toys

Tokyo Toy Fair: The only place you’ll see cute girls and Star Wars figures in the same room

We used our journalistic cred to gain access to the Tokyo Toy Fair a few days in advance of the public. Don’t hate us–we did it for you!

Check out our gallery below, and please excuse any blurring. We’re perfectly comfortable interacting with Gundam models, but talking to female models gives us the shakes.

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We spend a night at the Legoland Hotel (no assembly required)

There are plenty of reasons to visit San Diego, California. Aside from beautiful beaches, visitors to the Golden State’s southernmost metropolitan area can watch professional baseball and football, see killer whales and other marine life at Sea World, and dine on authentic Mexican cuisine.

And of course, there’s also Legoland California, North America’s first theme park dedicated to the Danish blocks that have captivated generations of kids. Since its opening in 1999, Legoland California has gone through numerous renovations, and as of April even has its own Legoland Hotel, one of only three in the world.

Needless to say, we booked our reservation as soon as possible.

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Sony Computer Science Labs developing Legos with artificial intelligence

With kids wanting to get their hands on tablets and smartphones rather than tops and jack-in-the-boxes, traditional toy makers are beginning to feel the heat. Although, it’s hard to imagine a perennial favorite like Lego go under, they aren’t taking any chances as indicated by a display at Sony Computer Science Labs in Tokyo during a recent open house.

The building block maker is partnering with the tech giant to implant some video game magic such as AI and DualShock control into their timeless colored cubes.  But that’s not all. Sony Computer Science Labs are cooking up some wild stuff for the young and young at heart.

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Trapped in a Glass Cage in the Philippines, Mario Has No Mouth with which to Scream – The Shocking World of Knock-Off Plush Dolls

Recently, one of our correspondents was strolling through a shopping mall in Mandaue City on Cebu Island in the Philippines. As he passed an arcade, one of the attendants flagged him down, asking if he wanted to try to win a stuffed doll in one of their crane games.

Intrigued by the offer, our reporter peered into the machine’s glass case, at first thinking he saw popular Japanese anime characters Doraemon and Testuwan Atom (also know as Astro Boy internationally). Closer investigation though, revealed that the arcade was filled with cheap, yet somehow incredibly endearing, knock-offs.

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Okayama Bus Company Encourages People to Look at its Newest Employee While They Wash Themselves

Okayama Prefecture lies in west Japan, three and a half hours from Tokyo by bullet train. Known for its castle, 17th century garden, and folktale of Momotaro the Peach Boy, it’s a laid-back, slow-paced kind of place, so we can understand the difficulties local bus operator Ryobi Group faces in trying to promote the region as a travel destination for young people.

So Ryobi has made the cornerstone of its newest marketing campaign something young Japanese males will enjoy: a bus tour guide who’s also a cute anime idol. Read More

Burn Rubber with Competition-Spec Mario Kart Erasers

As any professional road racer or weekend canyon carver can tell you, nothing gives a bigger boost to a car’s performance than a great set of tires. Taking that idea to its illogical conclusion, toy manufacturer Takara Tomy figured the hottest ride must be an eraser car. And one styled like a Mario kart, no less. Read More

You Can (Not) Lose with Sega’s Newest Evangelion Promotion


The UFO catcher, also known in the West as the crane game, is a stalwart of Japanese arcades. The rules are simple: drop in your coin, then operate the mechanical claw to try to pick up your prize, whether it’s a stuffed Pikachu, giant box of Pocky, or a live prawn. No, we are not making that last one up. Of course, this is easier said than done. More often than not the prizes slip out of the claw’s grasp (especially the prawns).

In a way, the UFO catcher is the perfect metaphor for the long-running, psychologically heavy-hitting anime series Evangelion, known to fans simply as Eva. Like Eva’s protagonist Shinji with his giant robot, at first the technology seems fun and exciting. Then, following soul-crushing failure after failure, you find yourself void of the strength to go on, staring at the machine through your tears of frustration, finally understanding that a part of you has hated it all along, even as the realization sinks in that it may house the soul of your dead mother (OK, the last bit is strictly Eva).

But with a new Eva UFO catcher promotion, Sega is making sure no one has to go home empty-handed. Read More

Newly Opened Café/Bar Shuminova Offers Mini 4WD Races and Nintendo with Your Chicken and Whiskey

Opened on 3 April, Shuminova is a new kind of drinking and eating establishment. It’s named is derived from the Japanese word shumi which means hobby, and the nova refers to the explosion of nostalgia for middle-aged men contained within.

Among the guitars, laptops and game consoles are the main attraction of Shuminova: Tamiya Mini 4WD’s. You can enjoy some tasty food and drink while tinkering with your own customizable car utilizing advice from the owner, a Mini 4WD expert.

