Monday, September 30, 2019

Trip Overview Part 13 - Day 16-17 - Tokyo, Kamagaya and Departure

The weather forecast for the Kanto area for Sunday, June 9th, was cloudy with a good chance of rain in the late afternoon.  My plan for my last full day in Japan was to catch a Fighters' farm team game in Kamagaya and it looked like the rain was going to hold off just long enough for them to get the game in.

I started the day though by just going for a walk.  The hotel I was staying at for the last week I was in Japan was near Asakusabashi Station which was near where the Kanda River meets the Sumida River.  I knew there were walkways on either side of the Sumida so I decided to walk over and check it out.  Here's a photo looking north from the south bank of the Kanda where it enters the Sumida - the bridge is the one used by the JR Chuo/Sobu line:.

I crossed the Sumida on the Ryogoku Bridge and got on the riverside pathway on the east bank.  What was really cool on that pathway is that there were large posters showing old artwork and photos depicting the area at different times in history.  I took a ton of pictures - here's just a few of them:

I came up from the riverbank over by Ryogoku Kokugikan - the famous sumo hall which is also home to the sumo museum.  I'm not that interested in sumo myself (other than what interesting cards SumoMenkoMan finds) but I was still looking for the program from a recent sumo tournament and I was hoping I'd be able to find it here.  Unfortunately the gift shop wasn't open that day so I had to settle for picking up a sumo magazine and a couple packs of sumo cards for him from a Newdays newstand at the JR station nearby.

I was somewhat disappointed that there didn't seem to be any way to get a good photo of the sumo hall.  Here's a couple attempts:

That last photo was taken from the platform of Ryogoku Station as I waited for the train to take me out to the Fighter's park.   Kamagaya is located east of Tokyo in Chiba prefecture so I needed to take the train to Funabashi and switch to another train going north to get to Kamagaya Station.  The Fighters run a bus from there to the stadium every half hour on game days and I planned it so that I would get there just in time to catch the 1130 bus.

As it turns out I did get there in time to catch the 1130 bus but I didn't realize where the bus was and I missed it.  Part of the reason I missed it was that for some reason I had it in my head that the bus would be dressed up with Fighters paraphernalia and it turns out that it was a standard municipal bus - I saw it pull away as I stood there confused.  I had some back and forth with Deanna Rubin about it via Facebook messenger and she was helpful as always (although distracted as she was doing her own thing on a Saturday night).  I briefly considered trying to take a taxi or walking - it was only about a mile and half to the park - but I eventually realized where I needed to be - it was obvious once I saw this sign:

I caught the 1200 bus and headed to the ballpark.  I think the bus fare was 100 yen but I can't remember if I paid cash or used my Suica card.  As we rode along I watched the countryside outside the bus.  It was funny - I had read some of Deanna's posts about Kamagaya to research going there, including this post describing the first time she went - she walked there on Christmas Day in 2007.  I actually recognized some of the scenery I could see from the bus from her post.  It was only maybe a 10 minute trip before we reached the park.

The ballpark is officially known as "Fighters Kamagaya Stadium" and opened for business in 1997.  Previously the Fighters' farm team played on the other side of Tokyo Bay in Kanagawa prefecture - first at a field on the Tama River in Kawasaki and then from 1992 to 1996 in Sagamihara.  They'd made enough of an investment in the facilities that they've continued to keep their farm team here even after moving to Hokkaido after the 2003 season.  (I should also mention that since five of the other six teams in the Eastern League are also in Kanto it would greatly increase the travel costs of the league to move the team to Hokkaido.)

I paid 1800 yen for a ticket in the section behind home plate and went on it.  This park was light years beyond the only other ni-gun park I'd been in - Seibu #2 four days earlier.  Beyond having seats it also had bathrooms and concession stands.  I bought lunch (along with some Nippon-Ham products that had Home Run Sausage cards) and went to my seat.

