Latest in world of toys on display at Big Sight

by Kazuaki Nagata

Tokyo International Toy Show 2010 kicked off Thursday, showcasing a wide variety of products ranging from classic to educational to high-tech.

The major exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight features roughly 36,000 toys from 139 domestic and overseas companies.

One item that attracted a lot of attention Thursday was Sega Toys Co.’s Mindflex “brain-wave” toy.

According to the company, the player controls a plastic ball floating in midair on a fan through the power of concentration, which is detected by a headset.

“It’s a type of toy we’ve never seen, so we don’t know how consumers in Japan will react,” said Tetsuya Hayakawa, who works in the global “edutainment” and hobby business department at Sega Toys.

Because players don’t have to use their hands to play, the concept opens up all sorts of possibilities, Hayakawa said. For instance, it can be enjoyed by people with disabilities, and products like radio-controlled cars operated by brain waves could be developed in the future.

While the Mindflex symbolizes the high-tech era, some toys mixing old and new were also drawing attention.

Tenyo Co.’s Jigazo Puzzle @rt, the latest version in its popular Jigazo Puzzle, lets users assemble a jigsaw puzzle of anyone’s face based on the style of historic artists.

The customer takes a picture of someone’s face and e-mails it to the designated address. A reply sent immediately shows which pieces should go where to assemble the pattern.

Ryo Kawai of Tenyo’s sales department said the first version of the Jigazo Puzzle has been a big hit, with about 100,000 units sold since November.

While the concept of custom-made puzzles has been around for a long time, the Jigazo Puzzle is “a new concept . . . people can do it even through a cell phone,” Kawai said.

“From just one jigsaw puzzle box, you can assemble a pattern of anyone’s face in the world,” he said.

Visitors were also eager to check out classic toys, including Lica-chan dolls, as well as character toys from popular “anime” like “Anpanman” and “One Piece.”

Cooking toys, a big hit at last year’s show, are on prominent display. Among them is Happinet Corp.’s cotton candy maker. More than 20,000 units have been sold.

Meanwhile, the Japan Toy Association reported earlier this week that domestic toy sales came to ¥649.4 billion in fiscal 2009, down a mere 0.9 percent from the previous year, indicating the toy market remains firm.

Ahead of the toy show, the association also announced this year’s awards in seven categories — boys, girls, educational, character-driven, innovative, “high target” for adults, and universal.

The award winners attracted a lot of visitors Thursday, especially in the boys category. For instance, many people tried the virtual golf toy Ryo Ishikawa Excite Golf, produced by Epoch Co. in collaboration from the popular professional golfer.

The show will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday.