During my recent business trip in Japan, my colleague and I visited a district in central Japan called Akihabara, which is famous for its wide variety of electronic shops. However, what got me so intrigued was that there is a complex called Mandarake that sells anime and manga collectibles. And lo behold, one of the store at level 7 sells retro card games like Dragon Ball prism cards!
I have been a collector of Dragon Ball prism cards for more than 20 years and I could not believe that I could get my hand on the prism shining cards again. There used to be a Dragon Ball craze back in the eighties and nineties when the comic series were launched. In Singapore, those in the 30s may remember that dragonball cards used to be sold in packets and those “rare” cards are those shining cards. Later on, the cards were sold in vending machine that require you to put on 20cents and turn a knob to displace out a card. The cards were sold by Japanese Bandai for only a short while and now there is no more vendor selling the old series of dragonball cards.
As you can see from the picture, the cards are pretty expensive in Japan. I only bought three cards and they costed me S$75! However, the conditions of the cards are extremely good, so I feel that they are worth the money. I intend to buy more when I visit Japan for business purposes again next month.
For me, collecting Dragon Ball prism cards is not merely just a form of personal hobby, it is also about revisiting my childhood memories. Dragon Ball has been part of my formative childhood and the story and character had inspired me to persevere in the face of difficult times.
The comic was written over a period of depressing time for my family when my father was down with stroke. There was a lot of uncertainties for us because unlike today’s context, not many Singaporeans practised financial planning. With no income and back up plan for family crisis, that was a real challenging period for us. The dire situation drove me to do well for my ‘O’ level so that I could get a good job and support my family. At times when I encountered setbacks in life, I drew strength from the characters in the story.
I did manage to do very well for my ‘O’ level results and went on to study in a top 5 junior college. However, my affair with the card collection started to dwindle because I felt that I was spending too much of my savings on it. I told myself that the journey would continue next time when I started working and have money. And I did.
As I look back, I recall skipping meals just to save enough money to buy the comic books and the cards in my secondary school days. It may sound silly and perhaps a little bit extravagant because at that point of time, I was still a student with no income to speak of. So at times, I felt guilty for spending money on this hobby but I also feel that it is one of the few indulgences in life that I had. Now that I have disposable income and purchasing power, I feel that I am in a better position to pursue this hobby again.
After the Akihabara, my colleague and I had a beef bbq feast at one of the restaurants nearby our hotel. It was an interesting place because the customers have to stand and eat. The beef was very tender and the sauce is top class as well! Definitely the most delicious beef I have ever eaten! At S$2 to 5 per piece, the beef is definitely value for money. We each ate about 10 pieces of beef and gulped down a glass of cold beer. As we ate, we struck a conversation with a friendly Japanese guy standing beside us. He could tell that we are Singaporeans straightaway and revealed that he used to work here more than 10 years ago. He shared that he had fond memories and had good words for Singapore. At that moment, I felt proud for being a Singaporean.
In my heart, I wonder if I can be as adaptable as the Japanese man and work in a foreign country. Even though I visited Japan many times before, I don’t think I am able to assimilate and integrate into their society if I am to live and work there. I reckon that it takes a lot of courage, effort and sacrifice to work in a foreign country.
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