The game itself was fairly uneventful.  The Fighters were taking on the Baystars' farm team who took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.  They extended their lead to 4-0 in the third on a solo home run from Shumei Miyamoto and a two run shot from Seiya Hosokawa.  The Fighters got on the board in the sixth on a solo home run of their own from Kazuyoshi Ebihara, the team's first ever ikusei player:

That was the end of the scoring in the game though.  Edison Barrios (who may have been the only other Westerner at the ballpark that afternoon) came on in the ninth and notched a save in the Baystars' 4-1 victory.

At one point during the game I was looking at the dark clouds in the sky off to the West and starting thinking that they were going to need to turn the lights on soon.  Then I realized that the ballpark didn't have any lights!.

There was some sort of kid's fair going on outside the ballpark.  There was a miniature Shinkansen train that was taking kids on a ride around the ballpark so every so often we'd see it going around outside the outfield fence:

The game ended around 3:30 and I headed out immediately.  I got extremely lucky - I came down the stairs from the park and was able to jump right on the bus which left a minute or too later.  We got back to Kamagaya Station and I was able to catch a train back to Funabashi without having to wait very long.  I had a little longer of a wait for the JR Chuo line train to head back to Tokyo but it wasn't long before I was on my way.  I was heading back to Takadanobaba as I want to try again to find the new location for Quad Sports.

I noticed something when the train pulled into Suidobashi Station, right by the Tokyo Dome where the Giants game against the Marines had just ended.  I could hear the music being played over the loudspeakers on the platform from inside the train - it was the Giants' fight song.  I had noticed on Friday that the song was being played on the speakers outside the Dome but I hadn't noticed it in the station.

It was raining by the time I got to Takadanobaba a mere 90 minutes after I left the ballpark.  I quickly found Quad Sports' new location and spent an hour or so there going through baseball cards.  I then hopped on a Yamanote Line train to Okachimachi where I went to my final card shop in Japan - G-Freak.  After spending a little while there I headed back to my hotel, grabbing dinner at the Sugiya down the street again before calling it a day.

It was raining heavily in Tokyo on Monday, June 10th.  My flight was scheduled to leave from Haneda at 1740 that afternoon so I had time in the morning and early afternoon to do a little sightseeing.  My main goal for the day was to spend whatever cash I had left on me and to try to use up the balance on my Suica card.

I had pretty much packed everything up the night before so I was able to get moving fairly quickly that morning.  I checked out of my hotel but was able to have them store my suitcase there so I didn't have to find (and pay for) a storage locker at a train station.  I headed out with only a vague plan for where I was going.

I decided that despite the rain I wanted to head down to the area around the Imperial Palace.  I had kind of a silly destination in mind:

This is Budokan, the arena made famous in the 1970's by the album "Cheap Trick at Budokan".  Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton also released live albums recorded here (along with many others but these are the artists that I listen to the most). 

I spent the next hour or so walking around the Imperial Gardens.  And by that I don't mean through the Gardens, I mean around - the Gardens are closed on Mondays.  Still it was kind of interesting to see the moat and palace walls:

It was still raining pretty hard and I decided to head over to Tokyo Station to grab something to eat and do some shopping.  I got a T-shirt from the Ultraman store for my oldest daughter and polo shirts for my youngest daughter and my wife at the Studio Ghibli store.

While wandering through the depths of Tokyo Station, I came across this capsule machine that seemed a bit out of place:

I'm really not sure why there's a capsule machine full of Carp items there.

It was past noon and I decided I needed to start getting ready for the airport.  I headed back to my hotel to pick up my bags.  I was quite happy to discover that I could take a train from the Asakusabashi subway station near my hotel non-stop to Haneda Airport.  I'd like to say that I had picked the hotel for that reason but it was just dumb luck.  I was successful in my goal off burning off the balance on my Suica card - I think I had less than 100 yen left on it when I got off the train at the airport.

I ran into an unexpected issue at checkin - my bag was overweight!  It seems that the 1800 baseball cards I had acquired during the trip were heavier than I had anticipated.  To avoid paying the $100 fee I moved one of the 500 card boxes from my suitcase to my backpack.

