Monday, June 10, 2024

Food With A Side Of Cards

One of my big regrets from my 2019 trip to Japan was that I missed out on opportunities to get baseball cards with my food at the ballparks.  I ultimately only got cards at two different stadiums on that trip.  I was determined to do better on this trip and I think I succeeded.

You might ask why I would expect to get baseball cards with a meal at a ballpark?  Most (if not all) NPB teams sell "bento boxes" - basically a meal in a little tray - that feature a player or coach on it.  Usually the player has somehow endorsed the particular meal.  Deanna had told me years ago that these meals frequently included baseball cards (she frequently has tweets with the theme "Deanna Eats/Drinks Things To Get Baseball Cards") so I knew to be on the look out.

My first game on this trip was Seibu Dome, home of my biggest meal-related disappointment from last trip.  I had seen the stand selling bento boxes outside the ballpark, identified the meal I want to buy and incorrectly assumed they were available INSIDE the ballpark.  I could have gotten my hand stamped and gone back outside when I discovered my mistake but I didn't feel like going against stream of Carp fans coming into the ballpark.

I was determined not to make that same mistake again but I need not have worried - the Lions have redone some things around the gates to their ballpark and the bento stand is now inside the gate.  Ryan and I were able to easily pick up meals before heading to our seats.  We both bought the Takeya Nakamura bento:

I don't remember what everything in the box was but it wasn't bad.  The one gripe I have about all the bento boxes is that they're served cold.

You can see the baseball card I got in the top photo but here's a scan of it:

I was at Jingu Stadium the next night but I was unable to find any baseball cards with the meals - there were some "player collaboration" meals but they had little flags with the player's picture on them, not cards.  The following week, though, Deanna discovered there was a gyoza stand there that had Munetaka Murakami cards.

Two days later, I was up in Sendai and I again had success.  There was a bento stand just after you had your ticket scanned and I picked up the Hideto Asamura meal:

Deanna confirmed for me that this was beef tongue which is apparently a region delicacy in Tohoku.  Having had it at the ballpark made me feel better about not looking too hard for it for dinner that night.

As you can see from the lower photo, the baseball card is transparent plastic.  It's harder to tell that in this scan:

It did not appear that the bento boxes in Nagoya or Osaka had baseball cards with them although I have to admit, I didn't ask so it's possible I missed them.  My next success story was at Koshien Stadium.  There were two key differences here.  The first is that I think the baseball cards were only available for a few week - these signs were up in various places around the ballpark:

Normally there's just a player key chain being given away with the meal.

The second thing is that the card (and the key chain) are in a sealed pack and you don't know who you're going to get - it isn't necessarily the player on the box.  I bought the Takumu Nakano meal but neither the card or the keychain were Nakano:

The food was pretty good though.

The card I got was Yusuke Ohyama and the keychain was Shoki Murakami:

The next day I was in Hiroshima.  I had eaten lunch at an okonomiyaki place before going to the ballpark so I wasn't too interested in getting a bento box.  They did have them but the baseball cards with them were postcard sized player caricatures so I wasn't all that interested in them anyway: 

I asked at both Fukuoka Dome and Tokyo Dome if the bento boxes had baseball cards and was told "no" in both places.  I did get a "rice bowl with steak" at Tokyo Dome that included a Hayato Sakamoto sticker (I had gotten an order of bibimbap in Fukuoka that was endorsed by Yugo Bandoh but there was no sticker or card of him with it):

For the past few years the Lotteria stands at the Chiba Marine Stadium have given away baseball cards if you buy the appropriate hamburger meal and I scored a card here.  The postcard sized card comes in a sealed pack so, like at Koshien, you don't know who you've got a card of until you open the pack.  I got Takashi Ogino but decided to give the card to Steve since Steve had gotten the tickets for Deanna, Noal and I to join him at the game and Ogino is Steve's favorite player.  And also since the card was oversized, I wasn't sure if I could get it back to my hotel in one piece so maybe I wasn't being completely altruistic.

My final game on the trip was in Yokohama and I was again successful.  I got a Keita Sano bento box featuring a pork meal:

Here's a scan of the card:

I always say that one of the great unknowns about Japanese baseball cards is how many fan club and/or team issued cards there are.  This is another aspect of it that I believe is even less cataloged.


Jason Presley said...

These cards would be extremely difficult to pin down as to their origin only a year or so after the fact. And how would you ever know if a set was complete?

Sean said...

Oh wow, that is really interesting, great post. I've never actually gotten baseball cards with a bento (or any other purchase) at a ball game here. They definitely don't do that at the Nagoya Dome so you didn't miss anything here!

Jason Presley said...

They put a lot of effort into the Players Collaboration Gourmet. The QR code takes you to the website where it lists all the players, their associated meals, and exactly where you can find each of them in the stadium.

Fuji said...

Baseball cards served with stadium food? Just another reason I'd love to one day visit Japan and attend some baseball games.