In 2000 and 2001, the American card company Upper Deck released four sets of Japanese baseball cards, two each year. Each set (Victory & Ovation in 2000, Victory and Upper Deck in 2001) used the same design as the equivalent State-side set (as the two Tony Fernandez cards below show). Sometimes you'll see items on Ebay that advertise a card from one of these sets as being the player's "first US card". That's not really true, as these cards were only for the Japanese market.
The first set released in 2000 was the Victory set. This set featured 60 "regular" cards of players and managers (five per team), a six card "Stat Leaders" subset, a 12 card Aces Inc subset (featuring pitchers) and a 12 card Hardball Heroes subset (featuring batters). There was also a nine card Superstar Showcase insert set. Players from the set who went on to play in the US include Ichiro, Kosuke Fukudome, Tsuyoshi Shinjyo, Keiichi Yabu, So Taguchi, Norihiro Nakamura, Kazuo Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuhisa Ishii, Shingo Takatsu, Kenji Johjima and Hideki Matsui.
Upper Deck followed this with a higher end set called Ovation. This set featured embossed card fronts meant to look and feel like a baseball. The set featured 60 "regular" player cards (five per team, no managers). There were several insert sets (a 24 card Oendan Favorites set, an 18 card 40 Home Run club set, a six card Ken Griffey Jr set, a 30 card Rising Stars set and a 12 card Standing Ovation set) as well as several Game Used bat and shoe sets. The cards in the Rising Stars and Standing Ovation insert sets were individually numbered to 2000 and 2500 respectively. Players in the regular set who went on to play in the US include Kosuke Fukudome, Kenji Johjima, Tsuyoshi Shinjyo, Keiichi Yabu, Ichiro, So Taguchi, Norihiro Nakamura, Akinori Ohsuka, Kazuo Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuhisa Ishii, Shingo Takatsu, and Hideki Matsui.
In 2001, Upper Deck returned with another version of the Victory set. The set expanded to 72 "regular" player and manager cards (six per team), a six card "Stat Leaders" subset (oddly not having a card for batting leaders as that would have required them to show the now departed Ichiro), and a 12 card Strike King subset (featuring pitchers). There was also a 12 card Victory's Sluggers insert set. Players in the regular set who went on to play in the US include Kosuke Fukudome, Kenji Johjima, Keiichi Yabu, So Taguchi, Akinori Ohtsuka, Kazuo Matsui, Shingo Takatsu, Satoru Komiyama, Kazuhisa Ishii, Hiroki Kuroda and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Hideki Matsui, Kazuo Matsui and Norihiro Nakamura were only available in the Victory's Sluggers insert set.
The final Japanese Upper Deck issue was the beautiful 180 card set known simply as the 2001 Upper Deck set. Following the States-side design again, this set featured gorgeous full bleed photos on the front of each card. There were 15 cards per team, including the managers and two "Star Rookies". There were a number of insert sets (a 12 card Rookie Roundup set, an 18 card Best 9 set, an 18 card Home Run Explosion set and a 9 card Stars Of Japan set that featured Japanese players currently playing in the US) as well as several Game Used bat and shoe sets. Players in the regular set who went on to play in the US include Masahide Kobayashi, Kosuke Fukudome, Tadahito Iguchi, Kenji Johjima, Keiichi Yabu, Hiroki Kuroda, Koo Dae Sung, So Taguchi, Katsuhiko Maekawa, Norihiro Nakamura, Akinori Ohtsuka, Kazuo Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Shinji Mori, Kazuhisa Ishii, Akinori Iwamura, Shingo Takatsu, Satoru Komiyama, Takashi Saitoh, Hideki Matsui and Hideki Okajima. This set is easily one of my top 10 favorite Japanese sets of all time.
I'm sure there's a fascinating story in here somewhere on why Upper Deck decided to enter the Japanese baseball card market, the obstacles they encountered in doing so and why they didn't produce any more cards after 2001. Unfortunately, I don't know what that story is. This was probably the most serious competition that BBM has ever had for it's perch on top of the Japanese basball card market.