Happy Boy’s Day ! Tango no Sekku


May 5th is known as Boy’s Day (now Children’s Day) in Japan. My family never really celebrated this day .. my parents are second generation also called Nisei, Japanese Americans .. so in a nutshell they were born here, but spoke English to their parents. They could understand spoken Japanese, but by the time I came along, a third generation or Sansei, Japanese American … well lets just say not only did i not speak or understand Japanese but most if not all the traditions went out the door as well. Unlike a lot of cultures that settle here, the Japanese Americans for the most part shed most of their connections to most things Japan related, and fully embraced all things American. You may ask why this was, and that is a much longer discussion that mostly involves the Internment Camps of World War 2 .. of which both my parents and their families spent nearly 4 years of their life behind barbwire and gun towers. Lets just say if you were Japanese, you didn’t want any connection to anything Japanese during this time period.

But I digress .. I am the only boy in my family, in fact my two sisters are ten years older than I, so it was like I was an only child growing up. I did get glimpses of what it means to be Japanese .. my mother would display this Samurai Kabuto (helmet) and Samurai Doll on May 5th, and say when i got bigger it would be for me to give to my son. I ,of course, only wanted to play with it and actually I’m amazed I did not destroy it in the years I’ve had it 😉 We also would run around with flag shaped Carps .. whose meaning was lost to me at the time.

Though late in life, my frequent travels to Japan have centered me, my soul .. I’m am comfortable with my ethnicity. At the same time I do realize I will never be 100% accepted in Japan… because of my lack of language skills, and my American way of thinking and or doing things. An example of this is just saying hey lets do an art show and lets do it now ! ha-ha .. that doesn’t go over too well for many reasons .. the enthusiasm is fine but the way one goes about it, well that is much more difficult. I do know on a basic level, certain things are very important, like bringing gifts or not being boastful … I guess that is something i grew up with in my household. In America, I sometimes do not fit though.. mostly because here it’s how you look on the outside which is how you are initially judged… how I look (duh, Japanese !) I will always be Asian…a perfect example is my family and I were back East in Boston, and my father was outside some Colonial House , smoking .. a Caucasian woman came up to him and asked a question, to which my father did not hear her .. she turned away and said “Oh he doesn’t understand English ! ” … growing up I’d get folks saying to me “oh, your English is perfect” ..Hmmm, ya why wouldn’t it be ? I would think to myself… just a few examples… of which I have a lifetimes worth to tell someday… Well such is life .. at least I only have to think about one race, and as the next few generations dealing with multi-race identities will no doubt be an even more confusing issue for them. What is it to be American ? I think I’m American, more so than Japanese …and yet when I step off that plane in Japan, I’m strangely at home… of course until I get the first barrage of Japanese in my face, than the panic sets in and the ” No Nihongo .. ” is muttered. But, that is another blog for another day 😉

So, today I will pass these items to my son, Max … give him a tiny history and family lesson, tell him to pass these along to his son or daughter and of course take him to the comic book store to buy him something .. I mean that’s what holidays are all about, right ? Buying stuff .. Yes, we are indeed Americans ! ( ha-ha )

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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