GERNOT IN JAPAN
Hello Robotheads, I am back
from two travels to Japan, homeland of our favourite toys. And believe
it or not I had the most incredible time of my life, going back to
the old places and seeing things I could never believe to see. I will tell
you some of my encounters in the next days/weeks because it will
be too much for one message.
Lets start slow, I was able
to visit the Metal House Factory (the second time for me). Metal house
is one or possible the last existing metal/tin
toy factory in Japan using the original tools and machines. I went there together with Ray Rohr (the famous dealer from Seattle) and Nobuo Kumagai (Osaka Tin Toy Institute). See some pictures of their actual production. I found out that the company was founded in the 30s and the old name has been "MARUMYA". Maru means "circle" and "mya" is the first part of the family name. Two brothers, sons of the founder, are still keeping on the business. They produced famous robots for different
wholesalers like Horikawa, Daiya, Yonezawa or Linemar. More to come. I try to include some pictures. hope it works. Coming soon: premiere pictures of the only one (known to me) existing "silver" Thunder Robot and of Robot prototypes the world has never seen before (e.g. DPRBO) !!!
Here is a picture taken outside of
the Metal house company in Tokyo in a trash box. Seems to be parts of a
80s Horikawa robot. Sure, I took some samples with me, for reference.
The pictures before are showing the new "piston Robot" using the same pistons
as the old Horikawa piston robots from the 70s. The samples are all
prototypes the actual color has not been decided yet. Some more facts to
the "Change Man". Marumiya as a factory produced a low number
of these toys in the 60s (no exact date known to refer to). On the back
is the sign SH for Horikawa, but the Toy itself never went into mass
production. Horikawa refused the toy. So all the samples existing
come from this pre run series. I talked to one of the two brothers of metal house, he said the total run was far less than 100 or even 50 pieces. Some years ago some samples were found in the factory and made the way to the collections of the world.
To my knowledge Metal House/Marumiya produced most of the Horikawa Robots. Sure is only that Horikawa itself has been only the wholesale company, not the production factory. So this factory has been produced for different wholesalers such as Linemar, Daiya, Yonezawa and others. Unfortunately they did not keep samples of all their produced toys (it must have been hundreds of them). They still have a good amount of old magazines and catalogues. On my next visit I will try to get a look/copy of these old catalogues as well. I have no information if they have sold their molds to other companies. Here are two more pictures of the MH company. The unspectacular front side of the house with the trash boxes. The house is incredibly small and contains masses of cardboard boxes full of parts. The old machines are in the basement with no windows. Just seven employees are left most from the same family The original company had been founded by the father in the 30s. The maximum amount of employees in the 50s/60s has been several hundred, at a different location in the same district in Tokyo. The second picture shows "the older brother" at one of the machines putting two parts of an actual production Tetsujin arm together. The machine is around 40-50 years old now.
Here are the pictures I took
from the "silver Thunder Robot from Asakusa Toys. After a lot of rumours
and difficulties I managed to find this hidden toy museum in Tokyo which
holds many original prototype toys, samples and pre-series models. Incredibly
enough to see the Silver Thunder I could see some other Robots I have never
seen before in 20 years of collecting Robots. The silver Thunder Robot
is so close in finish to the brown production type that I guess it is not
the only one they have
produced, maybe a limited number of pre-run models for toy fairs, patent office, catalogues or wholesale companies. The Antenna and the right head clamp was missing. The window in the head here is clear, not red. The most incredible thing was that original brown paper sticker on the backside which shows the handwritten production date of this robot (That must be like the birth date of this toy), the manufacturers name and the operation type (Battery operated). The sticker says: 42-11-7, which is the 42nd year of a certain japanese emperor equal to the date of 7th November of 1967, the birth date of Thunder Robot. This also fits to the first appearance in the Asakusa Toy catalogue in 1968. I took a lot of pictures from all sides, two from front and rear are shown. If anybody wants more pictures, send me a mail: email@example.com
Many of the Robots in that Museum had that brown sticker on the back and I took as many notes and information with me I could get. (Brian, I will keep you busy for updating the timeline). I was the only customer for about 3 hours at that day and the old "keeper" in that museum was so kind to take out all the robots I wanted to see. This was as incredible as the rest of the day. So long for today, more incredible pictures to come.
Here it comes the most incredible piece I discovered in that museum. Look at the pictures but this is really the one and only prototype of a Battery operated Diamond Planet Robot in plain metallic blue color. THe DP Robot itself is one of the rarest Robots, this piece beats them all. And... it also got one of the brown tags on the bottom (see picture). It reads: "37-11-7" as the manufacturing date, equals to 7 November 1962. (Same day as silver Thunder, just 5 years earlier, what a coincidence). Now the question is: was this toy invented before the windup version or later ? Body shape, head and ears are the same as on w/u DP but window and Battery box are making the difference. It is impossible to describe what it felt like holding that toy in my hands, it gave me shivers. I think that old man who was leading me through the museum recognized what a special moment this was for me, otherwise he would have never given me the chance to look so close to those toys. Unfortunately I had no batteries with me and my camera was almost empty. Next time I will definitively take my digital camera and some Batteries with me..... Some information sheet in that museum said that about 6000 toys are displayed, but the museum holds totally about 12000 toys, imagine what other treasures might be hidden. So long for tonight (its 1:30 AM now in Germany).
