Japan Part 2 Geek Moment

So really the highlight for me for Wonderfest was happening at the M1 Go booth. We made our way over there and whom did I run into but legendary collector Sanford Mock! Those who do not know his name, lets just say the term “Hawaii vinyl” is most likely due to Sanfords quest at uncovering many, many rare Bullmark vinyls that featured unique paint patterns on them as well as being cast in flesh vinyl in Hawaii. Anywho, I first learned about Sanford, in Yuji Nishimura’s now classic mook about soft vinyl toys. So like the planets aligning, Sanford and Yuij and I were all in the same place at the same time.. in fact I have not seen Yuji in a few years and the same is true for Sanford. Unfortunately, Yuji was extremely busy so we could only exchange brief greetings but hope to see him again soon.. and now for my geek out moment, part 1, I got to meet and get autographs from the sculptor of the Ultraman mask, AKIRA SASAKI ,the suit actor inside the original Ultraman suit,SATOSHI FURUYA and Hyata himself,SUSUMU KUROBE! I was so star struck I didn’t even take a damn picture (!) oh well .. what was cool was i said thank you in English, and he looked at me without missing a beat and said “You are welcome” in perfect English !

I had so many items from the M1 booth I could barely hold all the stuff…! Anyways I had to rush back to the booth to meet more folks and soon the show was over. I wish I had more time to see other booths, but we did as much as we could in the alloted time.. it was a very successful show and no doubt we will be back.
The next few days were a whirlwind of more meetings, shopping and a very special day arranged by Nomoto-san of Bear Model. After a long train ride we met Nomoto-san and jumped into his car. As we winded our way through narrow streets and much traffic we arrived at the studio were all the Ultraman series ( and more ) were filmed ! We were told actually that in a few days the entire studio was shutting down .. and most likely demolished because Tsuburaya had been sold recently.

The building itself is small by American standards but nonetheless a historical place. I thought we’d just look at the outside but “geek out part 2”, we got to go inside the actual building were UltraQ thru Ultrman Mebius were filmed ! Here’s my silly Ultraman pose on the platform in fornt a huge painting of a sunset…

I actually thought of reaching down and scooping some dirt into a plastic bag to save .. but probably would have been kicked out of the building….
It staggers the mind to think this is where Eiji Tsuburaya over saw Ultraman, Ultraseven etc … and also sad to learn that the building would no longer exist. Nomoto-san also showed us his own kaiju suit he made for his own movie he is filming called Kingman. The kaiju ( whose name escapes me now, sorry ) was simply awesome! Made in the traditional way, with foam, and latex … very cool to actually touch a kaiju suit.Although standing taller than me it was relatively light in weight.

and also his hero called Kingman, here i am holding the mask..very nicely done.. I can see Captain Maxx like this in my mind ! 🙂

Nomoto-san was going to film something the following day, so we missed that but he than took us over to another soundstage to show us some very cool miniature buildings he would use for his shoot. These buildings you can actually rent and have been used in various films..some even from Godzilla films ! I was surprised when we took several of them outside to a special platform and were able to shoot some very cool pictures.. here myself and Nomoto-san towering above the houses !

Ok so if that was not enough a short drive over to where Tsuburaya Productions used to be ( sniff ) I missed the closing by a few weeks, but at least I made it to the front gates before this location went bye-bye as well.

Over to the left side was a huge empty lot, that was the former site of Eiji Tsuburaya’s home. I was shocked they would not make it a landmark or something.. I mean in the USA if Walt Disney’s home was going to be demolished I would think it would be saved as a historical landmark… but alas this was not meant to be. Maybe it’s a culture difference or simply economics .. but I do know that once these old structures are gone, well thats it. I think a shame, but at least I got to see some of it before it’s all gone.
Finally as if that were not enough, we were able to get into Toho studios ! The Bronze Godzilla out front set the tone for what was inside as well …

great details..the tail ripping up the concrete was a nice touch ….

and this painting on the side of the sound stage was really stunning, I thought a photo but an actual painting (!) Toshiro Mifune never looked so good ! I can not really say what we did inside ( sorry !) but needless to say we saw things that most folks do not get to see and met people that are normally off limits. I can not stress the importance and historical significance to these places and people .. sorry to say with digital making it’s way into all aspects of film, these artists are finding their skills less and less needed. With that our amazing tour was over and to say we were speechless is an understatement 😉 In my years of collecting a never imagined seeing and doing all this .. let alone be producing toys and doing kaiju art 😉 But I do realize that my inspiration comes from these Japanese masters and I do honor them and past masters. I hope by keeping what they do alive and letting USA guys know who these unsung artists are we can in some small way, keep this art form alive.
Ok next time the wrap up of my trip to Japan !

