One would think that Japan was going to have wall-to-wall toys for the picking. Older visions in my mind conjured up images of stuffed toy shops waiting for customers. Truth was a bit different, as my mind focused on the real things, the fleeting moments, the friendships, and the people from my visit.
Much of the antique tin toy trip focused on culture and a general “feel” of the country, the people, the culture, the kindness, and the complex transportation system. My host Bryan helped us get the visit off to a smashing start with a wonderful Tokyo hotel and then a trip to Kobe and later Nikko. There we viewed a limited number of shops but mostly enjoyed the ambiance of these timeless towns steeped in traditions like kimonos and exacting, exemplary cooking. As we casually strolled Nikko there weren’t obvious vintage toy shops (but we didn’t search too hard).
Later when we returned back to Tokyo we visited additional shops, but found that in many of the cases, toys were a strong retail price. My favorite stop happened to be Mandarake in Nakano Broadway. There, the store presented with about 30 feet of glass cases lining the store. Then inside, the store featured another 30 cases chock full of toys! Prices were fair, but very much on the mark; the internet has leveled the playing field. Many sellers have deep research available at the tips of their phones.
Additional road trips and train stops showed a similar Antique Tin Toy pattern– the supply was limited (on the surface), and modern toys dominated. We made it to Ota and visited a few recycled shops. There some of the small vendors had a clear picture. Foreign visitors and time had eroded the antique toy trove. Much of the supply had dried up.
In Kobe I was fortunate to visit the legendary “Yellow Submarine” antique toy shop (and new models too). Inside, yet again, they were picked over. I greatly enjoyed the visit though and still felt lucky to find a Red King vinyl of extra large size. Thank you store owners for helping there!
Honestly, I loved the culture of the country and felt my quest for antique toys moved to the back burner. There were so many beautiful sites, shrines, ponds, weathered gardens, and cultural locations to enjoy. Toy seeking seemed a bit petty when I was there enjoying all the senses inside Japan. Travel routes were unforgiving, so there was a serendipity of events. The country’s gravitas temporarily wiped out a quest for antique toys, vintage toys, or just toys in general….. I wanted to move my toy quest at a future visit. For the year 2017, my visit to Japan was all about the people, the hosts, and the culture of Japan.