The following series of blogs are about my trip to Tokyo, Japan to participate in the “In Living Kolor” toy art sale and demonstration show.
The basic idea of this show was to introduce a new type of paint for toys, called Monster Kolor. Matt Walker ( aka Dead Presidents Designs ) is the developer and creator of this paint, but has also gained much attention within the Art Toy world as a top notch and sought after toy painter. By setting up several airbrushes and having plenty of paint to use, invited artists could use the paint in person on an actual toy.
Joining us on this trip was Keith Fulmis of BeBop Designs, artist and designer and maker of most awesome pins ( Like the Kaiju Eyezon pin, ;-P ). This was his first foray to Japan.
Over the last 9 years, I’ve made about 12 trips to Tokyo.. both as a toy collector, store owner, and now a toy company ( Max Toy Company ). I’ve witnessed the toy scene change over these years but the one thing that is always constant for me is the excitement of simply going to Japan and never quite knowing who I will met or where I will end up !
October 20th, 2010 – Wednesday :
With bag packed to full capacity I take off for the San Francisco airport with my head filled with so many last minute details i’m a bit out of it. Let me digress, many months earlier as Matt was developing his line of paints the idea he came up with was what if we went to a Japanese toy show and set up a compressor and airbrush and gave live in person demos painting soft vinyl toys. And one step further, how cool would it be to have the other artists actually join in ! ” Yes ! ” I said lets do it 😉 Ah, not so fast you two .. or Jedi Toy Master ( Yo-san ) warned us .. well, if you guys do that a couple of problems, one being the paint we use needs good ventilation and second there could be some Toy Politics involved … ugh .. ya, there are toy politics even in such a tiny niche of a niche called kaiju toys ! Well, both Matt and I felt strongly about the basic idea and thought if we build it, they will come !!!
Yo suggested the Design Festa Gallery East building as a some what neutral ground to all involved, plus they had several areas open to the street so the over spray smell would not be a problem… ah, perfect .. so with that we reserved the space.
It fell to me to take Yo’s concept drawing for the show poster and render a show image
I thought Yo’s drawing was actually cute and we should have used that !
I’ll note for the record thats i completed this painting in a few days !
Matt and I are suppose to be blue and red demons !
As I met up with Keith near the gate at San Francisco Airport we made our way to the plane … but, I still wondered if anyone would show up and simply paint. I, like my counter parts in Japan, all paint in our own homes and I don’t know anyone who paints in a group situation. I know most artists don’t really want to paint in the public eye as well .. but, still I had hope at least a few of our buddies would show up and we’d make the best of it.
We got on the plane, which was not full, and away we went 10.5 hours to Japan !
Since I’ve done this trip enough i know it’s a long haul… if I’m alone I just put on my headphones and sketch or if I’m lucky try to sleep.. this time I could talk to Keith.. so that helped the time go by .. about 6 hours worth of toy talk 😉
Soon enough we’re landing at Narita airport .. and are greeted with a light rain. Oh boy, not good for an outside painting demo .. but, anyways the show must go on. We make our way through customs, and go get our luggage … I’m at home in Japan, it’s an odd feeling of total ease I get whenever I’ve visited, even on my first trip .. but, I know I also will never fit in ( since I can not speak or read Japanese, being third generation Japanese-American ) .. ya, I’m a bit of an odd ball here … as i totally look like I should fit in and yet don’t ! Ha-Ha .. it’s fine, I try my best to NOT be the Ugly American and to that point my Japanese manners automatically emerge.
As always my good friend and trusted right hand man, Yo Miyamoto ( aka The Toy Whisperer ) greets us outside of customs, along with Matt whose arrived earlier. After exchanging money ( awful conversion rate by the way, about 77 yen to the Dollar, ouch ! ) we take off for Yo’s car and the long 1.5 hour ride back to Tokyo and the Shinjuku district .. where we are staying at the Kadoya Hotel.
This is the second time i’ve stayed here and find it very well located in the Shinjuku area and only a few blocks from the subway station and the bus back to Narita.
It’s a classic business mans hotel ..meaning no frills, just a place to sleep and store your stuff. The staff is very helpful and during my stay they all understood basic English, without any problems. Price is great as well, for us on a budget.. more for toy shopping 😉
After we check in we head off for some dinner .. found this semi western place with hamburger on a hot plate covered in gravy which was sizzling 😉
No disrespect to Japanese chefs and diners but I notice there are some odd things always sprinkled into such western fair .. like it’s a hamburger but has corn and shredded cabbage thrown in … odd for us Americans but heck it tastes good.
Matt showed off his new evil Space guy to us .. amazing paint job as always !
we chat about the Kaiju toy scene, various rumors and such, whose hot, whose not ..also discuss the show …and the upcoming visits to various factories…
after dinner Matt requests ice cream .. in what would become a nightly request(!)
.. so we eat ice cream and take off… as we approach Yo’s car, there’s something on his windshield which to me, looks like that universal parking ticket we all have seen .. and sure enough it is .. damn ! .. I say it’s the ice cream that made us late ! ha-ha … Later, we learn the ticket was nearly $200 !! Geez … Matt and I paid for Yo 😉
Ok, so Yo bids us goodbye and takes off into the night… but, Matt, Keith and I are not tired so we simply walk around the area back up to the subway area
… and look at all the buildings and salarymen and families walking to and fro … I look at faces that look familiar and yet not .. parts of faces look like my uncle or my aunt .. sometimes i see a pair of eyes that look exactly like my late father .. at those times it stops my heart for a micro second .. I think it is kinda like a twilight zone episode where my father isn’t really dead, but living away his life half way around the world … The smells of Japanese grilled food waft in and out from street side vendors .. I remember my mother’s cooking…
every now and than I’m startled to hear an American or English voice as they pass me by .. I’m sure they think I am a native … I don’t have much regret in my life, but perhaps that i did not keep taking Japanese school lessons as a young boy of 7 years old… on some level the longer I stay here simple words or expression I do remember ..come back to me … could I live here ? I will never know .. perhaps in my next life …
We make our way back to the hotel, tomorrow which is Friday, will be the set up day for the show. Yo and I have a meeting at Medicom Toys and later a group dinner with many of our fellow artist friends, so another full day.
With the time change it’s actually the next day for us, or Thursday, so we have traveled to the future, as we like to say… neat idea, but bad for adjusting your sleep habits .. it also doesn’t help that they drive on the opposite side of the road.. so even passing someone on the sidewalk you stand to the left and NOT the right ! standing on the right will get you a loud bicycle ring or a disgusted look ;-P
I get back to my room and wonder again will anyone show up to the show on Saturday.. I can’t sleep … the room is non-smoking but still smells of smoke… I hear the wail of sirens in the distance… and soon sleep… it’s 1:30 am I don’t want to check what time it is in the States ….eyes close, and fade to dreams … 睡眠
Next Blog, Day 2 and setting up the show !