Some information about that
museum where I discovered those robots. The name is just simple ”Japan
Toys museum” It is located in Tokyo in the Taito-ku district, not too far
(25 minutes walk) from the Asakusa (!) train station. It was founded in
1981 and belongs to the Tsukuda Group, with the owner/president Mitsuo
Tsukuda. Tsukuda is a toy company which still is in the business producing
toy models and figures such as the vinyl / rubber Godzilla or Alien Models.
As a toy company they might have had the connections to discover all those
prototypes or samples which might have been stored long time ago maybe
from an official patent office. This would explain all these brown tags
on many of the toys. In the middle of a huge room are many cases with special
themes such as Robots, Space Toys, Cars, Puppets, Guns and others. All
around the walls are showcases for each production year. For example in
the showcase of 1965 there are only toys which were produced (or maybe
first produced) in that year. In some of these cases are also some Robots,
so I have also collected some of those information on that day. As you
can imagine I was not able to look at every toy for the brown tag sticker,
but I suppose that the makers of this museum had those exact information
when each toy has been introduced. I have to go back to that place and
do more research. The Toy for today is another member from the “Rocket
Man” – “Moon Explorer” family of big Robots. The body/head is the same
as the Alps Moon explorer, but the chest has been cut out. Behind that
plastic cover are some small missiles. I suppose this could be the first
prototype on the way to make the later grey version of Missile Robot. The
brown sticker was there on the back and reads: “40-9-15” which is equal
to the date 15.September 1965. This sample Robot does not look close
to a production piece, it is too rough in finish. Next time I try to but some batteries in check the function (If I am allowed to).
Here are some more dates for Brian's “Time line”, all of them have been written down from those original brown tags on the Robots in that museum.
Masudaya Mighty 8: 1964 Horikawa
Mr. Zerox: “8.September 1965 (First B/O Mr. Zerox)
Horikawa Mr. Hustler 1970
Grey Cragstan Mr. Robot: 1962
Masudaya MR-45 Robot: 1972
Trip to Japan (Part 6) (Shall I continue
or does it get boring) Here is another mysterious prototype of a
robot from the Japan toys museum.
It is all hand painted (also the graphics) and I guess it was supposed to work with a wireless remote (which is not there). The size is about 15 cm (6 inches) in height. The face is funny, like a clown, the piece at the head looks strange. Maybe it was supposed to hold another antenna or a prop. Unfortunately there was so sign or sticker on that toy, so we have to guess when it was made and for which company. I would think in the mid to late 60s because of the plastic parts (arms). The head reminds me of that rare plastic blue/red Astro Robot with crawling feet (maybe I find a picture of that toy to compare). About that museum, I do not know why this place is so unknown to the public even it is existing for such a long time. For us it is unknown maybe not for japanese toy collectors. See it this way, they have made no books about it (Kitahara and Takayama and Morita did) and are not advertising internationally. This leaves out almost all collectors of the world besides Japan. The place is so offset from the city and
difficult to find. It is hard to believe, but it is located in a huge building in the 8th floor. And then even if some toy related collectors visit that museum they have no clue what robots are common and which are special prototypes. So just a few people can justify the treasures there. Robert Johnson took a picture in that museum and
just I was so lucky to be there at a right time, being able to “talk” in a mixture of several japanese words , english and gestures with that museum keeper to let me look at the toys to closely.
Here are some more production
dates of Robots I could examine in that museum (not by sticker but by the
shelves with the name of the year on it)
B/O Yonezawa Gear Robot (Like little “See Through Robot” or Shepard Robot) 1968
Venus Robot (KO) First Version, Red Plastic, 1969
Asakusa Space Pilot (Grey with Props), Plastic B/O 1968
Jupiter Robot (KO) Blue, B/O with Remote 1965
Horikawa Golden Gear Robot 1964
To all who have sent me Emails asking for pictures, I will answer all mails, but I need some time to collect all pictures and send it out, be patient.
Here is another prototype from SH Horikawa, probably produced in the Marumya factory (now called "Metal house"). The robot is dated with a brown sticker and the emperors date 41-3-2 = March 2nd, 1966. The Robot is B/O, the body is the same as the old SH Mr. Zerox (with and wihtout face). The heads with dome is the same as on the small w/u SH Gear robots. The chest door is replaced by a kind of visible gear/probably gun mechanism which might light up and turn. Interesting piece but never went into production.
Some more dates written down
in this museum:
Alps Missile Robot 40-9-15 (Emperors date on brown sticker) = September 15, 1965
Planet Robot ("Robby"), blue color, rubber hands, Remote Control, 1962 (Year Shelve in the museum)
SH Horikawa b/o Machine Robot (large scale type)with green and red gears 38 - ? - ? (Emperors date) 1963
Here is another SH (Horikawa) Prototype from the Japan toys Museum (See old Robot Talk pages). It looks familiar and real close to an original, but the graphics are not printed they are really handpainted. Just incredible work. I only recognized it when I looked real close. In the center of the chest is a small framed window with a hole which might contain a flintstone for a sparking mechanism. This is a typical feature for the SH wind up gear Robots. This Robot does not have any gears but also the typical head with the “Visible” dome. It does not have a clear cover on the front but this was maybe only missing on this prototype piece. I checked with all small metal SH Robots in my collection but could not find the same graphics, just very similar to Golden Gear Robot or other Gear or Engine Robots from this family of SH Robots.
Fortunately this Robots was
also equipped with the “Emperors date” brown sticker, it says: “40-9-15”
equal to September 15,
1965, the birth date of this prototype.
(To be continued)