Japanese toy makers have some innovative, gastronomic ideas
By Michael Keferl
The International Tokyo Toy Show is the best way to get a grip on the coming year of toys, but when the Cscout Japan team made its annual visit to the 2008 show we saw a lot of toys that, well, are beginning to look a lot less like toys.
Beginning around two years ago, toy makers began realizing that their shrinking target market of children was affecting sales. While Nintendo began releasing adult “brain training” and cooking software, toy makers such as Sega Toys and Banpresto were producing home lifestyle accessories for gadget-loving grown-ups with money to spend.
Highlights from Sega Toys this year range from the highly detailed miniature Home Jukebox to their Karada Trainer (body trainer) headphones that give the wearer verbal information about their running pace and heart rate. Even their highly successful Homestar home planetarium series will be receiving a major upgrade with an $800 Homestar EX large model. Hardly the kinds of toys (or prices) that get kids excited, but these toys aren’t for them anyway.
However, both young and old will be able to enjoy new products focused on Japan’s greatest lifestyle love: Food. Japan is known for its food, but also its intense love of food, and every major manufacturer has at least a few offerings to help fill stomachs in a fun way.
Takara Tomy has an especially intense focus on both real and imagined food. Following up from last year’s Ie Soba (home soba maker), PastaPasta is a colorful device that allows amateur chefs to create their own pasta with the turn of a crank, and their ice cream and doughnut makers make desert creation fun. In fact, Takara Tomy’s catalog now features dozens of kids culinary toys for making everything from chocolate fondue to gigantic buckets of Giga Pudding that can serve twenty people!
Food is a fashion and craft item as well, with multiple toy makers coming out with DIY sets for the snack-happy to create their own miniature versions of desserts complete with rubberized frosting and bejeweled toppings. Of course, being Japan, such creations are destined for mobile phone straps.
It could just be that we’re getting older ourselves, but it seems that the idea of what a toy is has changed since we were kids. There’s still plenty of the plastic gun, R/C car and doll stuff to go around, but the market has matured to fit both demographic and taste changes. Adults raised on technology still want to have fun gadgetry, but they also want intelligent and stylish toys for their own children. The result is a mix of both, and many offerings that can be enjoyed by all. JI
Michael Keferl is a Trend Scout for Cscout Japan, part of the global Cscout market research, Trend Scouting, and Experience/Trend Tour network. With a cross-industry focus on current and emerging trends in the rapidly changing Japanese market, their popular daily blog can be found at www.CscoutJapan.com