Press Release

Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju



CONTACT:  Charles Schuler  
Associate Deputy Airport Director
Communications & Marketing
San Francisco International Airport 
650-821- 5031


Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju
New exhibition presents the remarkable evolution of Japanese toys

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Japanese imagination has led to many of the world’s most extraordinary toys. Japanese toys span an unparalleled gamut – from a centuries-long practice of traditional doll making to whimsical folk toys, such as ghostly mechanical kobe figures and papier-mâché guardian dogs. Throughout the prosperous Edo period (1615–1868), many new folk toys were introduced, including cylindrically shaped, wooden kokeshi dolls, which formed the basis of thriving craft industries. During the Meiji period (1868–1912), the Japanese began to make toys that emulated their German and American counterparts, and exported a variety of toys to Europe and the United States in the decades prior to World War II.


After the war, Japan’s toy industry experienced its golden era when makers created a kaleidoscope of unique toys for export and home consumption. Classic wind-up and battery-operated toys of the pre- and post-war eras include dancing couples, tinplate cars, and cymbal-clapping monkeys. Japanese movie, television, and manga (comic) figures including Godzilla (1954), Ultraman (1966), and Astro Boy (1952), inspired legions of iconic character toys. Later, kawaii, or all things cute, became a national obsession, reflected in adorable characters such as Hello Kitty, which Sanrio introduced in 1974.


Kokeshi dolls, menko playing cards, and battery-operated robots are among the quintessential toys on display. Vinyl kaiju figures, Ultraman novelties, and a dress made entirely from plush Hello Kitty dolls are some of the unexpected items on view.


View the online exhibition


Download selected images from the exhibition


Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju is located in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F from Saturday, November 2, 2013 through Sunday, May 11, 2014. The exhibition is located post-security and is only accessible to passengers ticketed for travel through Terminal 3. There is no charge to view the exhibition.


SFO Museum

SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public. The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005, and has the distinction of being the country’s only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. For more information, please visit


S - F - O


About San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 31 international points on 30 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with 76 cities in the U.S. on 15 domestic airlines. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit Follow us on and