Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nagoya Card Shop Tour with Dave Part 3

After our visit to Mint Ponyland we realized we had been on our feet for quite some time (especially Dave, who had come down all the way from Tokyo that morning) and it was getting late so we decided to draw our card shop tour to a close.  We had actually taken in 2 out of the 3 specialized card shops in Nagoya.  The only other one, a shop called Match Up near Yabacho station, would have to wait til another day.  Due to poor timing we also missed out on a fourth shop, Caps, which had just closed down in March.

We returned to Nagoya station and made our way over to Dave's hotel as he said he had something to give me.  I was absolutely astonished by what he had: two massive Yamakatsu Jumbo DX cards! Still in their original box!
These cards are massive, probably the biggest baseball cards ever produced.  I should have put something for scale in the photo but didn't think of it. So perhaps I'll do the next best thing here and express how big they are with a series of "they so big" jokes:

"Your Yamakatsu Jumbo cards are so big I swerved to miss running over one in my car and ran out of gas."

"Your 1977 Yamakatsu Jumbo card is so big, they only just finished printing it."

"Your Yamakatsu Jumbo cards are so big if you drop one in the ocean off the coast of Okinawa Japan and China will immediately get into a territorial row over who owns it."

"Your Yamakatsu Jumbo card is so big I had to look three times to see all of it."

"Your Yamakatsu Jumbo cards are so big that 17% of seismological activity in the Japanese archipelago is explained by their movement."

"Your Yamakatsu Jumbo cards are so big that when you buy them in bulk at Costco they come in packages of one."

"Your Yamakatsu Jumbo card is so big they make you buy a ticket for it if you want to take it on the Shinkansen."

And on and on (feel free to come up with your own in the comments).

These ones in fact were so big (not a joke) that Dave had to use a specific suitcase big enough to hold them without getting them bent.  How do you thank someone for going to that much trouble to bring cards across the Pacific to you?  It was really the kindest gesture I've ever experienced as a card collector and I just really love these cards and am massively appreciative of them!  

The two cards he gave me were of Tomio Tashiro of the Whales and Masayuki Kakefu of the Hanshin Tigers.  These cards are pretty hard to find and, in a bizarre twist, the only one I'd ever actually seen before was the actual Kakefu card that he gave me, which he had featured in a post on his blog a few years ago!

I was a bit worried about getting them home safely since it was raining and they wouldn't fit in my backpack, but fortunately I had some plastic bags that did the trick and they now safely reside in my home.

His generosity didn't end there though, he also gave me these beauties here:
A fantastic set of stuff that just 100% aligned with my interests: some 1989 Mermaid Data cards, two 1994 Calbee Hokkaido-Kyushu-Sanyo cards (veyr hard to come across), and some other vintage Calbee including a beautiful 1979 Yutaka Fukumoto.

We sat in the hotel lobby for a few minutes as I looked through all of these amazing cards, feeling a bit guilty that I hadn't thought to bring him a gift (I will though!!!) and then we said goodbye and I headed for home.

It was a great afternoon, being able to both connect in person with a fellow Japanese baseball card blogger (we're a pretty small community!) and great guy, and to take in some of Nagoya's baseball card shops for the first time.  Dave is now off on the rest of his trip, which he shared some of the details of with me but I won't spoil it here.  Stay tuned to his blog to see some amazing posts, bearing in mind that the  3 posts I've devoted here to it only made up a very small portion of it!

Sometime in the near future I'll try to head out to the only card shop we didn't get to, Match UP, and do a post about it.  I also discovered there is a baseball card show happening here in Nagoya in July, so I'll try to take that in and do a post about it too (though work/family scheduling might preclude that, I'll try at least!)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Nagoya Card Shop Tour with Dave Part 2

 After finishing our shopping at Bits, Dave and I decided that the next card shop we would hit would be Mint Ponyland out by Nakamura Koen.  So we hopped on the subway at Kokusai Centre Station and about 15 minutes later emerged from Nakamura Koen station.  Mint Ponyland is almost next door to the station (if you visit, take exit 2 and its about 1 minute walk away) so it is extremely convenient to get to.

