All About Japan

Spinning into our Hearts

Handicrafts Video Toys

Many of the toys of old were really more like decorations compared to their complex, multi-jointed, smartphone connective contemporaries, but they were and, often, still can be a source of wonder and fascination. Just ask 80-year-old wooden toy craftsman Masaaki Hiroi, who has been hand-making moving toys powered by the simple spinning tops.

While many of Hiroi’s moving toys feature elements of humor—such as a character that sticks its tongue out, or a man that gleefully slurps noodles—it’s just as entertaining to see Hiroi deftly working his craft on ancient machinery. His decades of practice have lent his movements an almost balletic quality that’s mesmerizing to see in action.

Hiroi says he’s a fourth generation toy maker and that he’s so accustomed to the process, he doesn’t really plan his works anymore and just gets to creating off the cuff. Hiroi also told AJ+ that he’s so enamored with the toy making process that he wishes he could continue working for another 200 years.

Hiroi’s toys may not be as complicated as something like SkyLanders, but we find ourselves enjoying these wooden creations even more thanks to their mechanical simplicity. Though we’re not sure we’d want to let any hyperactive kids play with them (how sad it would be if they were accidentally destroyed)!

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