Vintage Japanese Toy Show On Display at @flySFO
April 13, 2014

My wife was traveling out of town this weekend and had a layover at the United terminal at the San Francisco International airport.   While walking to her gate she came upon a art show they had at the airport which was a collection of vintage Japanese toys called “Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju.”   Being the beautiful and incredible wife of a geek she thought “I’ll be Daniel and the AFi readers would dig this!”   So, she shot the full display and sent me the pictures for us all to enjoy.



The show is located  in: Departures – Level 2 – Post-Security and runs November 2013 – May 2014.  The SFO website has a great write up about the show with even more pictures.   Here’s the write-up they have about the show:

Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju

The Japanese imagination has led to many of the world’s most extraordinary toys. Japanese toys span an unparalleled gamut—from a centuries-long practice of traditional doll making to whimsical folk toys, such as ghostly mechanical kobe figures and papier-mâché guardian dogs. Throughout the prosperous Edo period (1615–1868), many new folk toys originated, including cylindrically shaped, wooden kokeshi dolls, which formed the basis of thriving craft industries. Similar to other folk arts, a toy typically developed through the ingenuity of a single individual or a small group of makers before it spread to other areas and artisans. Such toys reflect Japanese regional customs, legends, history, and locally available materials. Artisans continue to make a great variety of folk toys in Japan. Today, many are sold as souvenirs and collector’s items rather than toys.








During the Meiji period (1868–1912), when Japan opened its doors to the West, the country rapidly transformed into a modern, industrialized nation. At this time, the Japanese began to make toys that emulated their German and American counterparts. Manufacturers made toys from tin, celluloid, and other new materials. As German imports ceased during World War I, the Japanese toy industry flourished. By 1915, Japan offered a variety of toys to Europe and the United States and continued to do so until World War II. Following the war, Japan’s toy industry experienced its golden era, when makers created a kaleidoscope of unique toys for export and home consumption. Classic wind-up and battery-operated toys of the pre- and postwar eras include dancing couples, tinplate cars, and cymbal-clapping monkeys. As Japan continued to prosper in the 1970s, labor costs increased, and fewer export toys were made as many manufacturers shifted their focus to high-tech products.

Japanese movie, television, and manga (comics) inspired legions of iconic character toys. Godzilla, the king of monsters, spawned from the atomic bomb’s aftermath, stormed onto the screen as the premier kaiju or Japanese monster in 1954. Ultraman, a futuristic television series introduced in 1966, featured a superhuman hero who battled a new kaiju each episode. The manga Astro Boy or Mighty Atom, about a child robot, made its debut in 1952 and prompted the first of many animated television programs in the 1960s. Later on, kawaii, which refers to all things cute, became a national obsession. One of the world’s most beloved icons, Hello Kitty, created in 1974 by Sanrio, remains as popular as ever.








Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju provides a feast for the eyes and the imagination. This exhibition captures the remarkable evolution of Japanese toys. Kokeshi dolls, menko playing cards, and battery-operated robots are among the quintessential toys on display. Vinyl kaiju figures, Ultraman novelties, and a dress made entirely from plush Hello Kitty dolls are some of the unexpected items on view.

A special thank you to all of the lenders who made this exhibition possible: Boss Robot Hobby, California Academy of Sciences, Chizuko Kuroda, Kalim Winata, Kimono My House, Mark Nagata, Reed Darmon, Rory Yellin, and Sanrio, Inc.


Thank you to Abby for shooting the whole installation for us to see!

– See more at:
Daniel Pickett
Daniel “Julius Marx” Pickett has been around toys his whole life. The first line he ever collected was Mego’s World’s Greatest Super Heroes line back in the 70s. He has been surrounded by collectables ever since. In 1999 he was confounded by a lack of information and news about some of his favorite toy lines he was collecting. Since he couldn’t find the information he decided to pursue it himself thinking other people might also be interested in the same news. He started writing a weekly column on the toy industry and action figure for a toy news site and in a years time he tripled the sites daily traffic with his updates, reviews and product features. He built relationships with every major toy manufacturer and many sculptors, painters and mold makers. He grew his hobby into a world wide expertise that the industry has embraced. In 2004 he teamed up with his toy buddy Jason “ToyOtter” Geyer and they created their own website Daniel has been quoted in both industry and mass media press outlets. Over the years Daniel and AFi have been sought out as experts in the field. Daniel was regularly featured on “Attack of the Show” on the G4 network as the primary contributor to their “Mint On Card” segment, and our front page has been linked to from USA Today’s “Pop Candy” Blog twice. Daniel’s content has also been featured on,, The Wall Street Journal, The Saturday Evening Post,,,, Boing-Boing,, Ain’t It Cool News, the Official Star Wars blog, Geekologie, G4, CNet and Toy Fare magazine, among many others. He has consulted on toy lines, books, documentaries and TV shows. But all of that really just sounds snooty and “tootin’ his own horn” – the long and short of it is that Daniel loves toys and he LOVES talking about them.
Read other articles by Daniel Pickett.




No Comments »

Leave a Comment