrome Refractor #C33
Kurt Suzuki batted .333 against Justin Verlander in the regular season during his career without a home run. But he launched one in the 7th inning of Game 2 of the 2019 World Series off of him to break a 2-2 tie. Topps did a great job of capturing history on that Heritage card.
The final card I received from Jim is this shiny Yu Darvish:
2022 Topps Pristine Borders #PB-2
This is one of those situations where the scan doesn't do this card any justice. This refractory insert is really attractive with the Rising Sun popping off of Japan's flag. It looks like Ohtani and Ichiro both have singles in this set, so I'll be on the lookout for those.
Speaking of flags the final item is an actual Japanese flag that John over at Johnny's Trading Spot sent me last year:
This flag once belonged to his uncle, but unfortunately John wasn't able to give me any specifics. And sadly I have no idea how old or what the writing on the flag represents. But it's a fantastic piece of history and looks like something that belongs in a museum.
Thanks again to Xavier, Dennis, Jim, John, and anyone else who has ever contributed to my beloved Japan PC. Without your support, it would be only a fraction of the size.
Oh... and happy 63rd birthday Emperor Naruhito!
Happy Thursday and sayonara!