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Turn Your Favorite Lollipops into Ice Candies!

Love lollipops? Love ice-cream? You can now make your own Chupa Chups flavored ice candy! Japanese toy maker Takara Tomy A.R.T.S will be releasing an ice candy making kit this coming 18 April.With the candy kit, making the lollipop flavored ice candy is simple and fun.

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Iggy will Hold Your Door Open for You (and Pee Against it)

Fans of the manga and animé smash JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and its notoriously ill-mannered dog Iggy will be pleased to know that they can now get their hands on a doorstop modeled on the pooch.

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What to Do If Suddenly Stuck with 100,000 Toy Blocks: A Management Guide

Being in management is difficult. Sometimes you have to make lightning-quick decisions that you later regret. However, the most valuable members of an organization are the ones that take a risk, fail, and then make success from that very same failure.

The pioneering entrepreneurs at Omocoro are just such business men and would like to share their techniques with you on how to make gold out of 100,000 errantly purchased toy blocks in the following handy guide.

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Want! Seven Weird and Wonderful Smartphone and Tablet-Integrated Toys for Grown Ups

There has arguably never been a more popular big kids’ toy than the smartphone. While models, personal music players, action figures and board games have existed for generations, never has the human race been more enamoured with a single gadget. Smartphones have become such an integral part of our lives that, on the rare occasion that they are separated from their rectangles of plastic and finger-friendly glass, many people experience genuine feelings of anxiety and simply cannot get through their day as they normally would.

With traditional board games and toys already falling to the wayside and smartphones, tablets and laptops now topping kids’ Christmas wish lists, it’s only natural for toy makers to strive to implement the new technology into their own creations. But what happens when old toys meet new tech? As it turns out, the result can sometimes be quite wonderful.

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Lotteria x Evangelion Fukubukuro! What Anime Surprises Await Inside!?

Fukubukuro, lit. “lucky bag”, are a wonderful way for stores to shift merchandise at the start of the year, not unlike western stores’ New Year’s sales but with far more mystery and intrigue involved. Shoppers take a gamble when they purchase these gift bags as they are completely sealed and their contents unlisted, and they don’t always contain products that we desperately need, but fukubukuro usually contain items whose cash value far exceeds the bag’s asking price.

So when our reporter Kuzo heard that the fast food chain and home of 30-patty cheeseburgers Lotteria was offering up special collaborative Evangelion bags for just 2,000 yen each, he powered down his Wii U, stepped out into the sunlight and sprinted – well, sort of jogged while wheezing quietly – to his nearest store to grab one for himself.

Was it worth the US$22 purchase, or was Kuzo lumbered with a cooking-oil-scented bag of tat? Find out after the jump.

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Japanese Plastic Figure Stop Motion Videos Look Amazing, Make Little Sense

This might be what Toy Story would look like if it were made by Japanese nerds: amazing, fluid animation, incomprehensible story line. There’s even an appearance by Hentai Woody

Check the video, called “The Worst Thing”, below:

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Pepsimaaan! How Japan’s Thirst-Quenching Superhero Started a Bottle Cap Figurine Craze

Anyone who frequents the Japanese convenience store beverage case has probably noticed that some bottled drinks occasionally come packaged with collectible figurine, some of which double for actual bottle caps.

“Japanese people love figurines, so what?” you say. Well did you know that the first character to ever appear atop a Japanese bottle cap was the thirst-quenching superhero, Pepsiman?

Say it with me now: ♪Pepsimaaaan!♪

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Eyes on the Prize: A Look at Japanese Pop Culture Trends Through Arcade Prizes 【October 2012】

One fun way to see what anime or game series are currently popular with kids and otaku in Japan is to visit an arcade and take a look at the prizes up for grabs in the crane machines, or UFO catchers, as they’re often called in Japanese.

Unlike North America, arcade culture is still going strong in Japan and UFO catchers are one of the main attractions. Always found on the first floor of arcades, these machines are stocked with the latest limited-edition figurines and plushies of popular characters, many of which can only be acquired as UFO catcher prizes (or on Amazon at obscene prices).

Japanese toy company Banpresto has announced their newest lineup of CRANEKING arcade-exclusive prizes, available this October. Check what toys are hot on the Japanese arcade scene below!

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Obama Family Matryoshka Dolls Found in Sakhalin, But Something’s Wrong With Bo…

Nothing says traditional Russian fold crafts like Matryoshka dolls. Go to any gift shop in Russia and you’re sure to find a set of the little wooden figures on sale.

Sometimes you can even find dolls painted with a quirky theme, such as famous musical acts or soviet leaders. One of our reporters came across a set of President Obama & family Matryoshka dolls on sale for about US $30 at a souvenir shop in Sakhalin.

Needless to say, he bought it on the spot.

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