A few days ago a Canadian friend of mine asked if I could go hunt down some special card cases for him and some super-thick hockey autograph cards he was collecting. Since I'd never been to Ryogoku before, I figured, what the heck, I'll go to the shop and see what they have. My friend Pau, who is one of the most awesome baseball geeks I've ever had the fortune to meet, came along with me in the hopes of finding some more NPB cards. Oddly, this store had tons of MLB cards, tons of Hockey cards, Basketball cards, American FOOTBALL cards, etc, etc -- but no Japanese baseball cards!
Either way, we found the cardholders, I bought one, got the paper explaining it in English, and also found out my friend in Canada should be able to order them online. Score.
Afterwards, Pau and I spent the day basically hunting down and trading NPB cards in Jimbocho. It was awesome. First we stopped for lunch and exchanged as many doubles as we could from the BBM 2007 set, and went through Pau's Nostalgic Baseball collection to see what he was missing.
We found the card store I'd been talking about and probably spent over an hour there just looking through old boxes of cards. ("Look," I happily exclaimed, "I found a Hiromitsu Ochiai card from when he was still a player!" "Whoa," replied Pau, "He had hair back then!")
We each bought a "Fukubukuro" bag from the card shop. These are "lucky bags", usually you see them in a department store -- they've put a whole bunch of random stuff inside a bag, you can't look inside, and you pay some arbitrary price for every bag. You might either get some totally awesome stuff worth a lot more than that, or you might get something completely useless. The card shop guy said "Well, these cost 1000 yen, but it has 3000 yen worth of random baseball packs inside!"
Eventually we went to a coffeeshop and sat down and got out all of our packs we'd bought. We also bought Sanseido out of their last 6 Nostalgic Baseball packs, and I also bought two more BBM 1st Version 2007 packs.
Inside the Fukubukuro was two Draft Story packs, three Softbank Hawks team packs, three Chunichi Dragons team packs, and inside mine there was also a Takahiro Yamazaki autograph card. (Yeah, I know. I saw Rakuten and Yamasaki and was like "DUDE!!!!" then "Oh. That one.") Since each team pack costs 420 yen normally, it really was 3000 yen worth of packs inside, so that's pretty cool.
I traded Pau my BBM 1st packs for his Chunichi Dragons packs, and also told him I'd give him any new cards from the Nostalgic set. And thus we erupted in a mad plastic-ripping rampage, surfacing occasionally to say things like "Hey, do you have a Nagashima already?" or "Yay! Another Naomichi!"
First we settled the Nostalgic packs. These are a set of baseball cards that are entirely of Japanese baseball stars from 50-60 years ago. Pau has most of the set now and is missing like 20 cards. I think he got one new card in his 3 packs but he got 4 or 5 from my packs, so it wasn't a complete loss. He gave me ALL of his doubles, so now I've got around half the set too! Yay! What beautiful cards!
BBM 2006 Nostalgic Baseball cards
Then we went through our Draft Story packs. Both of Pau's packs had mostly really old players so I wasn't all that excited about it, but my first Draft Story pack had, I kid you not, an Ichiro card, a Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a Kazuhiro Wada, an Osamu Hamanaka, and a Naoki Takahashi (older player from the Toei Flyers). Pretty cool, especially since I like Hamanaka and because Ichiro's card actually had the "Suzuki 51" uniform picture on it from the way old Orix days.
I open my second Draft Story pack and I swear the first card is Hirokazu Ibata, who I totally love, so I'm like IBATA! OMG! The second card is Koji Uehara. OMG UEHARA! The third is Katsuaki Furuki, which isn't terrible but isn't particularly exciting. Then the fourth is MICHIHIRO OGASAWARA and I nearly completely flip out, it's this cute young smiling catcher Ogasawara on the Fighters. AWWWWW! Before Ogasawara went to the Dark Side, I was totally obsessing over finding one of his rookie cards. This isn't exactly the same thing, but it's got the same purpose - a card with a really young picture of him as a catcher. At that point I notice the fifth card in the pack...
...it's Daisuke freaking Matsuzaka.
We're both stunned.
Pau's like "I think you just pulled the single best Draft Story pack known to man."
BBM 2007 Draft Story cards
After that we went through our Softbank and Chunichi packs. The Hawks ones are kind of nice though nothing came out that was super-exciting -- I did get a Munenori Kawasaki card, so that was good, and a silver Sadaharu Oh card which is really pretty. The Chunichi ones are kind of interesting, although the stupid part about team sets in general is that they make cards for EVERYONE on the team, and this includes the minor leaguers who don't even get playing time at ni-gun, plus every single coach on the team, and so on and so forth, so even if you're a gigantic fan of the team you still probably won't know who everyone is. I'm pretty sure I literally have a card for every single Dragons coach ever in existence now, but I DIDN'T get an Ochiai card, which was kind of sad. I also did get two more Naomichi Donoue cards, but I didn't get a lot of the normal lineup guys like Morino and Araki and Ibata and all, so I was a little disappointed. I did get a Kenshin Kawakami "Shining" card which was really pretty, though.
One cool thing about the Chunichi set: They have this bunch of cards called "Consecutive". Apparently it's for a few players -- I got one of Kosuke Fukudome and two of Masa Yamamoto -- and if you collect ALL of the cards for that player it will line up and look like their pitching motion or their batting stance. Each card had three pictures on it and looked sort of like a puzzle piece. I need to go back to the card shop and try to see the others in the series sometime.
Another cool thing about the Hawks and Dragons cards is that I got two guys who I saw in my first ever Fighters game. One is Tatsuya Ide, who is now a coach for the Hawks, and the other was Hiroshi Narahara, who is now a coach for the Dragons.
My Fukubukuro cards
I also traded Pau a non-double 2007 1st card of Takashi Toritani for another Naomichi Donoue he got in his BBM 2007 1st packs that I'd traded him. Pau's really a Tigers fan and I'm really a Fighters fan, but we both follow most of the league in general, so it works out well.
After that, we played a baseball dice game called Replay Baseball for a while. We played a game of the 2005 Mariners vs. the 2005 Athletics. That was so funny! King Felix started against Danny Haren and the A's won 2-1. The funniest thing is that while rolling dice and seeing the results I kept feeling like I totally remembered all of these things happening in real life in 2005, heh. The other thing is that I had Matt Thornton pitch for me and he didn't suck. But everything else about the game was fairly accurate, especially the part where Ichiro was the only one who could consistently get on base.
The coffee shop kicked us out pretty much right as we were finishing the last half-inning of our dice game, since they were closing. Then I went home, buying another B5 trading card book at the 100-yen shop and organized a few more cards into it. It had been about 3 years since I'd gotten to open packs with someone else, so I'd forgotten exactly how awesome it is. Good times.