Mint Ponyland is part of the Mint empire, which is a chain of about two dozen card stores across the country.  When I was living in Fukuoka I used to sometimes visit their Kashii location (since closed) which was a kind of decent little store so I was curious about what Nagoya's Mint was like.

Like Bits the Mint Ponyland is a bit hard to find unless you do your research in advance because there are no visible signs of it at street level save for a tiny sign in the doorway.  It is on the 3rd floor of the above building but none of the three billboard signs you see are for it (they are for apartment rental agencies and a cram school).  If you kind of squint you can make out some card related signs inside the third floor window, but they are hard to see.

We took the elevator up to the third floor and found the store entrance:
Seeing the shutters closed like that I said in disappointment "Oh no, they are closed!"

Dave, who is a much more practical guy than I am, calmly replied "Um, why don't we just try opening the door?"

"Aha! That works!" I said with some embarrassment at my initial defeatist reaction as I successfully turned the knob and found that the door did in fact open onto a store that was open for business.

On entering we were both a bit surprised by how big it was, the floor space is massive by Japanese standards.
 The shop proprietor was seated in the back working on a computer and didn't pay us any mind as we entered.  So we decided to browse.

As with Bits, Mint Ponyland has stacks of monster boxes on shelves.  They have a lot of baseball and soccer cards, but a noticeably larger proportion of their stock is idol cards, many of them featuring full frontal nudity which may come as a shock to someone just looking for baseball cards (ah....Japan!)

Dave got out his checklists and tried to find a few he needed but didn't have as much luck as he had at Bits.  I'll leave it to him to discuss that on his blog, but I don't think their selection of BBM singles was as good as at Bits.

Dave wanted to know if they had any full sets and we asked the proprietor, but he said they don't sell sets, only singles (I think me meant they didn't put together hand collated sets, they did have some boxed sets, etc).

I did some browsing myself too.  One amusing and kind of nostalgic thing that I noted was that they had a couple of monster boxes devoted to cards of MLB stars, organized by player. It reminded me a lot of the box of star cards that we had at the card shop I worked at with my dad in the early 90s, which I actually fished out of storage in 2015. This was driven home by the fact that their player selection obviously hadn't been updated in about 25 years - they had sections devoted to guys like Bobby Bonilla, Dave Cone and Joe Carter who haven't been the subject of much hobby attention since the early 90s (and nobody who debuted later than the 90s).

This relates to a critique I would offer about Mint Ponyland - the store is kind of a mess and doesn't look like any serious attempt has been made to make it presentable to the public.  Empty boxes are stacked up haphazardly everywhere and the whole place is littered with clutter.  I suspect that they do most of their business online and the store is treated more like a warehouse that customers sometimes happen to visit rather than a regular store that is open to the public (not a single customer visited while we were there I should add, though it was a Tuesday afternoon so not necessarily a busy time).  The fact that a lot of the stuff they have in monster boxes on sale obviously has just been lying there collecting dust for decades adds to that feeling of disinterest in creating an attractive shop (this is a huge contrast to Bits, which is very tidy and well organized).

Another critique I had was the lack of vintage Calbee (or anything else). They had a tiny little box on the counter which had maybe a hundred or so Calbee cards from the 70s and 80s and that was it.  Dave was able to find a nice purchase out of it (which perhaps he'll cover in his post) but I gave it a pass and left without buying much.
 Despite my criticism of the shop's condition I should add that the guy there was quite nice and responded to our questions in a friendly manner.  I was curious about the huge size of the shop and he said that since they owned the building they could basically do whatever they wanted with the space (which I should add may not be a good thing!)

The contrast between Bits and Mint Ponyland calls to mind a division that exists within the city of Nagoya itself.  Nagoya is cut in two by the main train tracks, including the shinkansen, that run through Nagoya station.  The east side, where Bits is, is much more developed than the west side where Mint Ponyland is.  Almost all of the main shopping streets, department stores, etc in Nagoya are on the east side, while the west side is kind of a boring backwater once you get a couple of blocks away from the station.  This isn't necessarily the reason for the shops being different but while I was in Mint I just kind of had that "this is definitely the west side of the station" feeling in my mind.