I spent the last of my cash on snacks at the airport while waiting for my flight so both goals for the day were met.  The flight from Tokyo to Toronto was uneventful - I watched the last few episodes of the second season of "Star Trek Discovery"* and took a nap.

*I've been a Star Trek fan since I was 7 but I've resisted watching "Star Trek Discovery" because I've not been willing to pay for the CBS All Access streaming service which is the only way to watch it in the US.  Outside of the US however it is available on Netflix which I do have a subscription for.  I watched all of Season One when I spent two weeks in the UK in September of 2018 and watched all of Season Two in Japan on this trip.

We went through customs in Toronto despite the fact it wasn't in the US and I was a little concerned about the process.  American citizens get an $800 personal allowance on bringing merchandise into the country from overseas.  My rough guess on the stuff I was bringing in was about $1100!  That wasn't all baseball cards but obviously the bulk of it was.  From what I had seen online I figured the duty I was going to have to pay was only around $30 so it wasn't a big deal but I was just concerned about the hassle.  It turns out I didn't really need to worry about anything - I got sent to a separate line which took a little longer but I didn't need to pay anything extra.

My fears about having a hassle in Toronto did come true however - my flight to Baltimore got delayed for about 45 minutes.  This wouldn't have been such a big deal except that Air Canada wasn't telling us anything either in the airport or online.  In fact their website was saying that my flight had left on time from the gate despite the fact that there had never been a plane at the gate!  The airport's WiFi wasn't very stable either and I was having difficulty getting in contact with my daughter who was going to pick me up in Baltimore - I wanted to let her know that I was still in Toronto despite what Air Canada's web site said.  Eventually the plane showed up and we all got on it for another uneventful flight.  My daughter found me at the airport around the time my suitcase showed up at baggage claim and I was home about an hour later, just after midnight East Coast time and the end of my 37 hour Monday.  It had taken me roughly 23 hours from picking up my luggage at my hotel to walking in the door of my home.

I've always felt that the jet lag coming back from the Far East is worse than the jet lag going over and this trip was no exception although the nap I had been able to take between Tokyo and Toronto helped.  I had planned on going back to work on Wednesday but after spending much of Tuesday afternoon asleep on my couch I decided to take Wednesday off as well.  Our dog was happy to have someone sack out on the couch with him:

It's funny - if you'd asked me in the first few weeks after I got home when I was going to go back to Japan, I'd have said that I probably wouldn't be going back.  After all I had done most of what I wanted to do there.  But in the months since then I've started thinking about things I hadn't gotten to do that I wanted to.  For example, I'd still like to see a Dragons' ni-gun game at Nagoya Stadium and I didn't make it up to Sapporo.  I watched an Orix Buffaloes game from the ballpark in Kobe on PL TV a while back and I'd like to see one there in person.  So I suspect I'll be making another trip over in a few years.  Hopefully I'll be in better shape and be able to do it without using a cane.

This obviously is the last of the "Monsters Of NPB" Tour posts.  I can't believe it's taken me almost four months to get them all done.  The only posts now I have left to do that are trip related are the card shop posts.  I still have 16(!) of those to do - if I'm lucky I'll get them done before Christmas...

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Card Of The Week September 29

It was reported last week that Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama will resign as of the end of the season.  Kuriyama was the longest tenured manager in NPB, having lead the Fighters since 2012 (Giants manager Tatsunori Hara has lead Yomiuri since 2002 but not continuously).  The Fighters made the playoffs five times during his eight years at the helm including two Pacific League pennants.  The Fighters played in the Nippon Series twice during this time, losing the Giants in 2012 but beating the Carp in 2016.

Here's Kuriyama's card from the 2012 BBM 1st Version set (#028):

With Kuriyama's resignation the longest tenured managers in NPB are now Kimiyasu Kudoh of the Hawks and Koichi Ogata of the Carp.  The two of them took over their teams in 2015.

