“It’s important to make it with your own hands.” Interview with Tamiya Representative Director and Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya

The interview was held by Seiji Nakamura on May 10, 2023 at the 61st Shizuoka Hobby Show

The 61st Shizuoka Hobby Show, Japan’s largest model exhibition sponsored by the Shizuoka Model Teaching Materials Cooperative, opened on May 10th at Twin Messe Shizuoka.

The union’s customary joint press conference was held from 10 a.m. on the first day, and Shunsaku Tamiya, chairman and president of Tamiya, who serves as the chairman, answered questions from the media.

Mr. Tamiya said that the model market has actually grown due to demand from people staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, but that the market is too small in Japan alone, so it is necessary to go global, and that overseas buyers are becoming more active. It was mentioned that the Southeast Asian market is promising. As a concrete initiative, Tamiya is currently constructing a new factory in the Philippines, which is expected to be completed in October.

In addition, in response to a question from the media about the definition of “Japan’s largest,” the company answered, “It’s not about the number, but the content.” Admission is free, elementary, middle, and high school invitation days have been set, and the Self-Defense Forces have been participating for over 10 years, making it meaningful as a public relations venue. Bushi Tamiya is still alive and well, pointing out things that he approves of and chiding him, saying, “Please study those things.” Shizuoka’s world-class model show was fully promoted. In this article, we will report on an individual interview conducted at the Tamiya booth after the press conference.

–Chairman Tamiya, please tell us about your thoughts on “models.”

Mr. Tamiya: Characters from manga and movies are now popular, but we make the models ourselves. That’s the important part. Professors at Shizuoka University are also supporting us in moving this forward. Making models in school education. I think this is a modest but important initiative.

–How do you plan to grow the model market in the future?

Mr. Tamiya: The model market is modest compared to the rapid growth of manga and movies. However, it is now slowly spreading in Japan, as well as in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Regardless of whether or not this will become a big business in the future, I think it is important to encourage not only Shizuoka University but all universities with educational departments across the country to participate.

Children these days are increasingly being given finished products, and it is important that they make them with their own hands. There are also refugees from Ukraine in Shizuoka, and when they tried out the mini 4WD, they were thrilled to see that they were able to build it with their own hands and drive it themselves.

–I would like to ask you as the chairman of Tamiya. What are the hottest items this year?

Mr. Tamiya: It’s not a tank or a fighter plane, it’s a radio-controlled car. It’s all fun.

–That was a surprising answer.

Mr. Tamiya: Is that so? The reason train models went out of fashion in the past was because they wouldn’t run unless you pulled the rails. Radio-controlled cars can be driven remotely. This is the charm. Tamiya is the company that made electric radio-controlled cars popular in America. Until then, it had been running on dry batteries, but we sold it with a Sanyo battery that can be recharged 300 times. It sold like hotcakes at the time.

–I thought Chairman Tamiya would definitely mention tanks and fighter planes first.

Mr. Tamiya: No, no. German tanks are not popular in Germany, the home of European models. There is a history of being violated. Speaking of tanks, it’s Dr. Porsche, but Japan currently doesn’t have a leader like Dr. Porsche, so Japanese tanks are not good.

–Looking at this year’s Tamiya lineup, you can clearly sense Chairman Tamiya’s unique commitment, but to what level is Chairman Tamiya involved in the development of new products?

Mr. Tamiya: That hasn’t changed. If it’s a tank, start by going to see the actual tank.

–So you’re going to interview tank museums in places like Bovington and Saumur, right? Is Chairman Tamiya himself doing this?

Mr. Tamiya: Yes. There’s also one in Aberdeen, Maryland. Talk to the curator there and see the tank. This is important. In return, please make a donation. We’re doing that all over the world.

–There was a Tamiya Hall in Bovington.

Mr. Tamiya: I believe we donated about 30 million yen. Something like this happened at the Smithsonian Museum in the United States. The Smithsonian said, “Mr. Tamiya, your company has expanded its business in the United States and achieved success. Therefore, you are eligible to donate to the Smithsonian.” I won’t ask you to donate (lol). Because of this background, you cooperated with the Smithsonian in restoring the surface fighter Seiran, which was carried by a Japanese submarine. This is not an advertisement (lol).