I'm not sure about making a recommendation with respect to Mint Ponyland.  Its definitely very easy to get to if you are in Nagoya, and the guy who works there is quite nice, but the selection and presentation of the cards they have is kind of "meh".  This could be just because they didn't have the cards that I was specifically looking for though, if you are looking for some early 90s Bobby Bonilla cards its probably your best bet in Nagoya to find them (kidding, but actually true).

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nagoya Card Shop Tour with Dave Part 1

It was raining heavily yesterday afternoon as I stood on the corner with an odd problem.  I needed to go to the Toyoko Inn near Nagoya Station, which seemed simple enough until I reached  the Station and realized there were two Toyoko Inns, almost across the street from each other.  Toyoko Inns, it seems, are about as common as convenience stores in Japan.  I went to the nearest one and as I stood outside the automatic lobby doors folding my umbrella I made eye contact with a smiling face on the other side and knew that I had chosen the right one.  Dave, aka NPB Guy, of  Japanese Baseball Cards and I were about to finally meet in person.

I've known Dave through our blogs since about the time I started mine back in 2013 and we've exchanged quite a few comments and emails with each other over the years, discussing our shared interest in Japanese cards, so I was quite happy when he reached out a few months back to see if we could meet up on the Nagoya leg of his massive Japan trip (I don't want to spoil it, but his blog will undoubtedly have some very interesting posts about that in the near future).  Fortunately he was coming to Nagoya on a Tuesday and I had a free afternoon, so we decided to do a little tour of Nagoya's card shops together.

In addition to my excitement about meeting Dave, I was also excited about being able to visit Nagoya's card shops.  Most of them are in parts of town I don't visit often and, with two young kids at home,  I just haven't had the time to check them out (almost all my collecting so far has been online).  This gave me the perfect excuse to get out and see them for myself.

I decided to break my recap of our afternoon up into three posts, in this one I'll focus on the first store we visited: Bits!

Bits had the advantage of being within walking distance of Dave's Toyoko Inn, so we wandered off in the general direction, aided only by the map on the store website.  As it turns out, the store was only a few minutes away (very close to the Kokusai Centre Station on the Sakuradori Subway line if you ever want to visit), but we did have a bit of difficulty finding it since there are no signs of the shop at street level.  We arrived at the spot where the map suggested it should be and found ourselves in front of a massive 1970s vintage apartment complex with retail stores and restaurants on the first two floors.  There was an external stairway which we decided to give a try and as soon as we reached the top we found ourselves right in front of the shop!

 The inside of the store is really nice and very well organized.  They have tons of cards, mostly baseball and soccer with a small selection of "other" stuff.  Both Dave and I were only interested in the baseball cards.

Dave had brought several checklists for BBM sets he is working on with him and got to work browsing through the monster boxes.

I had brought with me my checklists for the 1975-76, 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1988 Calbee sets and was hoping to work on them but was initially a bit disappointed as I couldn't find any in all of those boxes.  I asked the store owner however and he produced a big pile of about 500 or so Calbees from the 1980s which were a joy to behold!  So I started going through my checklist too.
 The storeowner I should note is extremely nice and very accommodating, he and his wife (at least I think it was his wife!) were there and were very helpful.  We chatted a bit and he said that they had opened the store in 2001 (the same year Ichiro went to the majors) but before that he had worked for a couple of years at a Mint in Yokohama (which is no longer there).  He found the fact that Dave was from Maryland interesting and we chatted a bit about Koji Uehara (who he said still lived in Maryland even after retiring - the level of detailed knowledge that every card shop owner should have!)
 In addition to the monster boxes they had a ton of packs which might appeal to readers (though as a Calbee collector I just browsed them):
Dave was able to get quite a few cards knocked off his want list there and I walked out with these 16 cards which he only charged me 50 Yen each for (a real bargain).  14 of them were 1984 Calbees that I needed and the other two were a Bump Wills and Randy Bass card from the 1983 set:
I also picked up some supplies there, mainly 12 pocket pages that are perfect for 1980s Calbee cards (my 1987 near set is currently in 10 pocket pages which look really awkward).

