[From March Issue 2012]
After the Great East Japan Earthquake rolling blackouts on a large scale made people all over Japan more conscious of the importance of conserving energy. This new eco-friendly attitude also had an influence on children’s games.
Eco-toys are toys that can be played without using electricity – that includes board games such as Othello. The new eco-toys on show at last year’s Toy Show were able to light up or make sounds without using conventional batteries. Parents are hopeful that toys which run when the child pushes them around, or use solar or bio-technology batteries, will stimulate the intellectual curiosity of their children.
MegaHouse Corporation unveiled their Ecolo, a hybrid mini car that does not use batteries at the show. The korogashi hatsuden (rolling power generation) unit mounted on the mini car transforms the spinning motion of the tires into electricity; by pushing this miniature car around, its lights illuminate, its sirens wail and music plays. Retail and department stores are now selling the first series of these products, which includes a patrol car, fire engine and garbage truck.
OSUO Masahiro in charge of Marketing and Sales Promotion, says, “It all started when one of our developers came up with the idea for his own children. Children love toys that flash and make sounds. We want children to be able to enjoy a toy without having to experience the hassle of changing batteries. It was difficult to develop an energy device that small children could charge themselves, but we’ve received a really positive response from customers and that motivates us to work harder. We’re currently developing other new products.
At the trade show, TOMY Company Ltd. introduced their “Tecology Tomica” and “Tecology Plarail” mini-car and train toys, both of which are powered by a micromini electricity unit mounted on the toy that generates electricity when the toy is pushed along. TOMY is also developing a Plarail series of trains powered by a solar battery mounted on the roof, and a remote controlled mini car powered by fruit juice.
In order to launch their Eco Toy activities, TOMY Company has established an environment department; in doing so they aim to raise awareness through play amongst this generation of children. The department manager TAKABAYASHI Noriyuki says, “In order to develop new toys, we needed to create a company standard; to figure out what kind of toys are ecologically friendly, save resources, save energy, and are fit for long term use. Environmental concerns are something that we should address as a society. We hope our actions will take root, and in time, bit by bit, develop and sustain this movement.”
Meanwhile, analog toys such as board games, card games and three dimensional puzzles – toys such as Othello, playing cards, and Jenga – are being reevaluated. At MegaHouse and TOMY, sales of such games have increased since last year. Of course people buy them partly because they’re eco-friendly, but that’s not the whole story, they are also in part seen as a way to develop communication skills.
As video games have become more common in households, it has been said that communication through play has decreased. Analog toys that provide opportunities for people of all ages to interact are being reevaluated as a way to nurture children’s communication skills. From now on we are bound to see more progress in a variety of forms for eco-toys that are built to support the three core values of protecting the environment, developing intellectual curiosity, and encouraging communication.
Text: HATTA Emiko