Company’s artists turn children’s drawings into one-of-a-kind toys

by Mariko Fujimoto

Kyodo

A business founded by a Tokyo university student is turning children’s drawings into one-of-a-kind toys, with some parents willing to pay more than ¥10,000 for the custom-made items.

“It’s exactly the same as I drew in the picture,” Masaki Gono, 6, of Komae, said after receiving a stuffed green dragon that was created based on his own drawing.

His 9-year-old sister, Terumi, shouted for joy as well. “The belly feels so soft and nice,” she said as she touched the stuffed white cat that was made from her drawing.

The toys include perfectly re-created details of their drawings, including the flames coming out of the dragon’s mouth and the embroidery design of the cat’s tail and the fish it is holding in its paw.

“We are very impressed as it seems like that their drawings have actually stepped out of the two-dimensional paper and turned into three-dimensional figures,” their 41-year-old mother Mio said. “By trying to figure out the process of becoming something three-dimensional, it will help stretch their imagination.”

Providing the service is Rakugaki Memory, a venture founded by Kenta Mizuno, 23, a senior at Tokyo’s Waseda University who studies commerce.

Mizuno said he learned that a similar service was available overseas and wanted to launch it in Japan.

Customers send in a photograph of their children’s drawing. A contract artist, mostly housewives and university students who Mizuno has recruited online, start making the toy based on the drawing.

Over the past six months, his company has created and delivered about 10 custom toys.

The toys are usually about 30 cm and cost roughly ¥10,000. If the drawing is more complicated, there may be an additional fee.

It takes somewhere between two weeks and a month to make a toy once the order is received, Mizuno said.

If the artists have trouble formulating a toy because, for example, the artwork is too abstract, he contacts the customer for a more detailed explanation.

Rina Otsuka, 21, a third-year student at Showa Women’s University in Tokyo, made the dragon for Masaki.

“It was particularly difficult to create the dragon’s legs,” she said. “I felt pressure but worked on it while thinking that it must be great if the child is happy to receive it.”

Otsuka said she took into consideration the balance of the toy and materials, and spent about five hours in total making it.

“Re-creating a drawing precisely is the most difficult part, but we are confident that we are giving children a dream,” Mizuno said.

Some child psychiatrists have endorsed the positive effects of the service on children’s mental development and imagination.

“It is a human being’s universal joy to see what they have created take shape,” said Masami Sasaki, a professor at Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare. “Children will develop a positive identity for themselves and become eager to do everything.”