Friday, December 11, 2009

New Section: Toy Shop Visits

Over the last few years, I've been lucky enough to have a chance to visit a lot of great shops. In addition to pics and store info, I've tried to give directions (sometimes detailed, sometimes less so (sorry!)) so other folks can check the shops out.

I've compiled and organized my store visit posts and put them in a nifty little link list off to the right. :O)

Visit to Cure toy shop (shop closed in 2010)

Here's a shop apart! It always sounded like a cool place, and who wouldn't want to visit the home of the Boogie Man?? I've wanted to check it out for years - had the address and lil' map from their website taped in my "otaku data" book for a long time...

I finally got the chance a couple of weeks ago. Getting to Tsukuba station, which is way out to the northeast of Tokyo, isn't too tough. It's a straight shot from Akihabara on the Tsukuba Express. Takes 45 minutes on the rapid train (you'll want one of those - they come often enough) and costs roughly 1100 yen each way.

Now that you've made it to Tsukuba, you've got your work cut out for you. I didn't have any luck Google mapping the English address which I got off their site, so I had to rely on some old skool Japanese address locator skills.

Back in the day (before Gmaps and detailed maps on store websites made us into mushy Staypuft Toy Hunters), we used to spend upwards of 1-2 hours in search of shops...through blizzards and hail storms, no less! /digression
OK, so if you've managed to print out a detailed map, that's awesome. Otherwise, there are a ton of public maps in the area that can help you find 3-13-1 Azuma. (There's also a police station near the subway station (exit A2, if I remember correctly) and they may be able to help you pinpoint the address.)

From the subway station, Cure is a 15 minute walk through a very quiet and pleasant area.
The shop's storefront is understated. Reminded me of a US mini-mall with the little parking lot out front. :O)
Once inside you'll find a huge variety of toys for sale. As the very friendly staff explained to me, there aren't too many sofubi collectors in the area, so they need to carry a wide range of toys - basically a little bit of something for everyone. Sounded to me like a smart strategy!

Here's one of my favorite cases, with lots of (sold out) Boogie Men on display:
Cure also has a lot of sufubi, especially from Secret Base:
And some clothing - Usugrow in the house!
But that's not all....
Uber Star Wars selection!
Nightmare Before Christmas. Nice!
So, Cure is a solid 1/2 day trip there and back from Tokyo, but I'd say it's definitely worth checking out - if not only to get away from the crowds of Tokyo and enjoy a more laid back shop run by very cool people.

**I heard a few weeks ago that the Cure shop has closed. Real shame that, but the good news is new Boogies are still coming out. :O)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cronic Line Art

This is something I've been meaning to get to for a while.

A lot of Cronic's characters are based on drawings Naoki has done over the years. We've seen prints released in lucky bags, as well as little cards given out with his earliest figures. Here are some hand drawn images:

Sketch from a few years ago:

Box art:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Astro Zombies shop

Edit: Click here for my more recent shop write up (with store location, hours, etc.) from 2.2.2012

The venerable Astro Zombies toy shop has a new location. When I first rolled up to the old location in Namba, Osaka, I was concerned that the mini sign board wasn't out in front. Anyway, we went on up and found the floor was blocked out on the elevator. So we went to the next floor up and asked the shop keeper (I think it was a record store) what was up. He was super friendly and went downstairs and outside with us to point out the direction of the new AZ shop.
It's just down the road from the old shop. Basically, as you exit the old AZ, don't turn left or right. Just keep walking forward, for maybe 100-150 meters. you'll see the shop almost directly in front of you at the end of the alley. So, it's really easy to find. It's in the heart of the Namba otaku cluster, just around the corner from Super Position, Jungle, Heroes., etc. Prime location.

There are still "congratulations flowers" out in front, so it must have been a very recent move.

The new AZ's store site was previously occupied by an old skool toy shop - called Capsule or something.
The new AZ is bright, shiny, and well-stocked with a range of toys - same as the old shop. It occupies 2 levels of the building. There's also a 3rd floor, but it's currently blocked off.

Behind the register is a nice display of older Skullwings and other cool figures.

