It is truly only in Japan that
the perfection of junk food comes keenly into focus…
(Photos taken in 5-28-1 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo (about five minutes from the Life store) in April, 2012)
She passes and glows, she has no time for you.
She passes and glows, but her speed causes no time warp.
She passes and glows, and all of Japan’s radio photons contract around her
pulling the whole world out of focus.
As she goes you can’t be sure who she is,
what she was,
or if she was ever going to be the living-ghost mother of your blurry children.
(Picture taken at Nippori Station, Tokyo in April, 2012)
I am midway between 48 and 49 and still enchanted with and charmed by toys. I suppose in a perfect world I would be over my love of toys by now. But I don’t want to live in that world.
Happiness is where you find it, even it it’s in a bit of plastic or vinyl molded to look like a non-existent creature. And when it comes to such toys, my greatest admiration is for the weird, whimsical and very Japanese toys designed by my personal heroes, the Devilrobots.
Mannnn, I just love their stuff. I have quite a bit of it here at the house, though modesty forbids posting pictures lest it be considered a vulgar display. I’ve been a fan for about 10 years, but Devilrobots have been around since 1997. I can’t quite remember exactly how I stumbled upon the toys and trinkets they design. But I do remember making a conscious effort to meet up with my heroes when I was in Tokyo in April and part of May this year. And, lucky me, on May 3rd, 2012 I got to travel to Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and have a look inside the creative world of a small group of geniuses.
And I’d like to share that world with you. So have a look, and enjoy.
My host, Kotohiro Nishiyama, is really just the nicest man. That’s him in the picture below. Due to scheduling conflicts, Koto-san was the only team member who was able to meet me and let me look around Devilrobots’ headquarters. And he didn’t just meet me at the office like anyone else might have. He met me in the rain at Kagurazaka Station on the Tōzai Line and guided me to the Devilrobots’ building near Edogawabashi. He was such a gentleman, letting me wander around as I wished while he did some work in his office. And at one point we sat for a good spell at the Devilrobots’ coffee table (pictured later) and had some cigarettes and talked of toys and the time we both spent in Minnesota and some silly things I don’t exactly recall. His company was delightful and his hospitality was wonderfully generous. And he’d never even met me before.
After meeting Koto-san, well I went a little nuts and took pictures of almost everything I saw. And it started with this To-fu Oyako display right outside the Devilrobots’ front entrance.
Detail from the previous photo.
A beautiful assortment of wonderful characters greets you when you enter Devilrobots.
The reception area and lounge. No receptionist nor sign-in book here. Note the coffee table in the lower right.
Marshmallow princess Maffy, my wife’s favorite character. This is to the right as you enter the Devilrobots’ front door.
The fully-loaded shelves of toys in the Devilrobots’ lounge will blow your mind.
And on the floor, there are Japanese-style To-fu Oyako slot machines.
Devilrobots have designed a whole menagerie of vinyl creatures and characters. The pink figure in the center is a To-fu Oyako x Gloomy Bear mashup.
A crazy-wonderful Devilrobots version of Mickey Mouse.
The entrance foyer, because I forgot to show this previously. Sorry. I got distracted.
The Devilrobots’ Jedi coffee and meeting table.
Just a trinket on the table which Koto-san showed me.
A prototype for the new To-fu Oyako color vinyl figure series. (The figures are now available from Play Imaginative.)
To-fu vinyl and ice water await patiently for attention and consumption.
The two great Devilrobots characters, To-fu Oyako and Evirob, in vinyl on the table. The Evirob figure is also available from Play Imaginative.
Koto-san and I, we had a few cigarettes together when I took a couple of breaks from taking pictures.
Koto-san looks a little like a Japanese Abraham Lincoln.
And except for the unhappy expression, this hirsute to-fu sculpture kind of looks like Koto-san.
To-fu Oyako happy figure madness.
To-fu Oyako “Toy Story” UFO catcher alien.
Devilrobot’s Medicom Toy 100% Be@rbricks. These are kind of rare. I’m lucky to have all three (the first one is the same as the third, but showing the back of the head.)
