In December I showed off a boxed set of Japanese women's bowling cards produced by BBM, 2016 BBM P★League All Stars. P★League is a particular bowling tournament that usually also appears on a DVD boxed set, involving a group of professional bowlers who compete on a rotational basis. Sometimes amateur bowlers can qualify to be in the tournaments. I could have the details wrong, as things are a little fuzzy for me when it comes to the Wikipedia articles and other references I've found so far. The important thing here is that there are trading cards, which have been released as boxed sets for most of the years between 2009 and 2016 (they skipped 2011). I picked up a couple more of them, and I'm going to show off the 2014 set here. The 2016 set was called All-Stars, the 2015 set is called Very Merry Xmas, and today's set is 2014 BBM P★League Fairies on the Lane.
Here is the box lid. It features photos of all the bowlers, as well as a little information about the contents of the box. My translation abilities are limited to scanning the box with Google Translate on my phone, so I can give a rough idea of what the box says. Along the top it tells us that the 24 bowlers who competed in Season 3 can be found in this set of cards. There is a Season 3 DVD set, so you could probably buy it and find these bowlers competing.
The part in the middle, underneath the photos, I couldn't really figure out. I don't even really want to try for fear of accidentally being culturally insensitive. The part under the P★League banner says Fairies on the Lane. The white box at the bottom says that a box costs ¥4,000 and that 3,000 sets were made. Just above that is a description of the contents, 50 cards including a regular set and one of each kind of insert card.
The bottom of the box features a checklist and pictures of some of the cards in the set. There are 48 cards in the base set, with each of the 24 bowlers getting a base card and a 'My Happy Moment' subset card. There is a 12-card die-cut insert set, and each bowler gets autograph cards. There is a paragraph mentioning that most autographs will be regular black ink signatures, but there are also parallels.
Here is the underside of the box lid. It's got a group picture of all the bowlers, as well as the serial number for the box (# 1986 / 3000) and several paragraphs which seem to explain the format and rules of the P★League tournament. I could figure out bits and pieces, but not enough to be doing any explaining here.
And finally, here is what the cards look like nestled in the box. I've scanned some of each type to show below.
This is the base card design, which makes up the first 24 cards in the set. The fronts of the cards are in English, while the backs are in Japanese. The card backs have quite a bit of information. Up at the top is stuff like birthdate, home/birthplace?, height, which hand they bowl with, and their bowling license number. In the middle is a little biography. I think this one even mentions that Hiromi Matsunaga wears glasses, but I could be reading it wrong. Down at the bottom are some statistics. I think they might be related to Season 1 and Season 2 of the tournament, but I am not sure on that.
The next 24 cards in the set are a subset called 'My Happy Moment.' Each one features a different writing style, and some have little pictures and whatnot. My translation app can't process much for these, but my guess is that the cards feature hobbies or memories that make each bowler happy.
Here are a few more of the base cards. Most of these bowlers appear in the 2016 set as well, so there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of turnover across the seasons. I imagine that bowling is like any other sport. There's not a lot of room for new blood at the top. In the background of the photos you can see all some of the set for the show. They just set it up in the middle of a bowling alley, and in the DVD set I have you can see workers putting up the walls and everything around a couple of bowling lanes. They don't have a dedicated bowling alley just for this event.
Here are some more card backs. These have the same format as the previous card I showed.
While the base cards have action photos, the 'My Happy Moment' cards have posed shots of the competitors with their balls.
You can see the variety on these card backs. Some of the women wrote long paragraphs, while others fill the space with doodles and pictures.
This was the die-cut insert I pulled, featuring Mitsuki Nakamura and Hitomi Andoh. Again, I am exactly the opposite of an expert at this, but I think the backs feature little word bubbles with the bowler's good luck charm. I am pretty sure that Misuki Nakamura's is a necklace and Hitomi Andoh's is a small unicorn. The text down at the bottom is a repeat of their base card backs, with name, birth date, hometown, and probably some other stuff.
The last card in my box was this autograph of Shoko Furuta. It's a sticker autograph and I believe it is the base version, numbered # 056 / 100. The PBA 506 on the right side is her bowling license number. It's a pretty decent card design, and the bowlers appear to get just as creative with their signatures as the wrestlers do in the True Heart sets. Looking at my autographs from other sets, it looks like most/all of them incorporate their license numbers into their signatures.
That does it for this set. These are fun cards, and definitely something a little out of the ordinary to inject a bit of variety into my card collection. I will probably be trying to add some of the older sets to my collection, as well as looking forward to what the 2017 set will look like. I haven't chosen a favorite bowler or anything, but I might do that and try to collect an autograph timeline for them.