A random walk through the narrow residential streets of Yokohama can often lead to unexpected discoveries. Like stumbling on an unassuming little house that’s a toy museum, home of one of the world’s largest vintage tin toy collections. In the tight space of a couple of rooms the club director’s “Kitahara Collection” can fill you with nostalgia, and maybe a touch of the creeps.
The toys range from the 1890s through the 1960s, a kind of “golden age” for tin toys. Most of them were made in Japan, and all were amassed by Teruhisa Kitahara, the author of several books on vintage toys and one of the world’s preeminent collectors. Kitahara has been hunting down tin toys and wind-ups since the 1970s, and the examples on display in his little museum are all part of his personal collection.
The museum, which includes a small shop where you can buy some tin toys for yourself, was opened to the public in 1986. It became a way for Kitahara to share his spinning acrobats, chiming monkeys, toy planes, and mini railroads for all toy fans. There are some quirks in the collection too, like the Creature from the Black Lagoon staring out at all the toys from a glass case on the floor.
There’s one more notable thing about this museum. In 1987, American animator John Lasseter visited it and was inspired to create a short film titled Tin Toy at Pixar Animation Studios, which led to the creation of the world-famous Toy Story series. The Japanese toy museum mentioned in Toy Story 2, needless to say, was inspired by the Tin Toy Museum in Yokohama as well.
Know Before You Go
The little house/club/museum/toy shop is in the Motomachi Park neighborhood of Yokohama. They have another spot next door, a year-round Christmas Toys shop. To get there from Ishikawacho Station, walk straight down the road to Motomachi Park, turn right at the church, you'll find both Christmas Toys and Tin Toys on the street. It's 200 yen to view the collection, and whatever else you spend on toys and candy.