30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Thursday, February 23, 2023

A Very Proud Banana

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:

bayspo 1/20/23

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:

2022 Topps Chrome 1987 Topps #87BC-2
2022 Topps Chrome Pink Refractor #191

2022 Topps Archives 1988 Topps Big Foil #88BF-2
2022 Topps Archives 1988 Topps Big Foil #88BF-39

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 collectionDennis 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 tieTopps 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!


Jupiterhill said...

That flag is totally awesome. I know that word is overused, but I can't think of a better word to describe it. It also looks like some nice additions to your card collection.

John Bateman said...

I still have a set called TCMA the 1960s, that my parents bought in 1978/79. It features Masanori Murakami, my first card of a Japanese player.

I remember Renata Galasso used to advertise a Japanese Set (I think TCMA also) in the early 1980s. I wish I bought it. Of course I was in school, didn't have a job or money, which didn't help.

The Diamond King said...

You started and ended the post with a bang, must be a good writer or something...

Brett Alan said...

Some of my Singaporean friends have referred to me as an "egg", the reverse of a banana. Then again, all they really need to see me as Asian inside is that I love the food there--and how could I not?

Dennis said...

Wow, nice start to the post with the 100+ year old card! And I'm happy that you needed all of the Nomo cards I sent, that's always great to hear.

Jeff B - Wax Pack Wonders said...

Great stuff! Nomo's windup was so fun to do as a kid. And Ohtani is the only player collection I have of anyone in the last 15 years.

night owl said...

Wow, that flag ...

(I have all those Nomos except one).

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Still have a few other goodies here that I need to figure the best way to get them to you.

John Sharp said...

Terrific stuff.

Ichiro is definitely my All-Time favorite Japanese ballplayer, and Hideo Nomo also spent sine time in Detroit.

Good Job! ๐Ÿ‘

Nick Vossbrink said...

So the writing on the flag looks like it's in Kanji so I'm guessing it's a bunch of names/signatures?

Anyway that Helmar card is a beaut and now I know that here are both Hawaii and California cards on the CL so thanks for that.

bbcardz said...

You may want to get the Google Lens app for your phone. One of it's features is that it can translate foreign languages using the phone's camera. Awesome post!

The Lost Collector said...

Great post, Fuji! Thanks for sharing.

Zippy Zappy said...

"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."

Honestly I'm not surprised. Japanese-Americans are, by definition, Americans so there's more of them in the states than in Japan.

Matt said...

I enjoyed this post - great cards, and an awesome flag too! I'm personally excited to see what new Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida can do!

Matt said...

Love the flag card, but what really catches my eye is the nomo starburst. Always love seeing those

gcrl said...

your japan pc is really impressive - beyond just cards!

i did include that super chrome nomo in the package i hand delivered btw - still thinking about that double-double...

Junichi said...

That flag most likely was given to the individual heading off to war. It's full of signatures. Probably friends and family from his village/town. If you ever visit Tokyo be sure to check out the Yushukan museum. It's full of relics like that along with individual stories.

Chris said...

The first and last items in this post are really unique, that flag in particular! So great to see you learning and sharing things about your heritage.

I'm not very knowledgeable about which current players have which heritage - I knew about Kariya but not Yelich, for example. And when I saw the rosters for the upcoming WBC I wasn't surprised that Lars Nootbaar was on a team - but with a name like Nootbaar, I assumed he would have played for the Dutch lol. Turns out he's part Japanese and will represent Japan :O

bamlinden said...

Really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing. What a great PC. Keep it up. ๐Ÿ‘

Greg Zakwin said...

Love the Helmar, and a great read as always!

Anonymous said...

The Helmar are great and I’ve tried to win them when they come up. They remind me of this Turkey Red reprint cabinet card I had in the late 1980s. Well, a few years later and I will looking over my collection and I had this beautiful T3 Cobb and I had just purchased that wretched second record from Arrested Development? Remember the second record, Fuji? I think it was called Zingakajagoogoo and well, I had liked the spiritual music off the first album. Anywho, the vocalist “Speech” used a very filthy word and I didn’t expect him to go that route (gangsta rap frightened me as I grew up in Watts) and I bent the card. I was so angry.

On a side note, I remember sitting on a Matt Notes rookie card during a sleepover and throwing my alarm clock out my window where in hit the neighbors car

“Nokes is going to make Bench look like a fool!”

I still stand by those words. I really loved that alarm clock. Alf. Gotta love the 80s!


Anonymous said...

Also, the flag is so powerful.

