When you’re taking Japanese lessons, it’s fun to learn about certain aspects of Japanese culture. Japanese pop culture has made a significant impact in the United States and worldwide.
From electronic game consoles to action figures, Japan has had a long-standing influence on the worldwide toy market. You probably remember a lot of the items on this list, but never really knew their true origin.
Go ahead and embrace your inner child, it’s time to get nostalgic. Here are six popular Japanese toys you may remember from your childhood.
Before today’s popular gaming consoles with real-life graphics and motion sensors, there was an Italian plumber named Mario who set out to save his beloved Princess from the forces of evil. The Nintendo® Entertainment System, which was created by the Nintendo Company in Kyoto, Japan, was released in North America in 1985. The game console was released along with the Super Mario Bros game, which became the best-selling video game of all time.
Since it’s creation, the Nintendo® brand has sold more than 4.3 billion video games, and the company has launched several popular game consoles like the Game Boy, Nintendo 64, and Nintendo Wii.
You may remember some of Mario’s friends like Donkey Kong and Zelda, in fact, they were probably an important part of your childhood.
Beyblades are relatively more recent than a lot of the toys on this list, but the spinning, top-like contraptions bring us back to a simpler time. In the digital age full of iPads and electronic devices, Beyblades’ simple design took the toy market by storm.
The tops were made of plastic and metal, and with a limitless amount of color variations, they were very popular to collect. You could also square off with friends and compete to see who’s BeyBlades could stay spinning the longest.
According to the New York Times, the original wave of Beyblades were released in the early 2000s and were based on the Japanese fighting tops called bei-goma. The toys were reintroduced in Japan in 2008, with some more modern, high-tech upgrades. Since then, the toys have taken off in the United States.
In addition to the tops, there are also electronic Beyblade games and a Beyblade series on DVD.
3. Power Rangers
With several TV series, movies, spinoffs, and action figures, the Power Rangers are one of the most popular franchises in history. If you were a fan of the show, you probably had multiple action figures, complete with weapons, vehicles, and other super-hero type gadgets.
“The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” TV show started in the United States in 1993, and was based on the Japanese show “Super Sentai.” Action figures were created as a result of the show’s popularity, and new toys continued to be developed as other shows were created. The Power Rangers action figures were manufactured by Bandai, a toy company which was founded in Japan.
Although the show has been around for 20+ years, the toys are still popular. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Power Rangers toys generated $80 million in revenue in 2012.
Another Bandai product, the egg-shaped digital toys called Tamagotchi hatched in 1996, selling more than 40 million units worldwide. Aki Maita created the original virtual pet in Japan, and she did her market research in shopping districts in Tokyo.
The digital toys were widely popular and many brands released their own similar products. You may have had a love-hate relationship with your own Tamagotchi, but one thing is for sure, the electronic virtual pet probably gave you one of your first early lessons in responsibility.
Good news for you Tamagotchi fans, if you own an iPhone you can download the Tamagotchi classic app, which is also available for the new iWatch. Maybe you’ll have better luck taking care of your digital pet this time around!
5. Hello Kitty
One of the world’s most famous cats (or maybe not a cat, but we don’t need to get into the specifics), Hello Kitty was introduced in Japan in 1974. Created by the Sanrio toy company, Hello Kitty’s image has been used on toys, stationary, stickers, accessories, apparel, and even a toaster that imprints her face onto your bread.
The Sanrio company has been around in Japan since the 1960s, but the franchise has expanded to the United States and worldwide. Besides Hello Kitty, you may remember some of Sanrio’s other characters like Keroppi, Badtz-Maru, and Pochacco.
Maybe you remember the cards, maybe you remember the games, but when it comes to Pokemon, you definitely remember the madness!
Pokémon was created in 1996 when Satoshi Tajiri collaborated with Nintendo to create the video game. Nintendo released a Game Boy game, and a few months later the first Pokemon trading cards appeared in Japan. Three years later, the cards made their way to store shelves in the United States.
Since the release in 1996, Pokémon has been turned into an animated show, a movie, action figures, plush toys, and more. You may not be able to catch them all, but you probably caught Pokémon fever as a child.
These are just some of many toys created in Japan that became worldwide sensations.
How many of these toys do you remember? Which ones were your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!