I kind of lost track of time but we spent a while in Bits, which was a good thing.  I really like this shop and the owners and will definitely be going back now that I know where they are and what they have.  If you are ever in Nagoya I would give this shop a high priority on your to-do list!

In my next post I'll cover the next shop we visited: Mint Ponyland!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Cards that look like Renassaince Artwork

The above card is #612 from the 1974-75 Calbee set, in the "Camp Series" subset, which features photos taken from the Giants training camp in Miyazaki.

I like this card because there is a lot going on in that photograph, so much so that it kind of looks like the work of a Renassaince artist.  1970s Calbee cards are the best for stuff like this.  It features the late Giants third baseman Masaru Tomita hitting a punching bag with his bat.  I never played competitive baseball past my high school days so I'm not an expert, but is this an actual training thing?  I've never seen players taking whacks at a punching bag during batting practice, and it seems like kind of a dangerous thing to even try (wouldn't you risk breaking your wrist the second the bat came to a sudden stop when hitting the bag?) so I'm a bit confused about the purpose of it.

Also odd is that if you look closely you'll notice that Tomita is not standing on level ground while he does this, he is on a sloped hillside.  Again, I never played ball professionally but why is he not on a level playing surface?  Surely the Giants must have a bit of flat land in Miyazaki where they train?
What I like best though is that kid standing there watching.  He looks like he's about 5 or 6 years old and is decked out in a Giants hat and jacket.  His posture, with his hands clasped together in front of him, suggests he is extremely nervous.  Maybe he is worried that Tomita is going to hurt himself with the punching bag thing.  Or maybe he is just shy, my own son is about the same age and looks like that sometimes when he is introduced to grown ups he doesn't know.  Its the sort of detail that adds to that Renassaince artwork feel: the image of that kid perfectly encapsulates the experience of being a little kid in the presence of a heroic grown up figure like a pro ball player. Also note that the kid is perfectly framed, he is almost dead centre in the photo and the bag, the bat and Tomita form a frame around him, drawing the viewers attention to him.

Also the grown up male standing a couple of paces ahead of the kid, partially obscured by the punching bag, is brilliant.  He's probably the kid's father and looks much more confident, his hands in his pockets as he casually watches Tomita in action.  I love the fact that the picture gives you exactly enough of a view of him to get a sense of who he is without showing you all of him.  His left arm is all you need to see to tell how confident and relaxed he is in contrast to his son. You just see one of his eyes and he looks kind of tired.  At the same time, his positioning suggests indifference to his son, giving the photo a kind of melancholic subtext.  He isn't crouching down next to his son and sharing the experience.  He looks like he's completely forgotten that his kid even exists. If anything, taking his kid here might be a chore to him rather than a joy, which might give us new insights on the source of the child's nervousness and make him an even more appealing and sympathetic figure to us.

This is sort of reinforced by the huge 70s collar the guy has, which gives him a vaguely used car salesman aura.

Then there is the other kid, in the blue and white jacket standing further in the background. He looks like he feels somehow left out.

The back of the card doesn't mention the kids, the dad, the punching bag or the non-level playing surface.  Rather it talks about who was going to play 3rd base for Nagashima's Giants that year, noting that Tomita was in the lead for the role.  Unfortunately for Tomita, things didn't work out quite so well as the card back suggests, he only played part time for the Giants that year before being traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters as part of the deal that brought Isao Harimoto to the Giants in 1976.  He did however get an All Star nod while with the Fighters before retiring in 1980.  He passed away in 2015.

Anybody else have any examples of cards with photos that look like the work of Renaissance artists?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Japanese Baseball Card Lawsuit You Never Heard About

Here is an interesting fact you probably didn't know about Japanese baseball cards.

In the mid 2000s a renegade group of NPB stars sued their teams (10 teams in total, all except for the Hawks and Eagles) for allowing Calbee and BBM to use their images on baseball cards (and also for allowing video game makers to use it in their games).  It was the probably the most significant baseball card lawsuit since the major ones in the US in the 1950s and 60s, but nobody has written anything about it in English (or much in Japanese either), so I thought I would remedy that deficiency with this post.

