Monday, April 27, 2015

Super Festival 68 / スーパーフェスティバル 68

The 68th installment of the venerable Super Festival show showed an impressive surge in new toys, toy makers, and strong attendance. All told, there were around 50 toy makers at SF 68 - some with their own booths, and some sharing booths.

The show was so overflowing that (for the first time I've seen it) a separate side room was opened for a Super Art Toy area. That was basically a group of indie toy makers (including Art Junkies, T9G, Onion Fight and others) who banded together to exhibit side by side. I'm not sure if that was a one-off event or if we'll see it at future shows.

Here's my SF 68 report, which is fairly pic heavy (230+ shots). Makers are alphabetized:


 Much more after the jump:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MASSIVE Pinball Video Game Retro Arcade in Osaka, Japan - Silver Ball Planet

On a recent trip to Osaka, I stumbled upon a magnificent place - the Silver Ball Planet. It's a world class pinball arcade with nearly 100 machines. Many are new. Others are decades old. They have a wonderful selection of games in outstanding condition.

Here's a video I shot:

Shop info:

Name: Silver Ball Planet
Address: 中央区西心斎橋1-6-14-3階, Osaka
Map: Click here
Hours:11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Facebook: Click here

More pics:

This game is fun, but it takes a while to get used to the physics of hitting a ball vertically!
More after the jump:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Gundam Razors

I love me a good branding campaign, even when I'm not interested in the property or the product. You can still enjoy a well done POP, clever packaging and design work, and sometimes even giveaways. The X Fit x Gundam razors have all that.
I spotted the display at this Yamada pharmacy. It's located right next to the JR Akihabara staition.

Fantastic placement (right at the entrance) for the POP. Makes sense, since you probably have thousands of anime fans walking by every day.
 More after the jump:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The 80s are BACK in Tokyo at retro clothing shop Kiki 2!!

In some ways, Tokyo is a city of extremes. You've got your buttoned-up business districts with high-rises clumped together. But walk two streets over, and you're in a shady district full of pachinko parlors and grim alleyways.

Take a train, and you're likely to join a row of serious faces, with a heavy stench of liquor wafting through the carriage. But exit the station, and you may bump into a dancing, furry mascot welcoming you to a newly opened travel agency.

Balancing all that on a daily basis can be a psychological high-wire act, which is one reason most people walk down the street with tunnel vision, hurrying from A to B without engaging who knows what. You can't take it all too seriously, though, and if you seek out the nicer quarters, you can have a lot of fun.

Koenji (the district next to Nakano) is a groovy area to walk around. Besides a few toy shops, you've got plenty of homey restaurants (including a veggie place), coffee shops, thrift stores (called "recycle shops" in Japan) and other bohemian spaces.

On a stroll through Koenji the other day, I came across Kiki 2, a boutique that mostly sells used clothing. I'm not a kawaiiseour, but this place had enough of a funky retro toy vibe going that I thought I'd check it out.

Here's a video I shot:

Store details for your kawaii purveyance:
English address: 2-21-11 1F Koenji Minami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
Japanese address: 〒166-0003 東京都杉並区 高円寺南 2-21-11
Click here for a pinpoint Google Map to Kiki, which is right next to Kiki 2.
Tel: 03 5377 0105
Hours: 1 PM - 8 PM

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Japanese supermarket branded candy + shokugan toy premiums

In Japan, there's a long tradition of selling branded candy, snacks, and other goodies. That might be a pack of gum with Ultraman images, potato chips with Doraemon packaging, and so on. Sometimes just the package is branded, and other times there's a card, sticker, or toy inside. These "candy premiums" (aka shokugan) from companies like Glico, Meiji, and Morinaga go back many decades, making for a cool area of collecting.

The tradition continues at convenience stores, supermarkets, drug stores, and tons of other outlets. Here are images I snapped at a Tokyo supermarket.

The marketers have been hitting it hard with Kamen Rider Drive, the 25th (!!) installment in the legendary series. Interestingly, the top left of the box says "Sofubi hero." I believe this is a straight up mini toy, which you'll also see sold in supermarkets.

You can see the other figures in the series pictured.

Chococlate peanut snacks. Interestingly, this is completely Bandai branded. In the past, it was more common for companies like Bandai to pair up with snack makers. Looks like with this KR shokugan, they've driven past the competition by knocking out the middle man.
 More after the jump:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Vintage Tin Toy Airship / Blimp Display

Toy collecting is full of all kinds of interesting niches. If you're at an antique store or show, you might spot something (like an old fountain pen) and think "That's cool." But when you see 10 or 20 together in a collection, it adds meaning. You can compare different versions and styles, and there's something about putting a lot of a certain type of thing together that creates a story or identity.

So, the other day at a Mandarake, I spotted a bunch of vintage dirigibles. Let me start by saying I have zero knowledge of this corner of the toy world. But the assembled group looked really neat, and I thought I'd share a look with you guys.
Pretty serious money for these collectibles. But beyond that, how cool is this Shenandoah blimp circling the Eiffel Tower!

I wonder how many kids filled the moats with water back in the day. I'm guessing most of them -or maybe mud...

A familiar sight to sports fans.

This one has a Steampunk vibe.

