Saturday, January 23, 2016

1944 Kokugikan Set (S441)

I was doing some touch up work on this set and thought it would be good to share it here.  The S-Series of cards, or Kokugikan Cards, were produced to give fans an opportunity to have their favorite wrestlers of the day through these small card sets.  They were presumably sold as souvenirs at the Kokugikan (the building where tournaments are held in Tokyo).  At this time in Japan there was no TV so the only way to watch a tournament was to attend during one of the two annual tournaments in Tokyo or see the wrestlers when they went on tour around the country in between the tournaments.  Since there was no TV and most matches were broadcast on the radio, this would have been a handy set to have to visualize the wrestlers.

 The 1944 Kokugikan Set (S441) was produced towards the end of World War 2.  As you can imagine, cards/menko/bromides from during the War are excruciatingly/extremely rare to find.  The quality of this set is very low as you can see from the scans above and likely due to the very poor and worn out printing presses at the time.  Most all industry was focused on the war effort so any product that wasn't benefiting the war was likely produced in low numbers.  An unknown printer made this set, but the back of the box does say "Made in Aomi, Tokyo".  Aomi is a small area in southern Tokyo right along Tokyo Bay at the southern end of the Rainbow Bridge and this area was pretty much decimated in 1944/1945 during the fire bombing raids of World War 2.  Likely the company that produced this set was destroyed as well, but even more amazingly this set has survived all the bombing raids, reconstruction, and recovery during the 70+ years after the war.   Almost all of the S-Series sets came in small cardboard boxes like the one below.

This set does have one of the last known cards of the great Yokozuna Futabayama along with some really rare cards of low ranking Maegashira wrestlers whose only cards appear in this set.  I have the current checklist at 23 cards, but I have a feeling it should be 25 as a few high-ranking wrestlers are missing from my set (Sagamiiwa, Terunobori).

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