UPDATE 10/2/19 - Apparently he's NOT resigning - the Fighters talked him into staying for at least one more season.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Complete Run Of BBM Sets For Sale

I've been contacted by an American collector living in Japan who has a complete run of all BBM sets from 1991 to 2019.  What I think they mean by that is a complete run of all the "flagship" sets but it may mean all the sets including team sets, etc. This collector is interested in selling off this collection.  They'd prefer to sell the entire collection at once and are prepared to offer a "fair price" for it.

If you are interested in purchasing this set, send me an email at  I'll forward it on to the seller who will get in contact with you.

UPDATE - Got some clarification from the seller - they mean a complete run of all the "flagship" sets, not a complete run of all BBM sets.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Early Fall Releases

Once again I've put off doing a "New Releases" post long enough that one of the sets I'm going to talk about is being published as I write this...

- BBM is releasing two more of their "Brilliant" team box sets.  The new ones are for the Dragons and the Hawks.  Like the previously released sets for the Carp, Fighters and Tigers these sets contain 29 cards - a base set of 27 cards, a serially numbered "SPARKLING" insert card and an autographed card.  Both sets will retail for 10,000 yen (~$93).  The Dragons set is out tomorrow (which is right now in Japan) while the Hawks set is being released in early October.

- BBM's annual Rookie Edition Premium set will be out in late October.  This is a box set containing 38 cards - a 36 card base set plus two "special" insert cards which are either autograph or memorabilia cards.  I'm not sure if each box is guaranteed to include an autograph but the web site does say there is the possibility of getting a box with TWO autographed cards.  The 36 cards of the base set break down to three 2019 rookies (which means 2019 draft picks so don't expect Munetaka Murakami to show up) per team.  Each set retails for 15,000 yen (~$140).

- Epoch's got two more of their ultra high end active/OB "Stars & Legends" team sets lined up for release.  The Baystars set will be out on October 12th and in name at least commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the team.  Each box will retail for 14,400 yen (~$135) and contains just four cards - two of which are autographed cards.  The base set contains 56 cards - 12 active players and 44 OB players (including Bobby Rose, Alex Ramirez and Nyjer Morgan).  There are five types of autographed cards (including 1-of-1 autographed baseball cards) as well as serially numbered GEM insert cards.  The Carp set will be released on October 19th and features 14,400 yen boxes with only four cards as well.  One of those four cards will be an autographed card and one of the others will either be an autographed card or a memorabilia card.  The base set has 54 cards - 19 of which are OB players.  There are GEM and GEM BLACK insert cards, two varieties of printed signature cards, patch cards and three different types of autograph cards, two of which has two parallel versions.  There are also two types of booklets that I think are available as an exchange card - one has two autographed cards and the other has an autograph and a patch.

- On October 19th Epoch will also be releasing the "Pacific League Premier Edition" set.  I think this is the fourth year Epoch has released this set.  This is yet another ultra high end set - each 14,100 yen (~$132) box contains eight cards - four regular cards, two insert cards and two "special" insert cards.  There's 54 cards in the base set - nine per team (including each teams top draft pick from the 2018 draft).  The insert cards are all serially numbered and include parallels of the base cards, GEM and GEM BLACK cards (the latter are only for the top draft picks).  The "special" insert cards include three types of autograph cards and two types of memorabilia cards.

- It's the 85th Anniversary of the founding of the Yomiuri Giants this year but I was not aware that anyone was commemorating this until Epoch announced a "Giants 85th Anniversary" ultra high end set that will be released on October 26th.  Boxes of this set retail for 16,200 yen (~$151) and feature six cards - three regular, one parallel and two autographed.  The base set has 36 cards - all of which are OB Giants.  The big names in the set are probably Shigeo Nagashima and Isao Harimoto.  Neither Sadaharu Oh nor Hideki Matsui are included (which is kind of a surprise since I didn't think there had ever been an OB set that Matsui hadn't shown up in).  There are three different types of autographed cards available.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version Set - Where Are They Now?