A group of 34 players joined the lawsuit including some of the biggest names in NPB at the time: Koji Uehara, Takahashi Yoshinobu, Shinnosuke Abe, Shinya Miyamoto, Kosuke Fukudome, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Michio Ogasawara were among the named plaintiffs.

The litigation would actually span several years and two courts, the Tokyo District Court (Decision of 1 August 2006 1265 Hanrei Taimuzu 212) and, on appeal, the Intellectual Property High Court (Decision of 25 February 2008 2008WLJPCA02259001) which would both issue lengthy judgments.  In this post I'll focus on the first one issued by the Tokyo District Court in 2006 and perhaps in a future one I'll focus on the 2008 case which was an appeal of the first (spoiler alert: the outcome was the same in both).

The first decision is worth looking at in the context of this blog not so much for the legal doctrines the court applies (which I'll cover nonetheless, but I'll keep it brief) but because they contain a treasure trove of hitherto unknown information, both historical and contemporary, about how the business of baseball cards is carried out in Japan and how the complex relationship that exists between players, teams, the league and the card makers is organized.  It tells us everything from why Calbee photographs are so crappy (hint: Calbee doesn't have any photographers) to why "no logo" sets like recent Donruss and Panini ones have never existed in Japan to how players get paid (if at all) for appearing on cards.

So lets get started.

1. The Basis of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit turned on the player contract that each player signs with their teams.  Though each player signs an individual contract with their team, the terms of their contract are dictated by an NPB Agreement which assures that all players sign the same contract with just their salary and term differing depending on the player.  Article 16 of the standard player contract was mostly copied directly from s. 3(c) of Major League Baseball's Uniform Players Agreement (translated into Japanese of course)  which states:

3.(c) The Player agrees that his picture may be taken for still photographs, motion pictures or television at such times as the Club may designate and agrees that all rights in such pictures shall belong to the Club and may be used by the Club for publicity purposes in any manner it desires. The Player further agrees that during the playing season he will not make public appearances, participate in radio or television programs or permit his picture to be taken or write or sponsor newspaper or magazine articles or sponsor commercial products without the written consent of the Club, which shall not be withheld except in the reasonable interests of the Club or professional baseball.

There are two significant differences in the NPB agreement from the above.  The first is that the NPB agreement adds a clause stating that the teams agree to share any proceeds in an "appropriate amount" they receive from the use of player images with the players.  The second is that the second part of the provision in which the player agrees not to make public appearances, etc without consent of the team is more restrictive on the player in Japan.  The MLB one is limited to "during the playing season", while the NPB one is year-round.  Also the MLB one states that the Club won't withhold consent except when it is in the interests of the Club or MLB, while the NPB one contains no words to that effect which limit the Club's ability to refuse consent.

At the heart of the case was a basic question: Whether or not NPB teams could use this provision to sell player images to card makers.  The provision, after all, only gave them the right to use their images for "publicity purposes" and its not really clear if selling it to baseball card (or video game) makers falls under that.

2. The Facts and What the Case Tells us about Japanese Baseball Card Contracts

Based on the above provision the teams entered into agreements with both Calbee (from 1973) and BBM (from 1991) in which they gave them the rights to use the images of players on their cards.  Neither Calbee nor BBM received individual consent from any of the players directly.  This, it should be noted, is significantly different from MLB practice in two respects.  The First is that NPB is not itself a party to these contracts - the card companies contract directly with the teams (who retain the rights to their logos, unlike the US where the teams do this all through MLB).  Second is that the teams hold the rights to use the images of players rather than the Player's Association which is the case in the US. Despite the fact that the Japanese provision is based on the MLB one, in America it is interpreted narrowly and the provision has never been viewed as giving the teams the right to sell rights to use player images/names to card companies.  Historically in the US players negotiated individually with the card companies until the 1960s (hence the awkward differences in player selection between Topps and Bowman sets in the early 50s) and since the 1960s the Players' Association has negotiated on their behalf.  This means that in Japan, unlike the US, the teams hold all the cards (pardon the pun) and explains why you never see Japanese cards that  feature players but no team logos, like a lot of  sets in the US do since some makers only contract with the Players' Association and not MLB.

