Update: The museum closed in August 2018, but some of the collection can be seen at other toy museums run by Kitahara - check the venue website below for locations.
The latest mini-museum showcasing the antique toy collection of Teruhisa Kitahara, Toys Drive-in offers a wider-than-usual scope of nostalgia-inducing exhibits. The usual tin-toy robots and mechanical monkeys are supplemented with 1960s-era Americana, including upholstered booths from an American-style roadside diner, where you can sit and enjoy a dessert from the adjacent ice-cream stand. Standing in the museum entrance is a pink 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, and next to it a full-size gas pump sporting Sinclair Oil's dinosaur logo.
More Americana fills the entry room - vintage guitars, ancient radios, a jukebox, a sturdy Erector-set tower, JFK and Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, Frank Sinatra records, and lots of ancient advertising posters and POS displays. The main portion of the museum though focuses on a much earlier, and lesser-known, commercial artform known as Motion Display setups.
These are large, electrically powered mechanical dioramas, averaging around 40-60cm in width, originally used to attract customer attention in jewelry shop windows and other commercial settings. The dioramas depict a variety of fanciful scenes, many related to marriage.
Here are a bride and groom in a flying saucer, ready for their outer-space honeymoon, and next to them is a similarly themed "Honeymoon Rocket." There's an underwater wedding between two fish, and another underwater scene showing a mermaid chatting with a scuba diver.
Moving along, we see a wedding-ring factory staffed by tiny angels, and a more sciencey "Diamond Reactor" where hard-working technicians are adding the sparkle to someone's wedding ring. All in all there are around fifty of these dioramas, many of them crafted by the Beringer Company in the US between 1925 and 1959, and a good number of them still operational.
Fans of classic tin toys and Japanese monster toys will enjoy seeing the toy section of Toys Drive-in, along with the giant toy robot on the ground floor.
Toys Drive-in is on the second floor of the Sevenpark Ario Kashiwa shopping mall, #226 on the mall map. To get to the mall, take the #31 bus from Kashiwa station; the bus runs 3-5 times per hour, and takes around twenty minutes; get off at the Sevenpark Ario-mae stop. Admission is Y500.
Motion Display dioramas and mid-century kitschy Americana at Toys Drive-in