Kiddy Land: A Toy Mecca, Then and Now

kiddy land present dayIt’s Christmas Eve! If you’re in Tokyo and you still haven’t found time to go Christmas shopping for the kids because you’ve been drinking late into the night at all of the bounenkai parties inside and outside your company, there is a one-stop shop for childrens’ presents – Kiddy Land!

Like FAO Schwartz in New York City, Kiddy Land is a go-to place for tourists visiting Omotesando, the main strip in one of the ritziest parts of Tokyo. Celebrities and tourists of all persuasions have gone up and down its five stories, getting their fix of Japanese cuteness (kawaii) and toy innovation all in one place.

There are whole sections dedicated to Hello Kitty and Snoopy. But more significantly, Kiddy Land claims to have introduced the Valentine’s Day tradition to Japan in 1972 (although that is more likely to have happened in the 1950s), as well as the Halloween parade in 1983.

kiddyland ad in japan times
Kiddy Land ad in the Japan Times_October 19, 1964

In other words, it is a Tokyo cultural icon. I just never knew it had been around so long, as evidenced by the ad seen above in the October 19, 1964 Japan Times. In fact, Kiddy Land started in 1950 as a book store.

Many Olympians probably did visit Kiddy Land as it was only about a few football fields down the road from the Olympic Village. But toys made in Japan at the time did have a poor reputation, at a time when Made in Japan meant, cheap but poor in quality.

Even more interestingly are the other ads that populated that space. I suppose these ads reflected what was popular with visiting foreigners: swords, pearls, tailored clothes, handicrafts and “Beautiful Sweet Girls Beer” (only 280 yen!)

KiddyLand 1950