I’m not sure how many readers of this site collect or collected sports cards. Whether that number includes you or not, though, I’ll wager that you may find something entertaining at the Collecting Ichiro site, which documents many of the Ichiro cards made available from 1993-2003.
Besides the photo of a young Ichiro holding up autographed cards of himself, there is much to explore here. This includes those rare cards available only at certain Japanese pharmacies due to a deal with Sato Pharmaceuticals to endorse their Yunker energy drink.
As we talked about a bit a year and a half ago, Ichiro shills Yunker here in Japan while eschewing similar ads in the U.S. This certainly isn’t unique to Ichiro — Hideki Matsui was ubiquitous in commercials when I was here last two years ago, although that seems to have subsided a bit.
A town in the Wild West in dead calm. When gusty wind blows up dust, a giant pitcher tries to take away a beauty over her strong protests. A boy who wants to help her finds Ichiro, rushes to him, and hands him a bat instead of a gun. In the midst of mounting tension, Ichiro holds the bat at the ready. The pitcher throws a fastball. Ichiro swings and strikes back the ball at ultraspeed. At this moment, the scene changes to a baseball stadium. After the narration of “Powered by Yunker!”, Ichiro holding a Yunker bottle in his hand declares “It works!”
This raises two issues. One is about the social role of the star: do superlative performers have obligations to adopt consistent standards for commercial endorsement? You should see, for example, Tommy Lee Jones and Cameron Diaz hack out for coffee and cell phones over here. Is there an overriding ethical or socioeconomic concern about this practice?
Well, I don’t know, and I don’t care.
The second issue is Yunker itself. Does it really work, as Ichiro claims? Would it work in the Wild West? Will it work to help one meet beautiful women and defend them against dastardly, um, pitchers — especially in historical fiction narratives?
While in Okinawa, I’m tackling many research topics. This may be the most important issue I have to resolve. Before I leave, I will report. Count on it.