The 89 year old Tamiya chairman Shunsaku Tamiya speaks powerfully at the Shizuoka Hobby Show about the current state and future of the model industry

On May 8th, the Shizuoka Hobby Show, one of Japan’s largest model trade fairs where domestic hobby manufacturers announce new products, opened at Twin Messe Shizuoka in Suruga Ward, Shizuoka City (Duration: May 8th – 5th). 12th of the month). In 2024, which was the 62nd time, approximately 100 companies exhibited, the largest number ever. It was crowded with many buyers from the first day.

On the first day, which is the day when vendors are invited, the customary event is an interview with the media by Shunsaku Tamiya (Chairman and President of Tamiya) of the Shizuoka Model and Teaching Materials Cooperative, which hosts the hobby show. Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya, who was born in 1934, will be 89 years old this year and once again this year he spoke in powerful words about the current situation of the hobby industry and its future prospects. For several years up until last year, the impact of the new coronavirus had been a major concern for media personnel, but at this year’s hobby show, which has almost escaped the coronavirus pandemic, reporters asked questions about the historic depreciation of the yen.

Q.The yen is at a historic low. What is the impact on the industry?
<Shizuoka Model Teaching Materials Cooperative Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya>
“Exports and foreign products are based on dollars, so it’s definitely cheaper in Japan. It’s good because the quality is good and it’s cheap. However, the Japanese domestic market is still a weak yen.” It’s very difficult, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. I thought things would get better now that the governor of the Bank of Japan has changed, but things are still as bad as ever.

Q. Is the weaker yen a positive thing for the model industry? Is it negative?
<Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya>
“Of course it’s negative. However, the coronavirus was not a headwind for our industry. On the contrary, it’s a follow-up window. However, from now on, life will become difficult. The model industry is all small and medium-sized enterprises, so it will have an impact. There’s no way they won’t. That’s why I want them to stop this trend of yen depreciation.”

Q. Is it because domestic people’s wallet strings are tight that is a negative for the industry?
<Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya>
“I’m sure you’re adamant, of course. I’m not just saying that people will buy the model because the yen is weak. But the yen is too weak. That’s what it is.”

Q. How can the model industry overcome this crisis?
<Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya>
“Companies in the same industry are doing this in their own ways. The factory that Tamiya opened in the Philippines in October last year can operate at full capacity with 500 people at night and 500 people during the day. This is not possible in Japan. 500 people are working at full capacity at night. We’re taking measures for each of them. In our case, it’s fine, but it’s still better if the yen isn’t weak.

In October 2023, Tamiya started operation of a new factory of its manufacturing subsidiary “Tamiya Philippines” in Cebu province. At the hobby show venue, a model of the new factory is also on display along with panels explaining the new factory. This new factory is important not because of the weak yen, but because we are looking at future global expansion and ensuring a stable supply of products.

Q.What is your intention in holding workshops for children?
<Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya>
“Governor of Kawakatsu Prefecture, who recently resigned from School Children’s Day (a day for inviting elementary, junior high, and high school students), made the decision for us, but we were hit by a blind spot. Children in Shizuoka need more models. I thought I was making things, but I wasn’t. I want them to develop the habit of making things with their own hands.”

Q.What changes in children when they make things with their hands?
<Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya>
“Please see it once. You can’t understand how excited I was to see the model I made running. I was in the 5th grade of elementary school when the war ended. I made the motor myself (from materials) and used dry batteries. I was so satisfied when I hooked it up and started swinging it. Even at this age, I can’t forget that.

The “elementary, junior high, and high school student invitation day” during the hobby show was started as an idea by Shizuoka Prefecture Governor Heita Kawakatsu (retiring on May 9th). This is an opportunity for children in Shizuoka Prefecture to deepen their understanding of the local industry of plastic models through hands-on plastic model production experiences.

Q. Do you feel there is a possibility that the overseas market will expand in the future?
<Chairman Shunsaku Tamiya>
“It’s expanding. However, it depends on the manufacturer. I went to America when I was 31 years old, and I’ve done it every year for over 10 years. I leave on January 20th and come back in March. I studied a lot of things overseas, and the conclusion I came to was that “Japan is a small country.” Another problem is that “Japanese people also think small.”

“Don’t think about Japan in terms of Japan. Think about it from overseas. That’s why people from other countries came here to get people to come here. It took 65 years to get to this point. I’m 89 years old now. Yes, I will do my best! Thank you.”

In 2023, Chairman Tamiya answered reporters’ questions while sitting on a chair, but in 2024, he stood for a 15-minute interview. He sometimes answers reporters’ questions with sharp tongues and “Shunsaku-bushi,” and even at the age of 89, it seems that his power has not diminished, but has even increased.

Chairman Tamiya concluded the question from SBS with the reassuring words, “We will continue to do our best!” The legend of the plastic model world will continue to lead the hobby industry in Shizuoka, Japan, and the world.

Source in Japanese language: Shizuoka Shimbun SBS