The Incredible Toy Shops: Star Case of Tokyo
I’m not sure it can come off as anything other than bragging, but here it is: this week I’ll return home from my fifth trip to Japan in as many years.
And this trip offered a long-awaited opportunity while passing through Tokyo to drop in on a small toy shop that’s been on my radar for a few years now. Of course I’m referring to none other than Star Case, in Tokyo’s Kouenji district.
Star Case is smaller than most American bedrooms. But judge it by its size will you? Well just don’t. Yuu Katagiri, the shop’s owner, has taken great care to densely pack each square inch of his space with jaw-smashing, brain-melting Star Wars gold.
The dozen or so glass display cases are rich with Star Wars toys and trinkets of every imaginable stripe, but certainly with an emphasis on the rare, vintage and extremely high end. The items that don’t fit in cases (boxed vintage vehicles and their ilk) are stacked on top of the cases clear to the ceiling.
It should come as no surprise that there’s a large contingency of Japanese-produced vintage items. As I gawked at a collection of four mint-on-card Takara 8″ vintage figures from 1978, Yuu was quick to point out that it’s the “only set”. I’m not sure what he meant by that but hey, I’m on board.
From every vantage point there’s a new wave of awesome to behold. Turn this way and there are vintage Japanese advertising placards hanging from the ceiling. About face and you’ve got a life-size Darth Vader presiding over the cash register. And for knowledgeable Star Wars collectors there’s intense payoff in the matter-of-fact display of a vintage Kenner Yakface hardcopy prototype. If you’re into more modern offerings there are generous displays of Gentle Giant, Attakus, and Sideshow items as well.
As if all this wasn’t good enough, there’s an added twist that sends Star Case far over the top: custom vinyl Star Wars toys designed and produced by Yuu Katagiri himself. According to Yuu he designs, sculpts, and produces two or three different releases each year, selling in limited quantities of 50 to collectors worldwide. The toys themselves are a playful collision of vintage Star Wars and Japanese Kaiju that fit right at home in the Star Case universe.
If you go – and I highly recommend you do – bring plenty of cash (Star Case takes no credit cards and prices tend to reach high altitudes). An interpreter wouldn’t hurt either as Yuu’s English is limited.
Here are plenty more photos from my brief visit. Enjoy.