[From May Issue 2013]
Kitan Club Co., Ltd.
Birds that look as if they are about to fly, cute rabbits and cats: these are all palm-sized figurines. Easily obtained from capsule toy vending machines, known as “gachagacha” and toy shops, they are quite popular among children and adults.
Kitan Club Co., Ltd. (Shibuya Ward, Tokyo), is a company founded in September 2006, which plans, designs, manufactures and sells capsule toys. The company is well established with a reputation for creating fully-imagined toys. Drawing inspiration from plants and animals in the natural world, their “Nature Techni Colour” series is especially popular.
Nature Techni Colour signifies: “Figurines of all kinds of natural objects in natural colours.” Creatures are grouped according to their ecosystem; for example, sea turtles go together with dolphins and whales. There are about ten animals in each set. When you have collected the set, it’s as if the natural world has invaded your desktop.
The director of the company who created this series, SATO Junya, relates how they got started on the series: “Since we could not find high-quality figurines of living creatures, we decided to make them ourselves. The models of mushrooms and edible wild plants are mostly life-sized. We hear about children surprising their families by secretly attaching models of frogs and lizards to the refrigerator with magnets. We receive a lot of requests and take these into account when we make new products.”
Some items in the Nature Techni Colour series come with a pedestal useful for display, a magnet or a cell-phone strap. The popular “Kaiyo I” (Ocean No. 1) is sold in souvenir shops in aquariums around Japan.
Each individual figurine is designed by an artisan called a genkei-shi. The person in charge of planning discusses the specifications of each item – shape, size, etc. – with the genkei-shi and modifications are made until they are satisfied with the product. Up until the product is completed in the factory, strict quality control checks are carried out.
As a company, Kitan Club has also been active in supporting reconstruction efforts after the earthquake. Since April, 2011, just a short time after the earthquake, a portion of the profits from the sale of the Nature Techni Colour series has been donated. Furthermore, the company has been periodically holding workshops to create dioramas of disaster struck areas using their figurines of living creatures. By turning the tree frog, a local mascot, which is a symbol of reconstruction, into a figurine, and also by returning a portion of sales profits to damaged areas, the company demonstrates its close links with the disaster-struck areas.
Sato says, “We would be delighted if children from around the world became interested in living beings and nature as a whole as a result of getting their hands on our Nature Techni Colour figurines.”
Text: MUKAI Natsuko