I don’t know much about Japanese baseball. I don’t know much about Japanese baseball cards. I *really* don’t know much Japanese.
Apparently, Japanese baseball is relatively similar to American baseball. Of course there are some differences, especially cultural ones where crowds and players are concerned. But they share all of the basics: bats & balls, pitchers, bases on a field, etc. By most accounts, baseball was introduced to Japan in the 1870s, roughly twenty to twenty-five years after Americans started to professionally organize the game. . . .
Really, though, that’s about all I know—or all I can recall—about that. Other folks like Dr. Fitts or Robert Whiting (coincidentally both named Robert) know quite a bit more about Japanese baseball.
When it comes to Japanese baseball cards, my knowledge is equally limited. Some Japanese baseball cards were made for a popular game called menko. (While menko cards do not account for all Japanese baseball cards, they do appear to be the earliest.) In this game, players throw their cards down upon a flat playing surface in an attempt to flip the other cards belonging to opponents. Yeah, it’s like pogs. Unlike baseball, though, Japan’s menko came well before the American pogs of the 1990s.
Again, there are others with plenty of more expertise in this realm. For example: Dr. Fitts (once more), who runs an additional site just for blogging about Japanese baseball cards; Gary Engel, co-author of Sayonara Home Run!: The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card; and, of course, the Japanese Baseball Cards blog.
As for Japanese, the language—well, I got nothin’. But I found these Japanese baseball cards that sure do look pretty cool.
Oh, there’s more alright. . . .
And last but not least. . . .