Visiting Japan is strange for me. On one hand I'm somewhat familiar with the place having lived there for a bit, but at the same time being in Japan is still very much a wondrous experience. You guys have already seen this through my carspotting exploits on the street, but my otaku nature also spreads to other areas.
For some people, visiting a toy store or hobby shop in Japan can be just as exciting as a car meet or track day. As I was geeking out over there last month, I decided it might be fun to share some of my hobby findings with you guys thanks to my trusty iPhone camera.
I ended up capturing quite a bit of these unique collectables during my recent trip, so I'll break things up into a few posts. I figured the typical shopping mall would be a good place to start. Unlike specialized hobby shops, this should give an idea of the things you'll find at mainstream retail stores across Japan. Keep in mind these photos were shot with a mobile phone, so please excuse the less than amazing photo quality here.
Let's begin at Toys R Us (yes they have it in Japan). Even though this is a massive chain toy store, the car section is still filled with some very interesting items – especially in the eye of someone from outside Japan.
When it comes to Japanese toy cars, there's no brand bigger than Tomica. They may be designed for kids, but I can't help but be intrigued by this stuff.
One of the things I like about Tomica's diecast products is that they're very much grounded in reality. If it's a common vehicle on Japanese roads, Tomica probably makes it. Here we see a Prius and a Toyota Townace truck for instance.
A Japanese postal delivery van. While not exotic, I think many kids enjoy playing with toy versions of the vehicles they see on a daily basis. I know that's how I was as a boy.
Of course kids should still have dreams too. Here's Tomica's take on the Lamborghini Reventón.
Just as impressive as Tomica's diecast vehicles are the playsets where they come alive. In this case we have a fully functioning police station.
Tomica also offers lots of diecast replicas geared more toward collectors and adults. Nice selection of classic machinery from the Vintage Series right here.
Elsewhere in Toys R Us, I spotted these cool transforming vehicles from Bandai. These aren't vehicles that become robots, these are vehicles that become other vehicles.
A Subaru Legacy B4 that transforms into a patrol car. Cool.
Next up, we have the "Drive Town" line of cartoonish pull-back toys based on many different Japanese models.
The lineup includes favorites like the AE86…
…along with more utilitarian models like the Toyota Hiace.
What child wouldn't want their own Honda S600?
Some of the other cool stuff I found at JDM Toys R Us included this Toyota Crown patrol car. Nicely detailed for a kid's toy I'd say.
JAF tow truck set complete with a Honda Fit to haul around. I'm an adult and I want to play with this…
This amazing 1:14 scale VW van isn't even made by a Japanese company. Anyone know if you can get this in the USA?
A miniature RC Nismo transporter? Absolutely.
Toys R Us isn't the only place in the mall where you can geek out on car stuff – there's also the book store. There's all the great car magazines of course, but also much more than that.
Looking to build your own 1:8 scale Nissan GT-R? You can do just that thanks to these weekly releases from Eagle Moss. These can be found on the magazine rack at almost any bookstore.
The idea is to collect different parts with each new volume, and slowly assemble them into one highly detailed (and gigantic) replica of a 2011 GT-R.
One issue includes just the front bumper for example…
…while another includes a single wheel and tire.
If the high tech GT-R isn't your thing, you might enjoy the 1:10 scale Toyota 2000GT series from DeAgostini.
Just like the GT-R, the goal is to construct your own highly detailed replica of Toyota's iconic sports car.
It takes some serious dedication to complete the project, as the parts are spread over 65 separate issues. This example includes the parts to build a seat, plus the front of the engine block.
Another includes a single wheel and the cam cover. Looking at the individual parts should give you an idea of just how detailed this thing is. Each issue also includes a small book with information on the car, or in this case a DVD. It's got be an expensive and time-consuming process to finish one of these, but I imagine it's very fun.
One more stop before wrapping up at the mall – Village Vanguard. This chain store is literally packed with all manner of collectables, books, music, accessories, and other strange things. It's really hard to define.
Each store usually has a small section dedicated to automotive and motorcycle goods. Books, models, comics, t-shirts, and that sort of thing.
What I found most impressive was the amount of Rat Fink goods available here. Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's iconic character is big in Japan – not just among Kustom Kulture fans but among the general public itself.
That will do it for my trip to the mall, but there's plenty more collectable content from Japan on the way – including a visit to one of Tokyo's best hobby shops.
Yodobashi Camera. If you'd never been, you might hear the name and imagine a quaint little Japanese camera shop tucked away on a side street somewhere. In reality, Yodobashi stores are much more than just camera shops. In fact some are more like small
Oh, and two Fits (GD and GE),and a Honda Dealership playset with NSX-R. My wife found those online, though.
Tomica has recently come to America as a Toys R' Us exclusive. They keep them with the young kids' toys instead of with the Hot Wheels/Matchbox/Johnny Lightning liek you'd expect, but they do have them. They have a very limited number of cars for sale in America, though, but what they have is nice. I have an Evo X, STi, and R35 GTR (all of which I swapped wheels with Hot Wheels cars), a Mitsubishi iMieV, Daihatsu Mira, and a Mitsuoka Orochi.
The 18/th model car is fantastic. At a recent GTR Owners Club trip to Japan a few of us stumbled across the fist edition and wanted to know more. As a result one of our memebrs is now building the car and writing a weekly blog about his build, as well as translating a lot of the text from the magazines and other literature that accompanies it. There's a lot of good background as well that our members have found interesting
Seriously cool! On the last GTR Owners Club trip to Japan a few of us stumbled across the Nissan GT-R it build and decided to give it a go. One of our members is now blogging it weely following his build up of the 1/8th scale model. The detail in the kit and the printed material that goes with it is really good and it seems a lot of GTROC members are following the blog to find out more about the car
You described the feeling well...wondrous. I was born in the States, but my parents are from Japan. I visit friends and family fairly frequently, every other year, if not annually. Each and every time I go, Japan gives me this mad culture shock that really is wondrous. My favorite place to go when I visit my grandparents is the local hobby shop. RC cars to model cars, they have EVERYTHING. And you literally have to squeeze through every aisle. It's like the store is hugging you the whole time.
Oh man, Village Vanguard! That is a happy memory right there. The one I went to was in Mikawa-Anjo, a town I stayed in between Nagoya and Okazaki. I really miss going over there.
I have one of those Drive Town AE86s sitting in my room! I just had to have it when I saw it in Bic Camera in Kyoto a few years back!
I've been into Japanese hobby stuff since highschool, putting together 1:24 scle models of cars like the MCR Skyline.. They have all the cool stuff over there. Their RC drift scene is crazy, you guys should do a spotlight on Speedway PAL!
Ohh I like this stuff. What Tomica is for Japan is Siku for Germany. When I was a child, I also just played with cars I see every day, such as Golf MK3, BMW E36 and so on. Very nice!
I could spend a grand there without even trying. I remember the smaller toy stores use to have nice die cast cars one in awhile, but thats all over.
I have that Crown patrol car. It's really neat, it has great sound and lights too. Being a toy guy myself, I too get lost every time I set foot in a toy/collectible store whenever I am in Japan.
those 1/8 model mags kinda blew my mind. and I love how print seems to still be thriving in Japan, they have so many magazines...