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Antique Amusements: Toy-hunting in Yokohama
Our international reporter, John Graham, takes a full-on toy tour with nothing to eat but sushi... Half his luck!

Part 1: Antiques!

Yokohama Antique world: 7th, 8th and 9th March, 2002

My main stop this time? The Kotto (or Antique) World Fair at Yokohama. One would rightly assume this to be an unlikely place to find toys (as with most Antique Fairs worldwide), and Kotto World was certainly 'chokkers' with traditional antiquities. Mind you, with a total of 330 booths to choose from, a guy has gotta find something... and sure enough, after a little sniffing about, I observed at least 20 per cent of the dealers had toys of some kind on show, with one in 10 of these being exclusively toys. I was starting to feel at home…

Even more comforting was to see some of the same faces from Yokohama Wonderland Fair and other Die-hard Japanese toy shows. These personalities included the happy-go-lucky Mike Fujii from Mike Company in Osaka, and the world-renowned collector Terahisu Kitahara. One fascinating thing about this Fair was the vast range of presentation styles among dealers: flea market rummaging booths, with toys in dusty boxes that you could hardly read for grit, were slam-bang up against top-of-the-line, up-market, well-presented, well-cleaned-glass-showcase type exhibits. The clients and traders here were almost exclusively Japanese, which is unusual as the local fair scene now has a very strong 'gaijin' (or foreigner) presence, from all corners of the Globe. Perhaps the strong traditional Japanese antique flavor has kept international dealers from this fair?

Here are just some of the toy bargains that were on hand:

B/O Eight-Man Robot, mint in near mint box: This legendary tin superhero piece, rare in any condition, was what the Japanese call 'dead stock', or what Westerners call a 'warehouse find'. Our powerful boy changed hands early on the Friday, during ‘dealers only' time. The asking price? A measly 1 million yen (roughly 8000 US dollars). After some well natured negotiation, both buyer and seller were happy with a sweet 6500...

Mori brand Japanese pedal car: Originally manufactured in Tokyo, this cool toy was really expressive of the stylish mini-sedans that bustled on the streets here back in the Sixties. The dealer was unsure whether it was based on a Daihatsu or a Toyota, and being a 'car dummy' myself, I was equally in the dark. What I do know is that it seemed a bargain at 200 bucks. Strangely enough, this sweet 'Micro Lady' was still there at the end of the show.

And what else? Impressive displays of Steiff animals, English teddy bears, and one surprise being a glut of Sixties to Eighties American character toys, usually not seen at this kind of show. Snoopy, Smurfs and soakies of all kinds were welcome invaders. All in all, it was enough to satisfy any hardened toy fan... Yokohama Kotto World gets two thumbs up!

Part 2: Amusements!

Well, as every self-respecting toy collector has to admit at some time or another, there are other things in life apart from their beloved playthings. And of course, that can only mean one thing... the video game arcade! So when this toy-weary gaijin needed some R&R during his hectic Japanese schedule, the Yokohama neighbourhood was more than willing to provide.

One thing that is a bit of a shock to the average gamer when they first hit Japan is the sheer enormity of the arcade scene here. I guess I should have expected it (after all, this IS the birthplace of Nintendo), but the size and scale of the game culture is simply awe-inspiring. As a ‘for instance’, let's just have a quick look at the claw machines. The funky Grand-daddy of arcade machines, these three-fingered thieves have mutated into giant beasts of prey in their Japanese manifestation, and are known generically as 'UFO Catchers'. Definitely no easier to beat than their Western counterparts, prize offerings range from delicate and intricately detailed Nightmare Before Christmas movie premiums to Carnival sized plush Disney toys, guaranteed to win the heart of any prospective spouse. I must have lost 20 bucks on my machine, while the guy next door scored Mickey AND Minnie for his smiling girlfriend. So much for stress release! As I was leaving the arcade, feeling a mite bitter and twisted, my gaze happened to drift to the claw machine nearest the door... a curious device known as a 'Marine Catcher'. Spellbound, I watched as a happy young fellow 'clawed' three live lobsters with the ease and aplomb of a seasoned fisherman. Oh well, I thought, things could be worse... I could be dinner!


Two sellers from the Mike Company booth. Party animals, if ever there were!


Gigantor abounded at the Mike Company booth from Osaka. This mouth-watering display of a genuine vintage items included a mint boxed, mega-rare remote controlled Flying Tetsujin. Unbelievable!


This super-sweet Micro Lady pedal car was a 'steel-steal' at 200 bucks.


Who needs a circus when you've got your very own Sixties vintage animated Steiff window display? A feast for the eyes at Yokohama


A carnival in itself, this Super cool Sega claw machine kept me amused for hours (note the size of the Lady and the size of the Pooh bears... Awesome!)


Stylish Mickey and Minnie backpacks, all yours if you can charm the Giant Claw!

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