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.
On another shelf, the number of robots driving bulldozers and tractors in front of others wearing hard hats and high-visibility yellow paintwork makes you realize just how much construction work there was back in the retro-future.
The cute blue Mr. Atomic Robot (Yonezawa) with his atom-splitting belt buckle harks back to the Cold War era of nuclear fear. Other more mysterious robots remind you of the ephemeral nature of popular culture: whatever happened to Garon (Nomura), a Green Giant of a robot driven by a tiny boy in its chest?
And who the heck was Mego Man, the dashing robot in a trilby with disk legs, a printed circuit-board torso and a giant bell on his chest? Some kind of black-market spiv robot who moonlighted as a time-keeper at underground boxing matches?
Located in the front section of the museum is a retail toy shop, where you'll find a nice assortment of modern reproductions of Showa-era toys. A large English sheepdog named Robby is usually on hand to greet visitors - or sometimes block the entrance by sleeping in front of the door.
Toys Club, Yokohama's Charming Tin-Toy Museum