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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #514  (Vol. 11, No. 5)  This edition is for the week of January 25--30, 2010.

"Edge of Darkness"  by Mike Smith
Forgotten Horrors: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things  by ED Tucker
January Albums  by Terence Nuzum
Ahoy! Pirates In Pop Culture  by Lisa Scherer
Curse of Japanese Toy Shopping  by Jason Fetters
I Love St. Pete @ ARTpool  by John Miller
Love Is... .... Movie Notes .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Curse of Japanese Toy Shopping

This is the third in a series of articles dealing with toy collecting in Japan. In the last one I wrote about robots because robots are an important aspect of Japanese society. The Japanese accept robots better then any other countries.

I recall shopping, one Saturday afternoon, in Umeda at Hep Navio and I happened to see a small printed sign for a demonstration of Honda’s Asimo. Several folding chairs were set up and I watched. Asimo is a humanoid robot that prefers tasks that any human can perform. He also entertains by dancing and interacting with the crowds. I was glad I stayed.

Also, robots are used in car manufacturing in several different Japanese companies. I remember taking a tour of Toyota in Osaka and seeing all the robots and how they were put to use on the assembly line.

Getting away from robots, before they attempt to unite and imprisons humans, I would like to talk about another avenue of toy collecting.

I was fortunate to be living in Japan when Final Fantasy X was released for Sony’s Playstation 2 in 2001. FFX swept over Japan and became such a huge hit. One day at Lawson’s, a Japanese convenient store, I saw 16-ounce Coke bottles with tiny bags attached near the top. The bags contained FFX figures. There were three sets of figures. The first set was realistic and tried to closely resemble the characters from the game. The second set had more of an anime look. The last set were the realistic characters done all in red, for some reason. I’m not sure why the red characters were made. I started buying Cokes in record numbers to collect as many figures as I could. My fellow English Teachers were also collecting and the race was on to be the first to have a complete set of all three. I collected a lot of the anime looking ones and a couple of the red ones.

A complete waste of time and money were all the UFO Catchers available. The UFO Catchers were vending machines that used a claw to collect various prizes. I had seen those machines around but didn’t really try one until my first year in Japan was almost over. I happened to see a Detective Conan, (released in the US as Case Closed) doll sitting in one and I just took a shot. My hand/eye coordination is not really the best but on that fateful day, luck was on my side and I successfully maneuvered the claw to catch the cloth on the shirt he was wearing. A couple of times it looked like the doll was going to slip away but the claw managed to hold on until I positioned it near the drop slot.

After winning my doll, I put it in my friend’s bookbag to keep it safe because a group of us from college all went out bowling for our last night together. I forgot to get the doll back and he wound up in my friend’s Tokyo apartment for several years. Through email, I finally managed to convince my friend to mail Detective Conan back to me. He is now safely sitting on my bookshelf at home.

Last, I went out with my friend to visit American Village in Osaka, and while browsing through a toyshop, I found a flexible Bruce Lee figure that I had to buy. The Bruce Lee figure has limbs that can be bent and positioned however you want. I knew that was one toy that would be hard to find in the US. Even though Bruce Lee’s popularity is probably greater in the US then overseas in Asian countries, Asian countries still pay respect by having toys and memorabilia for sale. DVD sales and current martial arts magazines are still big business for Bruce Lee in the states. In Asia, old Hong Kong magazines from the 70’s, neckties, shirts, and collectible toys are more popular. The collector and fan can find a wide assortment of Bruce Lee products that fall into the rare and odd category. I never thought I would own a Bruce Lee tie until I bought one at a Japanese Bruce Lee film retrospect.

I have a lot more toys from Japan; however, this concludes my series of toy articles. I want to move on and discuss other aspects of Asian popular culture. I will probably write another toy article sometime in the near future.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.