In September of 2009 BBM issued their fourth set for the Tokyo Big Six collegiate league and their fifth collegiate set over all.  The 2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version box set contained 36 cards - 30 player cards (five per team) and six team cards.  Eleven of the 30 players would go on to play in NPB.  Six of those players had their first ever baseball card in this set - Shohei Habu, Hayata Itoh, Tomoya Mikami, Kazuki Mishima, Shota Sugiyama and Takashi Uemoto.  They join returning champions Kisho Kagami, Yusuke Nomura, Tatsuya Ohishi, Yuki Saitoh and Kenji Tomura.

Here's a summary of the 11 future NPB players, nine of whom were still active this season:

Player College Year Drafted Notes
Shohei Habu Waesda 2 2011 Carp 4th Played for Carp 2012-18
Hayata Itoh Keio 2 2011 Tigers 1st Played for Tigers 2011-present
Kisho Kagami Hosei 3 2010 Baystars 2nd Played for Baystars 2011-15.  Played for JR West after leaving Baystars
Tomoya Mikami Hosei 2 2013 Baystars 4th Spent two years with JX-ENOS after graduating.  Played for Baystars 2014-present.  All Star in 2014 & 2016
Kazuki Mishima Hosei 1 2012 Baystars 2nd Played for Baystars 2013-present.  All Star in 2013
Yusuke Nomura Meiji 2 2011 Carp 1st Played for Carp 2012-present, 2012 Rookie Of The Year.  Lead Central League in wins in 2016.  All Star in 2012 & 2016.  Named to Best 9 team in 2016
Tatsuya Ohishi Waseda 3 2010 Lions 1st Played for Lions 2011-present
Yuki Saitoh Waseda 3 2010 Fighters 1st Played for Fighters 2011-present.  All Star in 2011-12
Shota Sugiyama Waseda 1 2012 Dragons 4th Played for Dragons 2013-present
Kenji Tomura Rikkio 4 2009 Eagles 1st Played for Eagles 2010-present
Takashi Uemoto Meiji 1 2012 Carp 3rd Played for Carp 2013-present

Takashi Uemoto's brother Hiroki had played for Waseda from 2005-08 and had been drafted by Hanshin the previous fall.  He is still playing for the Tigers.

Here's each player's card from the set plus a card of them from their NPB team:

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #11

2018 BBM Carp #C62

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #23

2019 BBM Tigers #T64

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #01

2011 BBM 1st Version #318

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #02

2019 Calbee #059

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #03

2019 Epoch NPB #329

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #13

2019 BBM 1st Version #167

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #07

2019 BBM Lions #L06

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #08

2019 BBM Fighters #F02

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #09

2019 BBM Dragons #D39

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #25

2019 BBM Eagles #E12

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #16

2019 BBM Carp #C45
Of the other 19 players in the set, three of them had their only card ever in this set - Hironobu Hara (Waseda), Junpei Komuro (Keio) and Gota Nanba (Meiji).  The other 16 players appear in other collegiate sets - Hitoshi Fuchigami (Keio), Hiroto Furugaki (Tokyo), Gosuke Hiraizumi (Tokyo), Daisuke Ikarashi (Rikkio), Shuhei Iwasaki (Tokyo). Junpei Komichi (Meiji), Nobuaki Nakabayashi (Keio), Masahito Nihira (Rikkio), Keisuke Okazaki (Rikkio), Yo Sasaki (Hosei), Yuichi Suzuki (Tokyo), Kazuma Takeuchi (Keio), Soichiro Tanaka (Rikkio), Yuta Tohyama (Meiji), Shota Utsumi (Tokyo) and Shota Waizumi (Hosei).

Card Of The Week September 22

The Europe/Africa Baseball Qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics took place this past week in Italy.  Team Israel won the tournament and will be playing in Japan next August while the Netherlands finished second and will have another chance to qualify for the Olympics in early 2020.