Sorry, didn’t want to say that with my card post. I do enjoy learning about different cultures so this is really interesting. I remember my first Nomo card and thinking how cool it was to have players from Japan. Ichiro is still one of my favorites and he’s always been an outstanding gentleman. Best! Paull

Fuji said...

jupiterhill - it truly is. i feel like it should be framed and hanging up in a museum or something

john bateman - had to look up that set and card. i've actually seen it before. when murakami was doing his book tour, someone brought a copy to get signed. maybe i'll pick one up one day. as for that other set, i bought that a while back. it's from 1979 and actually includes a murakami along with some other big names.

the diamond king - lol. is that what good writers do? i'll make a mental note. sadly my memory sucks, so i can't make any promises

brett alan - "egg" lol. i like it. i'd describe my childhood best friend as an "egg". he's actually the guy who got me to like sushi in college, so i see the food reference

dennis - it's one thing to send me one or two cards that i need... but going 8 for 8 is super impressive. thanks again

wax pack wonders - loved nomo's windup. and my ohtani collection is lacking... but eventually his card stock will fall... and that's when i'll swoop in

night owl - which one do you need? maybe one of my readers will see your response and help you out.

johnnys trading spot - i've got a care package that i'll be sending out to you this week. unfortunately nothing nearly as cool as that flag

john sharp - ichiro is my favorite too. the way that he could put the ball wherever he wanted was just insane

nick vossbrink - thanks. i kind of felt like they might be signatures. i need the california and hawaii cards too. hopefully we don't bid against each other

bbcardz - great idea. i knew there were apps like that. just need to try it out

the lost collector - thank you for taking the time to check it out

zippy zappy - lol. yup. that makes sense.

matt - thanks. i'm excited to see what he can do too. so many npb guys coming to the mlb. hope a few turn into the next ichiro or ohtani

matt - yeah, that starburst is sweet. love me some pinnacle dufex

gcrl - thanks for the super chrome nomo. i really need to make better use of my post-it notes. my friend wanted to grab in-n-out on friday, but my mouth was still hurting from the oral surgery. i'll probably get it sooner than later though

junichi - wow. thank you for this information. part of me is very curious behind the soldier who received this flag, but on the other hand... i might not like what i hear. i do hope to one day make it out to tokyo. if i do, i'll be sure to look into that museum

chris - the newspaper opened my eyes to nootbaar... and recently i've seen a few videos and articles about him playing for team japan. very excited for him and the national team. hoping they square off against team usa in the finals

bamlinden - thanks. that flag was quite the addition to this collection

greg zakwin - i was really happy to add the helmar. i've actually seen it before and thought i had one in the collection which is why i didn't bother seeking it out. but turns out i didn't (until now)

anonymous paul - i owned arrested development's first album, but not the second. i just looked it up and listened to "united front" which wasn't too bad. very surprised speech is still around creating music with arrested development. not sure what song contains the "filthy word", but not planning on listening to the rest of the album anyways. very sorry to hear about your cobb. hope you kept it anyways, because crease or not... a t3 cobb is worth big, big, big money. btw... i'll be featuring a nokes rookie card in a future post (maybe this week or next). as for alf... one of my close friends has a huge alf collection. huge. some really cool collectibles.

Bulldog said...

Great cards. The Ohtani '87 Topps for the win.

The Snorting Bull said...

I love that Helmar card! That is sweet. I feel like I can never find those types of cards that prices that make me want to pull the trigger, glad you could find one for cheap. Always enjoyed Kariya. He was great on the Ducks, not many people remember he ended his career on the Blues. Lean years, but he was entertaining.

Xavier Higgins said...

Got that Kariya dime piece on Comc.com for considerably less than a sawbuck many moons ago when the hobby was considerably less hype than its' present state.
I have a vague recollection of sending you a Barry Bonds Super Chrome at some point though I could be wrong about that. As a Little Leaguer I emulated Nomo's hesitation delivery to great success ๐Ÿ™Œ
Your posts remain a beacon of light in an often dark, cold world ๐ŸŒŽ

Derek said...

I think the stamp adds a bit of character to that Helmar card. Perhaps it actually was from the packer that handled the cigarettes.

Good on you for embracing your heritage, I hope that the importance of one's heritage isn't eventually going to be something that goes out of style. I'm a huge Canadiens fan, so when I see captain Nick Suzuki scoring another goal, I'll think of you!

Fuji said...

bulldog - that 87t ohtani is a great looking card. i just wish topps zoomed out a little to show more of his body

the snorting bull - there's a six or seven card lot of those flags on ebay that averages out to $1 to $1.50 per card. i considered buying it, but not sure i want to build it... and the states in the lot weren't ones i could send to fellow bloggers so i passed

xavier higgins - your memory is sharp. i just looked at my barry bonds binder and that super chrome you mentioned is part of the cover. back when i was in little league... i emulated another dodger pitcher: fernando valenzuela. sorry i haven't been writing a lot lately. things keep piling up on my plate and i'm being pulled in a few different directions

derek - i like your theory of the stamp being from a handler at the factory. as for nick, i tried looking for a rookie card or two for my collection... but they were kind of pricey. maybe one day i'll add his auto to my collection.

Jafronius said...

Great cards...and flag!