While I’ve been to Japan over a dozen times now, each time is different experience. I first traveled to Tokyo as a toy collector back in 2001, before Super7 and Max Toy Company with a small group of collector friends. That trip was memorable on so many levels but the one thing that stands out is the vintage toy stores we saw. I’m glad I got to experience those dusty, cramped stores brimming with treasures galore as they have all but disappeared in this digital age of online store fronts. The trips I take now are for my toy company and to touch base with my friend Yo Miyamoto ( Monster Boogie ) as we plan out Max Toy releases and such. Of course, it’s not all work and we do have some fun and this time that included visiting Master Sofubi caster Shimizu-san. While I don’t venture out of my toy cave too often when I do I’m greeted by many fans and am touched by their enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. My total lack of understanding and speaking Japanese is thankfully not an issue as many fans can converse with me, and actually we have the love of TOYS as our universal language. The current toy scene is thriving with a nice mix of older companies and newer ones in the mix. While the scene a few years ago was quite dire, I left Tokyo feeling that the new influx of collectors is helping the scene. Behind the scenes there’s just as much intrigue and back biting as ever ( haha ), but I’ve resigned myself to this all … I guess it’s just human nature to not get along ;-P
Todd “mechavirus” Robertson was traveling along with me on this trip and I think it opened his eyes a bit to the toy scene in Tokyo (!)
My trip started at 4 am as i had to take a flight to Los Angeles and than onto Tokyo. I usually go direct from San Francisco, but I guess over all travel to Japan is slow, so for that particular day there was no direct flight .. sniff … the flight from here was delayed so by the time I landed, I had a mad dash done this very long walkway in LAX … !
I made it to the gate with 5 minutes till boarding .. phew … flight to Tokyo was uneventful about 12.5 hours.. as i slept off and on … flying these long distances I hate, but what can you do as this is the only way to get to the Land of the Kaiju !
First order of business is getting dinner … Udon !
We check into the hotel in Shinjuku, called the Kadoya Hotel. Its a no frills hotel but the staff is good and can understand simple English. Most importantly it’s a good location to the buses going to and from the airport as well as the subway lines. Todd and i decide to take a stroll around the hotel .. but it’s late and I’m beat .. i kind look like this Rabbit …
I don’t care what anyone says, only the Japanese can do cute on this level … period.
It’s a well produced show with nice display cases and hundreds of figures … while i don’t collect 3A, I have to say the bigger Bots are very appealing as are the Girl figures … I’ll have search Ebay for some of them !
Time for lunch … this time salisbury steak .. on a sizzling platter … yummy .. I got one with bacon. We have many discussions about upcoming projects that will span well into 2014 and even beyond 😉 In fact, we have one opportunity that will last 2 years .. but more on this later .. lets just say it concerns a character that is very dear to my heart ;-P
Finally it was time to head over to One Up store. Both Todd and myself judge a Negora Fan custom show at One Up store in Ahkihabara. One Up is a very cool store located in a new building filled with all things Otaku .. and funny to see my logo on the outside sign ;-P
I got a combo of steak and hamburger. I’ve mentioned this before, the protions here are just right .. I know Dead President’s Matt Walker would starve, but the amount of meat was not massive by any means.
Back at my room, I enjoy this special gift a fan made for me …!!! 😉 When I showed it to Yajima-san, I’d never seen him laugh so hard .. he started to cry he was laughing so hard ;-D … it does look like me .. haha … !
The next day, Sunday, we have a table at Wonder Festival so walking up super early we drive over to the venue about an hour or so from Shinjuku, where we are staying. Set up is straight forward however, Yo has to get paperwork in order, chairs and such .. as I look around the tables start to slowly fill up and various displays are being built around us.
calm before the storm … !
Australian artist Shane “Tasmanian Devil” Haddy has been in Japan the last 3 months in a work / study with several artist and toy makers in Japan. The result are the two soft vinyl toys above, made under the teachings of Sunguts.
Oh a nice gift from Dol Roffo !! Dang he’s way too kind … beautiful work as always !
It’s hard for me to balance being a Fan and a toy maker … but i made sure to stop by one of my inspirations, M1-Go’s Yuji Nishimura. Yuji was one of the first to collect these soft vinyl toys ( Bullmark ) but also has amassed the largest toy and TV / Movie prop collection in Japan. The collection is so big he has his own museum … I’ve been there and it was simply jaw dropping … ! Yuji through his company M1-Go paints his figures, too … check out this video !
I have to say my greatest thrill was to finally meet one of the founders of Bullmark, Saburo Ishizuki. As we talked and he found out I was from San Francisco, he said that Bullmark had imported vinyls there back in the mid 70s. I told him thats how i came to buy Bullmarks when i was 10 years old ;-P I always think it’s neat and strange at the same time when my worlds collide and get to meet creators and artists … yes surreal for sure !
You can also see whats for sale via their web page here – http://www.bullmark.co.jp/
I slept like a rock and barely got up to my alarm … today we have an easy day of it, it’s Monday and a Holiday for Japan. Its crowded as we get onto the subway to head over to Nakano Sunshine Mall with Mandarake and tons of stores.
So one of the missions today was to look for some Japanese YuGiOh cards for the boy .. we randomly found this place and I was able to score some cards. I wish Max was along as I’m sure he would have seen cards he needed .. plus he could have joined in on a game or two ;-P I’m going to take him along next year, by which time he should be able to speak some Japanese, since he’s studying it now ;-P
We also searched a Toys R Us but nothing on Max’s list was to be found … time for dinner ;-P This time we found a GoGo Curry … yummy ! Though I should have gotten the Devilman curry set ! mmmmmm, curry ……
Today we are off to see the Wizard .. not of Oz, but even better … Master Soft Vinyl ( Sofubi ) caster, Shimizu-san !! Lady Darkness, fresh from the iron molds !Just a small teaser for my next report, which will be about my visit to Shimizu-sans vinyl factory 😉
This being the final night we head off to Shibuya and a dinner with artists, Theresa, Miroc, Tulip and Makino-san.The specialty here is Beef Tongue … which was quite tasty … although both Todd and decided it best to not think about where the beef was coming from exactly ;-PArtist MirocArtists Theresa, Tulip and Makino
Final meal in Japan, has to be Sushi … yummy ! Back onto the packed plane for a direct flight home. I’ll be back in November for Design Festa and we have some special projects to announce over the next few months as well. While I’m not looking forward to the flight back to Japan, I am looking forward to the events we have planned and of course the chance to meet more artists, new and old.
Next Blog, Shimizu-san Sofubi Master !