This zeppelin looks like it has a turn key on the bottom. I wonder what it does. Any time I'm at this shop and I heard mechanical whirring and clanging, I run to the register to see what tin toy they're testing. :)

The sign says this one is from Germany.

Looks like one of those Time Life books. Remember those commercials?
I look at toys like this and am just amazed that they survived the decades with such delicate parts!

I guess the blimp from this Marx set is part of the coastal defense? The attackers are coming! Fire up the blimp!

Beautiful jumbo lenticular card.

Top shelf piece right there.
A more modern battery operated toy by Bandai.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Star Wars Japanese keshi gomu (rubber eraser) figures

A bunch of Star Wars keshi gomu figures were made in Japan in the late 70's, after the first Star Wars movie came out. Most were released in gachapon machines or at little candy shops which also sold toys.

The above batch of figures were made by Takara. Here are some up-close pics:
A lot of the early Takara keshi are fairly godawful to look at, but I just darn plum lub em, I do!

 More after the jump:

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Mandarake story: The founder's tale

Mandarake Shibuya
Mandarake is Japan's preeminent source of many pop culture goods. The company, which was founded in 1987, runs shops all over Japan. In Tokyo's Nakano district alone, the Broadway mall contains 26 Mandarake shops (yes, that's 26 with a capital who's your daddy "T"!) A main fixture of these otaku meccas is the "buy back" area where countless streams of people sell things for quick cash. This allows each store to restock shelves regularly - a critical component of the firm's success.
Mandarake Grandchaos, Osaka
In 2000, Mandarake went public, with shares debuting on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Stock symbol: 2652.T) Its recent earnings reports reveal just how big the pop culture market has become. In 2014, the firm pulled in 9.5 billion yen in revenues. That's a lot of copies of Gegege no Kitaro!

More after the jump:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oedo Antique Market

The Oedo Antique Market, held regularly in Tokyo near Yurakucho station, is like a lot of other events in Japan. Most booths feel like they're manned by the same people every time, and whereas you can find some neat stuff, finding a deal is another thing. Of course you can bargain, so there's a chance you might walk away with something good for a decent price.
This particular market, held outdoors in front of the Tokyo International Forum, seems to be popular with tourists. The goods are a mix of vintage Japanese and imported items, from all up and down the antique gamut: glassware, knickknacks, curios, clothing, statues, and the like.
There are a few vendors selling toys, but again since most are professional sellers, I don't see much advantage over shopping at stores. Still it's a free event and an easy way to pass an hour or two before heading on to other parts of the city.
More pics from the market, after the jump:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bandai Tamashii Nations Exhibit Feb. 2015

Here's a look at the latest exhibit of current and upcoming Bandai figures. Quite a range of stuff, including Star Wars, One Piece, Ultraman, Kamen Rider, The Avengers, and lots more. Not much I can add with words this time, so I'm just going to let the photos do the talking.

 More after the jump:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vintage Discoveries #3: Henshin Ninja Arashi Mini Notebook Sets

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, I loved little game books, activity sets with stickers and illustrations and all that fun stuff. Likewise in the 70s in Japan, there was all kinds of cool stationery, from pencil boxes to notebooks of every size to tape rolls, erasers, etc.

Today I came across two really cool Henshin Ninja Arashi mini notebook sets. They're a few inches by a few inches across, and they pack in all kinds of stuff.

Here's the first one:
These sets were made by Banso, an excellent company that made books, stationery, and toys.

Opens as a tri-fold with lots of nice illustrations
 More after the jump:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vintage Discoveries #2: Condorman book + flexi disc

Condorman book + flexi disc set
In the late 1960s-early 1970s, records for children's movies, TV shows, and anime started to become popular in Japan. The good thing about vinyl records (like the one in my first Vintage Discoveries article) was they were well made. The bad news is they were expensive.

Enter flexi discs, the thin, clear plastic records that might be green, blue, or red. These were so cheap that you could pair them with a mini book and still sell them for less than the cost of a vinyl EP. In the late 60s, flexi discs were really thin and floppy, and they were easily damaged. These were known as "sonosheets." Asahi was one of the main companies in the field, and their Asahi Sonorama (朝日 ソノラマ) series included book + sonosheet sets for titles like Ultraman, Mighty Atom (Astro Boy), etc.
Asahi Sonorama Mighty Atom mini book + sonosheet set

Advances in music printing technology came quickly, and in the 1970s, a new series of Asahi book + recording sets was launched: the Sonorama Ace series. The full title is Sonorama Ace Puppy Series (ソノラマエースパピイシリーズ). Note the puppy in the top right corner of the very top pic.

In this series, the paper was thicker for the mini books, though the internal binding wasn't the best, leading to pages easily becoming separated.
Mini books were typically around 6-8 pages long. In this Condorman book, the lyrics to one of the flexi disc's songs are on the right-hand page, and a mini story (not recorded on the disc) starts on the left.
The new flexi discs in the Sonorama Ace series were thicker and sturdier than the discs from the 60s. Called "punch sheets," they were made from a clear red material.
Condorman "punch sheet" containing one song on each side.
It's worth noting that few people will know what a "punch sheet" is, so in Japan the general term used is "sonosheet" for all types of flexis.

More after the jump:
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