Check it out if you're in Kansai!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Max Toy @ Kaiju Blue custom show

I always enjoy a good show at Kaiju Blue. The location is great, the staff are friendly, and the well-lit display space is a decent size. I was very happy to be in town during the most recent show, featuring customs of Max Toy characters.

The main showcase includes excellent customs by Mark Nagata and friends, such as Blobpus, Cronic, and many others. Here are some close up shots:

The shop also has some Max Toy prints and paraphernelia for sale, to acccessorize your bad self and tell the world, "Yeah, I know who makes the coolest toys."

Last but not least, a teaser poster of the upcoming Kaiju Comrades show, the March 2009 kaijucopia which will feature a bumper crop of Master Customizers. Leading the MC parade in Harajuku will be Msr. Nagata himself. This intrepid kaiju soul hopes to be there in person to catch the show. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

2009 TTF Pickups

Here's what I picked up at this year's TTF.

First, an original painting based on a really fun line of toys, plus one of the toys from the line called First Strike 1.0.

I really liked the painting that was auctioned on the last day of the show, so I bid on it and was lucky to win. Then I picked up the king toy - His Royal Highness. It's from a series made by a Hong Kong toy company: Locomotive Productions.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Arkiv, an on the move Indonesian designer and a really nice guy. I bought one of his customized Arkiv Instant GID toys, and he gave me a very cool print.
Next is the painted TTF Ban Ban and a sweet sketch from ny green haired buddy Morry:
Hariken! Really nice TTToys x Hariken Mad Panda with metallic spray, and a Dancing Usagi sketch by my always smiling friend.
Tim sketched this wild Helper for me. I picked something up at the TxT show, but I'll have to wait a couple of weeks to pick it up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009 TTF Report Extra: The Venue

For me, one of the most interesting stories of the 2009 TTF was one that hasn't received much coverage on the Net: the venue. For its first 5 years, the TTF was held in a mall, which was nice enough (and a very interesting building in its own right).

But the show grew too big for the limited space offered by the Living Mall, so this year it moved to the Huashan Culture Park, which was the site of last year's after-party.

The Park is on the grounds of a former state owned factory. Some folks will tell you it used to make beer. Others say sugar. In any case, the sprawling grounds were left derilect for many years. Most cities would have bulldozed it years ago to make space for valuable commercial, residential or public buildings. Fortunately, the complex was left alone, and (thank the maker!) a smart person somewhere along the line suggested converting it into an art space.

Taipei has desperately needed something like this for a long time. We have plenty of museums, parks, and what not, along with new sports complexes and a convention center. But art events have been scattered all over, wherever space could be found.

Now, a renovation process is underway to tranform the derelict buildings into galleries, exhibition halls, theaters, etc. But the organizers also seem intent on preserving the charm of the original structures and overall layout of the grounds. To my mind, that seals the deal. I don't think there's a complex anywhere in the city that can challenge the character and charm of the Huashan Culture Park. I hope everything goes smoothly and we'll see tons of events at the site over the years.

Here's a map showing the layout and plans for how the buildings will be used. (At this point, they're 90% empty and are still being renovated.)
A walled off area. Love the walkway and overhead structures!
A sense of the spaciousness of the complex:
Nice open area with wood flooring that was recently put in:
Team working on one of the buildings:
The Earth has started to reclaim this structure:
There's a bunch of graf on the site:

Behind the complex is a massive open area, with a huge lawn, some public art, and even lily ponds. I HOPE this is all left untouched and nobody decides to come along and "design" the space. Parks and open spaces in Taipei tend to be over designed with a heavy hand, with a lot of concrete, weird walls, and unnecessary slopes and other "design elements" thrown in which, frankly, throw off users of the space by making it less accessible and enjoyable. So leave it alone, I say!

Little Spanky dude providing an assist:
Check out these super cool tracks, which I guess were used to transport freight from one part of the complex to another:
Some folks enjoying the day:
Here's the first permanent store added to the Park - an art gallery/store:
On the last day of the TTF, an outdoor concert was held on the grounds:
There's also an Alleycats pizza right next to the hall where the TTF was held. After a day of art, music, and culture, it's awesome to sit down and enjoy a nice stone-oven baked pizza and cold Hoegarden on draft.
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