Japanese Toys at the SFO Museum show

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 I finally got around to seeing the new SFO Museum show called Japanese Toys ! From Kokeshi to Kaiju. For those who may not know the San Francisco airport ( SFO ) has an actual accredited museum contained within the various terminals and corridors.

Like me, you’ve probably seen various exhibits big and small while waiting for flights. I guess I never thought about the fact that these are all painstakingly designed, researched and displayed. Yes, just like a stand alone museum.

A quick back story, over a year ago I was contacted by SFO curator Nicole Mullen about participating in a group show at the SFO Museum about Japanese toys. The premise was to show a overview of toys made in Japan, from wood toys, tin toys, through modern plastic toys. Not just Monster or Kaiju toys, mind you, this aspect actually interested me. I see Kaiju toys in my room everyday, but to see other types of toys and characters I thought would make for a nice exhibit.

I was interested but did not really know how I felt about loaning out my 100+ toys for 8-9 months. While the exhibit would be about 6 months the process would involve coming to pick up the items, carefully wrapping them for travel to their offices. Once there condition reports and such were generated and they planned out how to display the 500+ items that would be the show. In fact, they would completely stage the exhibit off site before the actual display in the terminal.

Needless to say, each step of the way, the Nicole, Kelvin and Alisa and the SFO staff were not only professional but always open to communication about any of my concerns concerning any steps of the process.They were mindful to treat all items with museum gloves, archival packing and even in displaying them to be mindful of sunlight etc.

If they ever contact you about loaning items for a show I would give them all a big thumbs up 😉

Below is a brief tour of the show which is located beyond security in the domestic United terminal. Yes, the downside is you will need to be traveling to see the show ..because of 9-11, you have to go through security ;-( But, should be traveling I highly recommend taking a look before you board your plane ! There’s some really rare toys and displays that most collectors and fans don’t normally see 😉

Here’s the link to the show online as well : http://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/japanese-toys-kokeshi-kaiju

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A quick view of the exhibit down the long United terminal. I’m sorry these are not really in order of how the exhibit is laid out and I might have forgotten a display but for the most part I think I have pictures of most of the show.

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Here Max and I pose in front of a classic poster image from a Bullmark toys ad, 1970s.

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By the way, they have a very nice “free” brochure for the exhibit too.

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Giant Inu Dog sculpture .. yes not a Cat  😉

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Its a bit surreal to see “my” toys on display and looking at me  😉 But infact, as a collector you have to realize that these toys will most likely out live you and be passed onto another person down the line. Well for now I’m enjoying them and I’m glad they are on display for others to see and enjoy.

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I really like how everything is laid out. It’s hard to see but each figure has a wire support behind the leg, with a clear rubber waist support. They are all securely attached without taking away from the display of the figure.

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Kaiju display, the super duper sized Red King in the middle is a super duper rare Popy store display from the King Rory collection. Very nice to see one up close.

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If you’ve followed me for awhile you know I’m a huge fan and supporter of the various craftsmen in Japan, who still to this day, make these Japanese toys. I was happy to provide some items and images of Shimizu-san, who casts all of the Max Toys we make in Japan.Shown here are also vintage Popy molds from the 70s as well as original Kaiju Drazoran sculpt, test shots and paint masks.

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The two items ( middle and left side ) are an Ultraman Jack and Lion Maru ride both circa 70s Japan. The one facing the other way is Kamen Rider V3 ( from Kimono My House collection ). I love these rides and was thrilled to see them elevated and displayed like this ! If only my toy room was so big I’d display them like this too  ;-P

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Another case with various Ultra goodies from my collection  😉

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I’m trying to get in to touch my toys  😉

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So yes there are other cases in this exhibit besides my Ultra stuff … here’s some vintage tin robots. A few of these are from my collection as well  😉 Circa 50-60s Japan.

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another view of the giant Inu Dog .. really cool !

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above and below some paper items, kites, fans various toys and ceramic dolls.

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While I’m not a doll collector, these were really cool examples of vintage Japanese girls dolls with kimonos.

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Knowing that quite a few West coast folks not only saw Ultraman, but Kikaida figures from my collection were also included.

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Max poses with a blow up of Ultraman, from the Marusan tin box.

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More paper items, Menko cards, trading cards also used to play games with.

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cool tiger / cat figure 😉

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Various vintage Kokeshi dolls and wooden figures.

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Probably eclipsing Godzilla as a recognizable character in the states, is Hello Kitty. I;m sure my fellow Godzilla collectors will be up in arms about this 😉

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vintage Hello Kitty items from Sanrio collection.

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and of course, this crazy Hello Kitty dress worn by Lady Gaga  ;-P

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But of course whats near and dear to my heart is of course Ultraman … and here’s myself and Max in front of my Ultraman suit.

I need to find some boots for him 😉

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Well, there you have it I most excellent show ! I hope you have the time to see it as it runs thru April 2014. I was told through the whole run of the show, tens of thousands of traveling people will see it as they go thru the terminal. I hope it sparks the imagination of some kid to collect or create their own Kaiju of the future !

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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