I was looking through the rosters of the six teams involved (the other teams besides Israel and the Netherlands were Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic and South Africa) and noticed a couple familiar names.  Former Rakuten Eagle Rhiner Cruz was on Spain's roster and former Orix Buffaloes pitcher Alessandro Maestri was on Italy's.

The pitching coach for the Czech Republic (who finished third in the tournament and dealt Israel their only loss) is former Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighter Corey Lee.  Lee spent about 10 years in the minors in the US, mostly in the Rangers' organization but also that of the White Sox and Angels.  He pitched one inning in the majors, taking the loss against the Yankees in an extra inning game on August 24th, 1999 - he gave up a three run home run to Tino Martinez to lose the game.  He joined the Fighters midway through the 2005 season and left partway through the 2006 season due to injury.  He was out of baseball for the next two seasons before spending the 2009 season with the independent Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League.  According to his Baseball-Reference Bullpen biography he's been a coach for the Czech Republic national team since 2014.

As far as I can tell he only had a handful of Japanese baseball cards.  He never had a card in the flagship sets for BBM or Calbee but he did have two cards in the 2006 BBM Fighters set.  I don't have either of those cards but I do have his card from the 2006 Konami Baseball Heroes 2 White Edition set (#B06W067):

Saturday, September 21, 2019

2019 SCC KBO Premium set

The second Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) set from SCC (really Daewoo Media) this year came out about a month ago.  This is SCC's "Premium" set and features a variety of autograph and memorabilia cards.  The base set contains 220 cards (22 per team) - as usual this is what I picked and as usual I got the set through Dan.

Like SCC's earlier set this year, the cards for the base set are split into "normal", "rare", "holo" and "signature" (which are facsimile signatures).  While each team has the same number of total cards (22), they don't necessarily have the same number of each type.  For example, Samsung has 13 "normal" cards, 4 "rare" cards, 3 "holo" cards and 2 "signature" cards while SK has 11 "normal", 5 "rare", 4 "holo" and 2 "signature" cards.

I can't really comment on how well the set represents the KBO.  As always there are no foreign players in the set.  I did notice that two former Cubs farmhands who are returning to Korea make their SCC base set debut in this set.  Ha Jae-Hoon spent 2009 to 2015 as an outfielder in the Cubs organization.  He was a member of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in 2016 (although I don't know of any NPB cards of him) and then spent the next two seasons with the Tokushima Indigo Socks of the Shikoku Island League where he converted to pitching.  He signed with SK as a pitcher (and I should point out that he had a short-printed rookie card in the earlier SCC set this year).  Rhee Dae-Eun was in the Cubs organization from 2008 to 2014.  He joined the Chiba Lotte Marines in 2015 for two seasons and spent 2017 and 2018 with the Korean Police team in the KBO Futures League.  He joined KT for the 2019 season.

Here's some example cards:

#SCCP1-19/214 Chi Seok-Hoon (Normal)

#SCCP1-19/086 Park Jeong-Eum (Normal)

#SCCP1-19/052 Park Sang-Won (Normal)

#SCCP1-19/039 Oh Jae-Il (Rare)

#SCCP1-19/146 Shin Bon-Ki (Rare)

#SCCP1-19/001 Ha-Jae-Hoon (Holo)

#SCCP1-19/178 Rhee Dae-Eun (Holo)

#SCCP1-19/170 Oh Ji-Hwan (Signature)

#SCCP1-19/095 Yang Hyeon-Jong (Signature)
Unlike the earlier SCC set (and the ones I got last year) the backs of the cards are not identical.  They have a photo of the player and some basic information.  For me the best part of the backs is that they have the player's name in English as my Korean reading skills are worse than my Japanese reading skills and my Japanese reading skills are practically non-existent.

Back of #SCCP1-19/114
I'm not a big fan of he wide borders on the "normal" and "rare" cards but it's still a nice looking set.  Dan has put the checklist up at and has been adding scans of the cards.

Thanks for getting me the set, Dan!