–Tamiya is known for its models, but as Chairman Tamiya, are there any new objects you would like to model in the future? Or do you feel like you’ve already done everything?

Mr. Tamiya: No, no. That’s not true. Not at all yet. Check out Tamiya’s fun craft series. There you have the answer. The fun craft series is also an excellent teaching material for school education. This is not a virtual world like Nintendo. You can assemble it with your own hands and actually move it.

 This initiative has also been praised in Germany. This is because there are no similar teaching materials in Europe. In German educational settings, these kinds of teaching materials are more important than the currently popular virtual ones. This is because the teachers in the field are solid. Germany rejects the 6-3-3 system (6 years of elementary school, 3 years of junior high school, and 3 years of high school) that was imposed on the United States after the war. The history of education in my country is longer than the history of your country, so there is a sense of pride among Germanic peoples.

–What are your future goals as Tamiya chairman?

Mr. Tamiya: It’s about making the company bigger. As I mentioned briefly at the press conference, we are currently building a factory in the Philippines. It will be completed in October of this year, and will allow us to meet even more demand. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite the large demand, we were unable to deliver enough products to our customers due to a lack of production capacity. This will be improved. looking forward to it.

–How much will production capacity increase once the new factory in the Philippines is completed?

Mr. Tamiya: About 20%.

–Can we expect the shortage of Tamiya plastic models to be resolved?

Mr. Tamiya: To be honest, I think it’s still not enough. We would like to build a factory in Japan, but the cost will increase. My hourly wage has also increased, which makes it difficult.

–In that sense, do you have any plans to build more new factories in Southeast Asia?

Mr. Tamiya: There is a possibility. Southeast Asia is a powerful market. However, there are some unstable places such as Myanmar, so we are thinking carefully about that.

–You mentioned that you want to strengthen your overseas operations, but which regions do you want to focus on in the future?

Mr. Tamiya: China is receiving strong inquiries. However, there are some things that I don’t know about China. It’s not a democratic country. We don’t have any branch offices in China yet, only distributors. We also had an agency in Russia, but it is no longer active.

–What is the situation in Ukraine?

Mr. Tamiya: Just like in Russia, business is difficult. However, it seems that some enthusiastic model-related people are coming to Shizuoka on a private basis.

–The Ukrainian-spec Leopard 2 was a timely product.

Mr. Tamiya: Well, that was a direct request from the Leopard company. Thanks to you, 6,000 units were sold instantly. There is a shortage of products.

–I’m looking forward to the “Ukrainian specification series” such as Challenger 2 and Abrams in the future.

Mr. Tamiya: I think you can look forward to that. Rather, what I think is that each tank has a different fuel. The engines are different, and the bullets are similar, but there are some differences. The cartridges are also different. I’m worried about whether I can fight with that.

–It’s sad that the Japanese Type 10 tank is not included in that tank alliance.

Mr. Tamiya: No, no. Japan’s Type 10 is completely useless. That is a tank from a country that does not wage war. Not bulletproof enough. You can’t actually fight.

–Please give a message to model fans.

Mr. Tamiya: Tamiya’s models are of the highest quality in the world. Unfortunately, we have not had enough supply capacity so far, but we are currently building a factory, so once it is completed, we will be able to deliver our products to everyone. Please look forward to our supply capacity. Nowadays, there are many distributors coming from overseas, but the ones that have become Tamiya distributors are all developing. Coexistence and co-prosperity; it is no good for us to become big on our own. Some of our agencies have been with us for over 50 years. I turned 88 years old last December, but I’m really enjoying myself now.

–After hearing your story, I realized that you are not thinking about retirement at all (lol).

Mr. Tamiya: Active throughout his life. I’m not retiring. Because if I don’t work, I don’t get paid (lol). There’s nothing wrong with my body. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my head, and I don’t think I’m stupid either (lol). 88 is still a passing point. I will do my best. Thank you for your continued support of Tamiya.

–thank you very much.
Source of article in Japanese language: Hobby Watch