Thursday, May 31, 2018

Circa 1898-1903 Japanese Baseball Menko

I've seen this woodblock-printed menko on a few occasions before, but have never been able to pick up a copy.  A few weeks back it came up in a large lot of other menko from this woodblock set (the set contains somewhere around 30-50 menko), luckily with some sumo wrestling menko that I needed from the same set.  I haven't been able to nail down an exact year for the set, but it is somewhere between 1898-1903 according to the sumo wrestlers that are depicted.  All the menko in this set are absolutely gorgeous with crisp, black lines, vivid red and pinks, and gold gilded ink to highlight parts of the menko.  It measures about 1.75" in diameter.  This particular menko shows three kids playing baseball...one getting ready to pitch, one batting, and one which looks to be a catcher.  The large word in the middle is Marinage, 毬なげ, or playing catch.  I love the gold gilding on the clothes and bat.  According to Baseball Reference, "Horace Wilson introduced baseball to Japan sometime between 1867 and 1873 in the early Meiji Era.  Wilson was a professor at Kaisei Gakko (now Tokyo University).  In 1873 Albert Bates, an American teaching at Kaitaku University organized he first game."  It makes sense that baseball would be depicted on the card as it seemed to be gaining popularity during this time and paper menko were becoming popular as well.  More to follow and I'll post some other menko that I picked up from the set.


5 comments:

  1. Wow, that is an amazing find. That might be the first baseball card in Japanese history!
    It looks cool too!

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    1. It probably is close to being the first Japanese card to depict the game of baseball on it. The woodblock print on it is pretty cool for sure.

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  2. My brother was just explaining wood-block printing to me and how he appreciated the amount of time and effort people put into it. It definitely gives me a deeper appreciate for this card. Very, very cool.

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    1. I have really started to appreciate woodblock printing more and more after watching the documentary on Ukiyoe Heroes with David Bull. An American who learned the art of woodblock printing and then is doing some amazing modern work. Here is his YouTube Channel:

      https://www.youtube.com/user/seseragistudio/featured

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