Toy makers concentrate on robots that can soothe a harried populace

by Kazuaki Nagata

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, people need some relaxation, and that’s what the Japanese toy industry will be selling this year.

Hiroshi Hirano, sales department manager at Sega Toys Co., said Wednesday during the Toy Forum 2009 trade show in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district that the just-completed yearend season saw strong sales in robot pets, which are designed to help people relax at home.

He said his company’s Dream Pet lineup featuring a variety of robotic pets saw a roughly 30 percent sales increase in the October-December quarter compared with the same period in 2007.

Hirano said he believes the brisk sales are partly due to the recent gloom in Japanese society amid the recession.

“I think those toys are popular because they are cute and can soothe people,” Hirano said.

He said robot pets are also popular with consumers who can’t have real pets, the toys’ original concept.

Tomy Co. saw an 80 percent increase in sales of its robot puppy, which people can take for a walk, in terms of units moved.

Toy makers have marketed other relaxing toys, too.

For instance, Sega Toys has produced a planetarium that people can use in a bath to unwind.

Tomy has also produced a robotic doll that can speak more than 1,500 words.

Toys to help people relax, sometimes called “healing toys,” emerged about four or five years ago, and makers are constantly producing more technologically advanced products, Hirano said.