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Buriki: Japanese Tin Toys from the Golden Age of the American Automobile
The Yoku Tanaka Collection



Thursday, July 9 — Sunday, August 16

This unique and charming exhibition, the first of its kind at any U.S. arts institution, charts the achievements of the Japanese tin-toy industry in the two decades following World War II. A new departure for Japan Society, it is the first in a series of summer exhibitions that will attract new audiences, explore new media, and open up new perspectives on Japanese visual culture. The 70 toys on view have been chosen to delight children, parents, and grandparents with the quality of their detailing and their often bright, realer-than-real color schemes.

Coupling traditional metalworking skills with imported machinery, Japanese tin toys established a worldwide reputation in the 1920s and 1930s for their quality and detailed workmanship. With the resumption of international trade in 1947, exports grew rapidly. Leading American marques such as Ford, Packard, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Belair, Buick, and Cadillac competed to market ever more seductively styled cars to U.S. consumers in an increasingly automobile-based society. In Japan, toy manufacturers followed these styling trends closely, retooling often in order to offer miniature versions of the latest models to eager American children.

This selection from the Tanaka collection features 70 cars, airplanes, buses, spaceships, speedboats, and helicopters that provide a fascinating overview of the postwar Japanese tin-toy industry—a symbol of Japan’s startlingly rapid postwar rebirth—and of the Golden Age of automobile styling in the United States.


Most of the toys shown here, and the prototypes from which they were derived, may be covered by various copyrights, trademarks, and logotypes. All rights are reserved by their respective owners.

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Topics:  Art, Design, Popular Culture

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