What follows is my semi rambling blog about my trip to Japan and the Kaiju Comrades 2 art toy show in Tokyo, March 9th-16th, 2010 ….
I never have enough time in Japan .. my trips are always packed with either art shows or attending toy shows .. nights are filled with various get togethers and if there is any spare time maybe I can get to Nakano Mall or a Mandarake to toy shop … of late though any spare time has been spent visiting some very important craftsmen .. on the final day of the Kaiju Comrades 2 art toy show my friend Yo arranged for us to visit once again the Jedi Master of Kaiju painting, Goto-san ! I’ve written about Goto-san before in my blog, but this time I was able to bring along a small Flip camera and video him in action.
With a twinkle in his eye, he greets us .. this being the third time I have met him, he now remembers me ( ha-ha ) Goto-san represents a time when a handshake sealed deals.. His work ethic is the same. He is quite simply an inspiration to me and I try to soak up as much of this experience as I can .. and although my lack of Japanese skills once again haunts me .. I’m just happy to be able to have crossed paths with Goto-san in my life… and for him to allow a few minutes out of his busy day I am so greatful. To bring those up to speed .. Goto-san has in his 50+ years as a toy painter in Japan, worked for every major toy company from Bullmark, Bandai, Takara and Tomy. Now in the twilight of his career he continues to stay busy by painting for this new generation of toy makers like RealHead as well as Marusan toys. You won’t find fancy equipment here, just his trusty airbrush guns, paints and brushes… everything done by hand, by one guy… in the hey day of toy painting before most everything was out sourced to China, Goto-san would paint thousands of toys a month .. yes thousands ! I’m a wimp compared to Goto-san .. when i paint I wear gloves and a mask.. I complain about having to paint 30 toys … Goto-san in true DieHard manner wears no masks or gloves (!) and quickly sprays my TriPus ( see video ).. I think he could do this with his eyes closed to be honest !!! His small work room ( and I mean small ! ) is laid out so that whatever he needs is within reach .. paint cans ring the room…stored in shelves above and below us .. there are space heaters that glow with an intense flame .. I’m thinking probably not the best idea to have around with all this toxic paint, but whom I to say anything ( ha-ha ) ! Goto-san is friends with the guy we will see the following day, Shimizu-san, who pours all the vinyl for Max Toy projects in Japan. Goto-san asks if we need a ride or anything to see him.. it’s this kind of courtesy that amazes me .. of course we decline, but how many young guys would even think of offering ? But for this generation it’s a part of who they are and how they do business. I have much to learn from Goto-san and Shimizu-san. Lets hope this civility comes back in style again .. I certainly try my best to run my business this way and stay positive … Toy Karma for sure.
With that my visit is over much too soon .. Goto-san gets his car, and drives us to the train station .. I’m happy and sad at the same time. Goto-san will paint several of my upcoming projects, I only wish I lived closer to hear more of his stories and simply sit there and watch a true master at work.
Being the last day of the show I’m exhausted. We’ve spent since Thursday roughly 10am-8pm everyday in this gallery. For someone like me , who doesn’t have an office job, I’m use to just coming and going pretty much at will .. this was sorta like being in prison (ha-ha)… although as mentioned in previous posts lots of folks stopped by.. and the gifting never stopped ;-P Here’s a very nice gift from the President and owner of Marmit, Akamatsu-san .. he hand painted this one off, so much detail.. it’s awesome !
this last night we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant ..the food was not bad, but for sure not authentic 😉 In a very funny twist, since I’ve grown up in California, I learned simple Spanish and I could order my selection in Spanish… Arroz Con Pollo ( rice with chicken ) but of course could not order in Japanese ;-P Check out the funky decor and the dish … with egg on top (!) Good times for sure .. tomorrow a visit to Shimizu-san and his vinyl factory and final thoughts on this show and trip.
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.”