Featured toy robots and fun accessories
"TV Robot" with Outer-Space Visuals
TV Robot
This large-size battery-operated robot features a TV screen in its chest with scrolling images of outer-space scenes.
US$95 (on sale).
"New Meter" Robot with Spinning Gauges and Antenna
new meter
This 12" high battery-powered robot has a rotating radar-loop antenna and fluctuating gauges in its chest.
US$150.
 
Mini X-9 Space Robot Car
mini x-9 space robot car
This miniature wind-up version of a classic 1950s robot car features a transparent dome with shooting balls.
US$17.
Sushi Cats - set of five keychains
sushi cats
According to the manufacturer, the Sushi Cats are creatures from another universe who have been visiting Earth for millennia
US$27; free shipping.
 
Aerodynamic Shinkansen Pencil Case
shinkansen pencil case
Far more aerodynamically efficient than your typical pencil case, this is a detailed replica of the first carriage of the "Doctor Yellow" Shinkansen high-speed test vehicle.
US$15.
Spunky Wind-up "Sparky" Robot
sparky
This mid-size (six-inch) limited-edition robot promises "Lighted Breast and Go Action"!
US$45.
 
Articles
The larger-than-life Tetsujin 28-GO robot standing with his fists raised in triumph tells you you've arrived at the museum of tin toys in Hakone.

Toys Wonderland holds the main collection of tin toys assembled over a span of forty years by Teruhisa Kitahara, Japan's foremost authority on the subject. The main draw at this sprawling museum is the tin-toy room, with over 3,000 items.

In one case stands a Thunder Robot (Asakusa Toy), with its weird bulbous legs and electric-shaver body, next to a Sparking "W" Robot (Noguchi) and the bizarre X-70 Robot (Nomura), whose tulip-shaped head explodes to reveal a camera swiveling around to shoot alien landscapes. Next to him is the mysterious R7 Robot (manufacturer unknown) with its wired remote control.

Our favorites were the 1960s Astronauts (Daiya), with their laser-beam guns and goldfish-bowl helmets over celluloid doll heads, like Kewpie Dolls going on a murderous rampage in outer space. The Electric Robot and Son (Marx), a skeletal robot with a fearsome grin dangling a baby robot from its pincer hands, was also pretty cool. In another case, the Spaceship Zenmai (Okayasu) with its rotor blades will make you wonder just how a helicopter would fly in a vacuum....

The reign of the boxheads was remarkably short at Design Festa. We saw only a couple of lonely caped figures in gift-wrapped and abstract boxes, while the animal-head and bird-head people continued to proliferate, like creatures from Max Ernst's "Une Semaine de Bonte" come to life. We spotted foxes, wolves, crabs, ravens, and even a severed tuna head.

The coolest stuff on display at the two-day fair was Hiroto Ikeuchi's mecha-cyborg wearable tech such as earphones, headphones and eyeglasses. These were insanely detailed items of geek gear in cool black, silver and red with all sorts of extraneous, functionally questionable gauges, flanges and cords. The kind of accessories that Gundam robots might choose. The pieces were also surprisingly light to wear, constructed of plastic and metal, and really quite reasonably priced at between 30,000 and 200,000 yen.

If you were looking for even smaller cyborg accessories, there was always the robot jewelry of Roboto no Negoto (Robot Sleeptalk). These were almost nanobots - tiny cyborg men and robot dogs made out of metal plate, wire and beads. Other cool robotics included the molded-resin, hand-painted robots of M & Cooky. There were two types on show: the classic boxy robot with antenna and grasping-claw hands (see the Shinkansen.com logo) and a cute cats-in-space astronaut (which sold out on the second day).

In the early twentieth century Japan exported huge numbers of tin-plate toys to countries around the world, and this charming little museum traces that history, displaying some 3,000 antique toys made between the 1890s and the 1960s. Shelf after shelf is filled with miniature antique fire trucks and streetcars, zeppelins and submarines, rockets and robots, drum-beating bears and cymbal-smashing bunnies.

Toys Club in Yokohama is the original tin-toy museum opened by well-known Japanese collector Teruhisa Kitahara. Judging from the way the toys are displayed, Kitahara seems as much a hoarder as a curator. The items are packed into glass showcases without any labels or explanation, so it's best to bring your own expert to the museum to make sense of it all.

In the robot cases, a row of Zoomer Robots (Nomura) with various accessories makes a chilling sight - especially the blood-red one with mask and spanner, like some robot version of Jason from Friday the 13th. Nearby, the Musical Drummer Robot (Nomura) shows the 20th-century Japanese industry was still influenced by 19th-century European traditions....

Our robot overlords showed their gentler side in the Service Robots hall at the International Robot Exhibition at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center. There were robot suits to assist caregivers with heavy lifting in nursing or retirement homes, exomuscle systems to help in rehabilitation, and even robot pillows to help sleep-apnea sufferers.

Many of the robots were aimed at Japan's rising elderly population. The Loco-Pyon robot is a soft-toy mouse figure that encourages house-bound seniors to exercise daily. Loco-Pyon performs squats with the locomotive-syndrome sufferer and sends an email confirmation to family or caregivers.

The same lab is also behind the revolutionary robot for sleep-apnea sufferers in the shape of a cute soft-toy bear pillow. The system detects a drop in blood-oxygen levels and activates and the polar bear's arm to gently tickle the sleeper's face to encourage a change in sleeping position. (If the blood-oxygen level falls dangerously, the bear gives the sleeper a friendly slap in the chops.) ...

 
Tin-plate robots made in Japan
Desktop accessories and other fun stuff
 

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