Kaiju – The History and Art of Japanese Vinyl Toys, is a museum exhibit at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida. The museum established in 1977, celebrates the Japanese culture and also the history of Japanese settlers in this area going back to 1903. The exhibition ( which I covered in a previous blog post ) features the collection of my friend and fellow Japanese toy collector, Jim Levy. Although a room and a half are filled with Jim’s toys, that’s only about 25% of his collection at home.. ha-ha .. a true collector, indeed ! Both Jim and I were invited to give a talk about Kaiju toys and of course I was very honored to do so.
The lecture was to be on a wednesday night, Oct 6th … so the day before I flew out to Ft Lauderdale, Florida …
Jim picked me up at the airport and we drove thru the ink black night, a good 70 minutes to where I would be staying … upon arriving Mini Captain Maxx made friends with these Flamingos 😉
Both Jim and his girlfriend Doreen were such gracious hosts to me .. and there was this sign board in my room to greet me (!) complete with a “eye” to keep watch over me ! I felt right at home .. but it was late and after a bit of toy talk was time for sleep..
so the next morning is the day of our lecture … I have to say I did not prepare anything .. I guess it’s not really my style and I knew we would be showing slides which would allow me to just talk ( well maybe ramble ) about Kaiju, collecting and toy making … Was I nervous ? Hmmm, oddly not really .. for those who do not know, this is what i do as a living.. make toys, collect them, do art about them … I do not have any other job .. so, in a way I’m just talking about what I do or live 24/7 😉
Also being as we had both Jim and myself on stage I felt it would be good to have both of us talking or conversing, as opposed to one guy gets up , blah-blah, sits down and the next guy gets up .. might be too dry ? Well anyways the plan was for both Jim and I to interject comments or whatever as both of us talked …
Ok after a quick lunch, we got in the car and speed off to the Morikami Museum and arrived about 3:00 pm. The main building is a beautiful classical Japanese design that blends right into the surrounding gardens.
I was not able to walk around the main garden areas due to time constraints, sad to say, but this koi pond was relaxing to look at.
We were greeted by Wendy Lo and Reiko Nishioka and I took a quick look at the Kaiju exhibit in person…
I know, no photography ! .. but had to take this picture 😉 Very impressed with the exhibit over all, the displays were awesome .. but for me the informational placards really put the toys and the TV or movie series they were from into context.
before i knew it was time to set up in the auditorium …
a nice sized room … only a few hours away from our presentation!
after setting up, Jim practiced a bit on stage ;-P but I was good to go ! Reiko and Tom Gregersen ( who picked the items in the show as well as researched the descriptions ) took Jim and myself out to a yummy dinner .. I had a honey glazed Salmon salad 😉 We quickly returned to the museum and from that point on I have to say was a big blur for me and I’m sure Jim too ! I talked to a few folks and was amazed to learn some came from as far Orlando, which was a 3.5 hour drive !
We peeked into the auditorium and it was filling up fast…with minutes to go a local newspaper photographer grab us to take pictures and we were rushed back to the stage to begin …
Reiko began with opening remarks and introduced the Cultural Attache for the Florida Japanese Consulate who briefly talked about how he remembered having Kaiju and Ultraman toys as a young child.
I had planned to do a Ustream, but kinda hard when I had to be up on stage 😉 oh well, both Jim and I did our best to ramble our way through the presentation .. I think we did a good job at least to expose those who had no clue about these toys or the process … before i knew it Reiko was telling us to wrap it up 😉 ha-ha .. we had a brief Q&A, and after was able to talk with more folks .. finally as the museum was closing I did a quick video interview with FanBase radio … I’m kicking myself as we have no photos of us with Wendy, Reiko, Tom, or Jamie ;-( We bid all a farewell.. I for one had a blast and was great to meet, talk with and hopefully show people about Kaiju collecting and the amazing craftsmen in Japan who still practice this art form.
I have to give a huge Thank You to everyone at the Morikami Museum, for their graciousness and support , the Florida Japanese Consulate, and a very special Thank You to former Cultural Attache Koichi-san, who actually got all this started about 2 years ago when Jim and I both had dinner with him and talked about Kaiju to him. 😉
With only a few hours sleep, Jim drove me to the airport .. I went straight to the gate, as they announced the boarding of my flight (!) ha, kinda cutting it close but made it and five and half hours later was back in San Francisco.
The exhibit at the Morikami Museum will be up till October 17th, 2010.
As I look back at this experience, it’s really cemented in my mind that Kaiju, and Japanese toys are on their way to being appreciated and celebrated as works of art and craftsmanship in museums around the world.
***Thank you to these collectors for their photos in this blog:
Jordan Leitner photo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jordan_leitner/
Bryan Edwards photo – http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=2222811&id=25102916