The terms of the contracts that the teams negotiated were, interestingly, different for Calbee and BBM.  With Calbee the original agreements they had with some (but not all) teams beginning in 1973 did not actually oblige Calbee to pay anything for the rights. These teams viewed the cards as a way of promoting the team and increasing the popularity of certain players, and thus they made what may have been a rational business decision to literally gave the rights to Calbee for free (which also means that the players received nothing).  The decision also notes that under special agreements Calbee would produce cards of a specific team during pennant races to be distributed exclusively at their stadiums (which I think is a reference to the Chunichi and Hiroshima regional issues, but its not clear) which the teams also gave Calbee the rights to for free.

At various points  Calbee and the teams entered new contracts which moved away from this "free" model and began requiring Calbee pay for rights. The current contracts (at least in 2006) required Calbee to pay each team a set amount based on the number of cards from that team which it produced.  Thus the amount each team receives depends on how many Calbee cards of its players Calbee produces.

 BBM on the other hand never received the right to produce cards for free.  Since it entered the card market in 1991 it has had a standard contract that it enters with each team which, interestingly, only varies according to its length.  For some teams they have 5 year contracts, others 3 year contracts and other still 1 year contracts.

BBM has to pay each team 6% of total sales for the right to produce cards which it is obliged to pay in April, July and December (I believe this is calculated pro-rata per team, not each team getting 6% of all sales, which would take up almost everything).  For "special" sets (its a bit unclear what this means, but I guess this refers to the team sets BBM is always putting out) they have to pay each team a flat rate of 20,000 Yen per card. As with Calbee, the teams distribute the money they receive from BBM according to different methods that they decide on themselves.

The first contract Calbee signed was, of course, with the Giants on 14 November 1972.  The Giants were among the teams that charged Calbee a fee from the beginning and they were (and continue to be) among the more generous teams in terms of how much of the revenue they share with players.  Originally they gave the players 75% of the money received (to all except Shigeo Nagashima, who got more) and kept 25% as their fee for the use of the Giants logo on the cards.  More recently they have bumped the player's cut up to 80%.  Additionally they require the card companies to provide samples of the cards they will produce which the team distributes to players for their approval (ie if a player doesn't like the photo used on a card, they have an opportunity to complain about it before it is released).

The Yakult Swallows on the other hand, didn't enter a contract that required Calbee to pay until 1981 and may not have begun paying players until as recently as 1994 (when Atsuya Furuta, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, played for them).  They are also a bit stingier than the Giants, only giving players a 70% cut of the money they receive from Calbee, and evenly splitting the money the receive from BBM. They don't seem to provide players with the ability to preview cards either.

The Baystars are an interesting example.  They have contracted with Calbee since 1973 and received money from Calbee, but until 2004 they didn't pass any of it on to their players.  Instead each year they paid cards!  Players were entitled to 30 copies of whatever card they appeared on as compensation (excluding limited number ones), which from the perspective of wealthy ballplayers must have been a joke. After 2004 they started sharing actual cash with their players, but on an extremely stingy basis - only passing on 20% of their take.  The Baystars also require Calbee to use photos taken by the Baystars own cameraman (who mainly takes pictures for the team's own magazine).  This is another interesting point that comes out in the decision - Calbee (and BBM) are at the mercy of the teams in terms of choosing cameramen.  For some they have to use the team's own cameraman or a cameraman employed by a company related to the team, for others they use newspaper cameramen.  They don't actually employ their own photographers, which may explain the crap photo selection in recent years!

The other teams had policies that fell in between these, with some paying a flat fee instead of a percentage and varying in some other details that aren't worth reciting in full here.

As an aside, an interesting historical nugget that the decision provides is that the Court reviews the practice before the Players agreement came into effect in 1951.  Prior to that the teams and NPB (or its predecessor organization) obtained permission from the players directly in order to give the rights to produce:

Between 1946 and 1950 Bromides featuring Takehiko Besho and other Giants players;
In 1948 a Gensokupan Insatsu Sha Karuta set featuring Michinori Tsuboichi and 44 other players;
Between 1948 and 1950 a Menko set featuring Takahiko Besho and other players.

