Kaiju Comrades Art Show , Tokyo Japan part 3

Part 3 – Saturday was the first public showing and as we approached the Ghetto, Yo expected to see a few die hards waiting outside to get in .. but as we got closer we saw no one ;-P Oh well i said, at least we’d have time to do some rearranging and eat something … but as we entered we were greeted by 50 folks crammed into the lobby area and up the stairs waiting for us to open (!) Now for those not into the toy scene, i should say other than a handful of real fans mixed in this crowd, the majority were dealers. Like it or not this is a part of the “scene” as you may call it .. at least these guys are well behaved and a few brought along small chairs to sit in. At Noon the show opened and away we went .. Yo and his wife spent a good part of 2 hours with sales, as the crowd finally dwindled down .. phew …the rest of the day we had waves of fans coming in and looking at the show. I keep forgetting that these types of shows in Japan are still a novelty .. they are not use to seeing one artist customizing another persons figures and for some the prices were “crazy “. But all agreed that the customs from everyone were hands down the best they’d seen, and I know they were impressed by the US guys, many who have not been scene in a Japanese art show. Both Yo and I took time to explain why a certain figure may be priced say in the $300 range . and why that the price may be high, it was well worth it. I guess to digress a bit, what I’ve slowly come to realize over the past 3 years is that indeed the average fan in Japan views these, as well simply put “toys” .. yes, toys, like the ones you played with when you were small. So even though they may now pay $60.00 for a toy, it is in their minds still that, a toy … So along come these upstarts from the USA, with their fancy paint and all, and slap a price that in the Japanese fans minds is too high, for yes, a toy. Believe me, I’ve had so many conversations about this subject.. a few i think I’ve gotten to concede that yes the price of US customs is not as crazy as they thought, for example, you explain the fact that very expensive paints are used , this is a one-of-a-kind piece and that the US market these prices are normal .. anyways, the other factor to consider is name recognition, without singling out anyone, if artist A is unknown, but has a beautiful piece priced say $500, and they see artist B who they know in Japan as a well known toy maker, has a custom figure at the same price, well that more known guy will most likely get the sale. I don’t blame them, I mean your free to buy what you like for sure, but I guess for me I actually get more excited by discovering someone new and or someone not so well known .. that is not to say I wouldn’t buy what I like, but it does not prevent me from buying something solely based on the name of the artist.
I think we may have managed to breakdown a few Japanese collectors and have them sample something they normally would not have bought 😉
At the end the day it was all a blur to me of fans and artists visiting…in fact several fans stand out in my mind, one gave me some very cute hand knitted characters for a hanging on cell phones .. I will blog more about these in another post, and another came down on a Bullet Train just to see the show and meet me (!) He was an old school collector and actually found my stuff via Mandarake .. to put this in perspective the train ride alone probably cost him $100 at least … I was very touching that he could feel the spirit of what i was trying to do with my toys.. and in a funny way, although we were raised thousands of miles apart the original Ultraman series made an impact on us both. I told him at one point i put some matches on my figure to make fire ( in the old days parents didn’t know everything us kids were doing !) and he laughed and said he did the same to his toys !

Another made quite a lot of purchases and before she left said her and her husband ran a temple and Buddhist museum .. she gave me this mini prayer wheel .. as the title of my blog suggests, Karma indeed plays a big roll in what i do, so i took this as a sign of good things to come !
I have to say thank you to all the fans who bravely came up to me and spoke very good English for my benefit. Someone once asked me why I don’t speak or understand Japanese .. that in itself could be an entire blog, and perhaps will be .. but in brief, I am third generation ( known as Sansei in the USA ), My grand parents, now passed, came to the US in the early 1920’s speaking no English. My parents, born in the late 20’s spoke some Japanese to their parents, but like most kids wanted to be American, so outside the home it was all English. The turning point to all this was World War 2, and my grand parents and parents all were sent to an internment camp ( basically given a few days to get rid of everything but what they could carry to these “camps” ) This also meant if you could not sell your house or if someone could not look after it you lost it. When I say “camps” it was behind barbwire and Army guys with guns, you could not leave. While in camp most Japanese Americans decided that they need to show America that indeed they were loyal Americans, or what I think was more than American than Americans..to prove their loyalty .. fully and totally.
After nearly 4 years of this and after the war ended, America did not welcome the Japanese Americans back into their communities with open arms .. in fact some were shot at ( as was my uncle ) and told to stay away … so it was that by the time I was born in the 60’s my parents did not speak of the camps nor their awful experiences. I was raised American, and although I did go to Japanese school briefly when i was 5 years old, my family really did not do much to encourage my Japanese identity. We did visit Japan towns in Los Angles and San Francisco, but I keyed into the amazing childrens books and posters with Ultraman Jack and Mirrorman ( during this time period was when I first got my Bullmarks from Japan )
and not so much the culture.
Anyways I’m cramming my parents 82 years lifetime into a few brief words .. all this to say I never learned Japanese. So you may ask, and many do, why don’t I learn ? I guess there’s two parts to that .. one is because I obviously look Japanese as soon as I get off the plane the expectation is my Japanese should be totally fluent, anything short of that is a disgrace and well to be honest they think I’m playing some sort of a game with them … and secondly, I’m just not good at leaning a language. I like to ask folks why don’t you paint or draw better ?
Well because some folks got it or they don’t ;-P with language, I don’t.
No Nihongo 😉
So I’m am lucky to have great friends who can translate for me and arrange meetings for me but it is frustrating for me to not be able to get into detailed discussions about toys and toy history.
well that in brief was the Saturday .. I stumbled back to the hotel and bought a cafe latte .. I don’t normally drink coffee, but this was so good …and it was hot in the can ! geez, amazing …

Ok sorry about the ramble and lack of pics…. next installment I want to focus on a true master of Manga in Japan, Karasawa-san and the incredible art he did for the show ! plus his process. Part 4 next !

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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