I was planning my trip to Boston where I was attending a conference for work. I usually like to try and do a bit of research to see if there are any interesting Japanese toy stores in the cities i'm visiting. Nothing is cooler than visiting Japanese toy stores in other cities. I knew that Josh Bernard from CollectionDX lived in Boston so I dropped him a note asking if he would refer me to a couple of cool local stores (if any existed). Josh is a veteran. He's been in the toy business for a long time and is pretty connected with the Japanese toy mob. If you don't already check out his site, do so as it's chock full of great content and photography. Josh is into vintage Japanese die-cast mecha. Aren't we all? No, seriously him and his buddies are really into vintage die-cast. They even have a "Chogokin Summit" each year where they all get together, trade and buy toys from each other, eat, drink and probably fart a lot and watch anime. Again, it sounds like the perfect weekend! Check out the gruesome details including video footage of the toy carnage at the 2006 East Coast Chogokin Summit. Finally, Josh is also the man behind another online toy property called Chogokin.net It's another cool site that just has Japanese toy news feeds. Just the facts, madame.
Although I have been a visitor to his site for many years, it wasn't until recently that we started trading emails on various topics. Josh replied quickly with a list of a number of stores in the area that offered up Japanese toys. He then offered to meet up and show me around. I would probably do the same for any of you guys that write me asking about cool Japanese stores in the Bay Area. I would send you a list and then depending on my calendar, offer to meet up. The actual meeting up part is where it gets tricky and the same place where I would conveniently have some crisis to deal with. Work, family and just not wanting to hang out with pretty much a complete stranger are easy deterents for such meetings. Maybe it's Josh, maybe it's people in Boston, maybe it was the hot weather, but to my surprise, Josh kept to his word and actually went out of his way to meet up with me and show me around. Call it a toy date if you will. Two married with kids, kinda geeky, middle-aged guys meeting up to talk about Japanese toys and the whole Japanese toy "scene". How can you spend a better evening?
We started off at a building called the "Garage" located in Harvard Square in Cambridge not too far from downtown Boston. The first toy store we visited is called Tokyo Kid. Tokyo Kid as the name implies is all about Japanese toys and anime. Very cool store with some pretty decent prices on some nice Soul of Chogokin figures and what not. They had all the stuff you would normally expect, but nothing really unusual jumped out. Don't me wrong, if you're in Boston, it's a must visit. After cruising the aisles for 20 minutes or so just to make sure we didn't miss anything, we went just down the way to Newbury Comics.
Newbury Comics is a very interesting store. There are several in Boston and sort of like Tower Records (for you West Coasters), they feature CD's, DVD's, but a surprising amount of toys including Japanese and Designer. Much more than Tower Records.
It was here that Josh showcased his encyclopedic knowledge of all things die-cast. On the bottom row almost next to my shoes, behind a Final Fantasy figure, Josh pointed out a couple of Bandai Masked Rider figures with die-cast armor. Even before looking at the price, he called out: "these are probably on clearance". He looked at the price and said: "these are a steal, you should get them" They were going for $11.99 each. I pay more for a fucking Kubrick let alone die-cast of ANY kind. Josh was right. They were a steal and these two figures made me appreciate vintage die-cast again. Were not talking about spendy Soul of Chogokin stuff here. These are part plastic, but the armor is die-cast parts. More importantly, the figure had heft to it. The hands have Kung Fu grip. It is very satisfying to play with and pose. Limbs stay where you put them with certainty. Not like some of the crap that comes out today where shit is falling off all over the place. No, these figures are quality and the details are just amazing. Great find Josh!
Josh then took me to another little mall that has a bunch of Japanese stores and a Japanese food court where we ate Tokatsu Curry and Ramen. We talked endlessly about toys, our web sites, what it's like shopping in Japan and various characters in the toy scene. It was really great to just open up and talk about toys to a guy that clearly knows more than I do about toys. In the end, Josh even went out of his way and gave me a ride back to my hotel. Talk about a classy date.
Thanks again, Josh!
I promise not to flake if you ever come out to San Francisco!