There is whimsy at every turn where the Devilrobots live.
In a snow globe of his own, lonely Kiiro-chan.
400% be@rbricks and other figures. Does the one on the left look familiar?
A prestigious award that lead designer Shinichiro Kitai won with his To-fu Oyako character in a design competition before founding Devilrobots in 1997. I would have met Shin-san but for the scheduling conflicts, both his and mine but mostly mine, mentioned earlier. I regret this missed opportunity, but I hope to compensate by meeting Shin-san the next time I’m in Tokyo.
Well, that’s it.
I shot a hell of a lot more photos than the ones you’ve just seen. But even the internet can only hold so much data. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour and commentary from me about my wonderful time visiting the Devilrobots.
(And Koto-san, from me to you I say thanks. Meeting up with you that afternoon in Shinjuku was one of the happiest experiences I’ve had in Japan.)
a Tokyo day,
in the crowd of a place I know
where the world is either
walking on the left, or the right
and everyone has someplace interesting to go.
I wish I was there today.
(Photos taken in Nakano Sun Mall, Tokyo in April, 2012.)
It’s not all crowds and insanity in Tokyo all the time..
There are quiet moments, even in the most crazed and noisy places. And you savor and capture those moments whenever you can. Because Tokyo is a genius glorious dream, but Tokyo can grind you down into powder for a teacup.
(Picture taken in a UFO catcher joint in Nakano Sun Mall, Tokyo in April, 2012)
I don’t two-step for Buddha or his husband Jesus anymore, not like I ever did that much or was good at it.
I eat my fingers to the bone, and sometimes ask for seconds even as parts of my skeleton digits get bleached white in the Tokyo sun.
I am the greatest hero which you have never heard of, of which you never have heard, that you never heard….oh fuck it.
Grammar and semantics and semicolons, these are the reasons I find it easier to talk to cans of booze rather than humans these days.
I come across as desperate and bewildered to you, don’t I? You idiot, you are spelunking these streets like you’re the first one to find the dregs of humanity.
The novelty of it astounds you.
We are, in fact, unionized and we have chapters in every major city on Earth.
I am the crazy fruit of the tree on which those American hillbillies grow their liquor corn and under which they date high school girls from Okinawa.
And that works for me; it has for several years.
So either take a drink with me or fuck off.
(Photos taken in Sanya, Minami-senju, Tokyo in April 2012)
Every day of my immortal life I am the Goddess of Wholesome Milk Candy to these fucking people. Every day, I smile and wave at them. I wear my best clothes for them.
And every day they just pass me by.
I cry for myself inner plaster-and-steel tears, because every day they pass me by.
But I keep standing, and waving, and smiling, hoping some day someone will stop and play with me.
(Pictures taken in Nakano Broadway, Tokyo in April, 2012. Pictures are of Peko-chan, the world-famous mascot for Fujiya Co. of Japan.)
You see all the cars on the road in Japan today.
Probably in America too.
You’re from America, right?
Cars always have headlights on, even in daytime.
It’s for visibility, they say.
It’s for safety, they say.
But what it looks like to me, I’ll tell you what it looks like to me.
I’m smiling because these days it’s obvious:
Everyone on the road is in a motorcade for a funeral.
And as the saying goes, they don’t even know it.
(Pictures taken in Sanya, Minami-senju, Tokyo in April, 2012)
If you live or work in Tokyo, seeing variations of drunk men sleeping out in the open on cardboard or tatami mats is probably not a revelation nor a shocking thing.
(I am snoozing now, so please go away.)
But what struck me about this very neatly comatose man sleeping by himself in the open air of Sanya was that he had his hands in his pockets. This seemed odd and wonderful to me, as if even in his intoxicated slumber this man gives a shit about something.
(I need only cardboard, tatami, and whiskey to get me through the day.
And when I wake up hung-over I’ll be back to my normal play.
I wonder if there are horses or boats racing today.)
(Photos taken on the shōtengai in Sanya, Minami-senju, Tokyo in April, 2012)