It's a cold afternoon in mid-January and, inside a factory operated by Maruyama Toys in a quiet residential area in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward, Cory Privitera is making sofubi (soft vinyl toys).

In a cramped workspace surrounded by machinery and long sinks, the 33-year-old begins by laying out a series of square plates onto which molds of various shapes and sizes are affixed.

Behind one sink sits a pile of dozens of other molds, some of which are decades old and can still be used today.