Anyway, back to the lawsuit at hand.

3. The Player's Arguments and the Court's Decision

The players who launched the lawsuit were dissatisfied with this state of affairs and specifically the fact that Art. 16 of the players' agreements was interpreted by the teams as giving the teams the right to contract with card makers to sell their images on the one hand while also preventing the players from individually doing that on their own.  They advanced three main legal arguments against the practice.

The first centred around the definition of "for publicity purposes" contained in Art. 16.  The players argued that selling their images to baseball card makers (and video game makers) went beyond "publicity purposes" and was a purely commercial use of their image.  They drew a specific analogy with how the identical term in the MLB player agreement was not viewed in the US as giving the teams the ability to do so and argued it should be interpreted narrowly.  They also drew similar comparisons with J-League Soccer and Korean Baseball.

The second argument they made was that the provision, by completely denying them the right to their own image, was grossly unfair and unreasonable and thus ran counter to public policy.  This was based on Art. 90 of the Civil Code which states that "a juristic act which is against public policy is void" - a general catch-all provision that Japanese courts sometimes rely on to void contractual provisions which are unreasonable.

Finally they put forward an argument based on Article 19 of the Anti-Monopoly Act, which bars unfair trade practices (basically arguing that it was a vertical contract that, by preventing them from selling their image on their own, was an unfair restraint on trade).

Unfortunately for the players the Court ruled against them on all three of their arguments.  With respect to the first, the Court noted the different business models of Japanese teams and their histories and held that the narrow interpretation of "for publicity purposes" used elsewhere was innapropriate in the Japanese context.  Thus the phrase was interpreted broadly enough to allow teams to sell player images to card makers.

The second argument was also rejected based largely on a broader analysis of the player's contractual situation.  Citing among other things the high salaries players were earning since the introduction of free agency, and the fact that teams shared the revenue with players and that the system was reasonable within the broader business model employed by teams, it refused to find the practice to be unreasonable or unfair to the extent necessary to be counter to public policy.

Finally on the Anti-Monopoly Act argument they lost mostly on a technicality - they were not considered "enterprises" and thus couldn't fit themselves within the rule in the Act they were relying on.

4. Conclusion

Court documents and judicial decisions are a pretty useful way of finding information that otherwise isn't publicly available, since the parties to a lawsuit have to produce evidence they normally wouldn't present publicly.  I could probably write a dozen post exploring the significance of individual bits of trivia the case reveals to peculiar aspects of the hobby (and I may yet do so).  But for now its worth recalling that the decision contains a lot of interesting information about the contractual relationships between the main actors in the production of baseball cards in Japan: the players, the teams, the League and the card makers.

In contrast to the United States, we learn that players in Japan are in a really weak position with respect to the use of their images on cards (and anything else for that matter).  The ability to license player images has been a huge source of income for the MLB Players Association since the 1960s and helps to explain why it became such a powerful organization after that decade, which probably played a role in introducing free agency and turning journeymen middle infielders into multimillionaires.  In Japan, the player's union has no such source of independent finance and remains extremely weak, as do the players in general.

We also learn, interestingly, that what a player makes from his appearance on a card is highly dependent on what team he plays for (or at  least it was at the time of this decision).  Giants players were given wads of cash while Baystars players got paid in their own cards.

Whether this is a good system, and whether the outcome of the decision is beneficial, is another question altogether and would really require a consideration of a bunch of stuff outside the baseball card hobby.  Having teams themselves being the locus of all contractual negotiations might bring some benefits (it prevents the division of rights in the US that leads to no-logo sets) for example but also its drawbacks (the teams might benefit from giving the rights to the League, which would be in a stronger position to bargain with card makers.  Probably the Giants stand in the way of this).

Anyway, I'll try to do a post about the follow up appeal case at the Intellectual Property High Court at some point.  That might take a while.  The decision I reviewed here was 64 pages long, while the appeal decision was 123 and it takes a lot of time for me to plug through these things in Japanese!