About toykarma

Over the years Mark Nagata has collected thousands of toys and a fair amount of titles. The man behind San Francisco-based Max Toy Company is widely known as: Toy Collector. Illustrator. Magazine Founder/Publisher. Toy Designer. Artist. Author. Husband. Father. But the one description that might fit best is an unofficial one – Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. In the Japanese-inspired art and toy area, as well as throughout the larger toy collecting community, Mark is welcomed and recognized for his personal passion and commitment to supporting artists all around the world and the unique works they create. Beginning as a collector in his youth, Mark has had for years a keen eye for great art and a personal interest in collecting that he has spread through a variety of outlets. Trained at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Mark honed his skills working for himself and for some of the most notable businesses in the country. As a freelance commercial illustrator, he completed works for such prominent companies as Lucasfilms, DC Comics, Hasbro Toys, IBM, Sony, and numerous advertising and design firms, both national and international. Mark’s colorful style graces over 40 cover paintings for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series – Give Yourself Goosebumps. After hundreds of assignments, Mark made the decision to move in another direction, and that choice has led to whole new career as a successful businessman. For four years, the owner of one of the largest Ultraman toy collections in the world co-published Super 7 Magazine showcasing the finest in Japanese toy collecting. “I’d been collecting Japanese toys all along and suddenly realized it would be cool to have a magazine of some type devoted to them,” Nagata says. Mark’s devotion to presenting collectors with a selection of original figures inspired by classic Japanese toys from the 1960s and ‘70s as well as new versions of licensed Japanese characters is at the heart of Max Toy Company. Named for his son, Max Toys specializes in custom and limited editions of “kaiju” (Japanese monsters) toys and artwork. Many of the original toys produced are hand painted by Mark, a tradition that goes back to Japanese toy makers of the past. “Since our target is the soft vinyl Japanese toy collector, which is a very small niche, our runs of toys can be extremely small,” Mark says. “Runs range from 500 pieces of one toy to just one for a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind custom figure.” Through Max Toys, Mark has taken great pains to widen the reach of his two passions – toys and art. He played a significant part in the development of the first group kaiju show in the United States. Held at the Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, Illinois in 2007, the “Toy Karma” Show featured detailed work from artists from Japan, the U.S. and South America. Participants marveled at the custom-painted toys and art on display. “Toy Karma” led to Mark being asked to be one of the artists spotlighted in the “Beyond Ultraman: Seven Artists Explore the Vinyl Frontier” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The October 2007 show, held jointly with the Los Angeles Toy, Doll and Amusement Museum, marked the first time – in a museum setting – that the influence of Japanese toys on California artists was explored. The exhibit featured more than 30 of Mark’s original paintings, toys and a selection of his vintage toy collection. Mark continued to be at the forefront as interest in Japanese-inspired art and toys expanded in 2008. Prestigious art houses Philips De Pury and Christie’s in New York and London sold Mark’s hand-painted custom kaiju toys in its auctions, spreading this unique art and toy movement into new and uncharted areas of the art world. In 2009, Mark once again took his love of toys and art overseas this time to a receptive and welcoming audience in Tokyo, Japan. Here, Mark curated the “Kaiju Comrades” Art Show, once again bringing together artists from various aspects of the kaiju toy realm in this first-of-its-kind toy art show. The following year found Mark in Barcelona, Spain co-curating with Emilio Garcia “Kaiju Attack,” the European country’s first kaiju art show. As the growth of kaiju art and toys increases worldwide, Mark continues in his unofficial role of Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. He has written and had his artwork and toy designs included in several books and magazines, both domestic and international. In 2010, Mark served as guest lecturer on kaiju and the toy-making process at the Morikami Museum in Florida. The San Francisco resident and his art can also be spotted in the first volume of the “ToyPunks” DVD and the “Toys R Us” DVD, while the video for the number one song by Owl City “Fireflies” featured Mark’s popular Kaiju Eyezon character. During this same time period, Mark has spearheaded the “Toy Karma 2” and “Kaiju Comrades 2” shows and has plans for future shows both in the U.S. and overseas. “Max Toys allows me to produce original artwork, new toys and work directly with a lot of talented artists,” Mark says. “Max Toy is a synthesis of toys and art, both life-long passions.”
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