Model Shop: Tamiya Plamodel Factory, Tokyo

Location: Minato, Shinbashi, Tokyo

I happened to visit Tokyo recently and naturally I had to visit some of the scale model hobby shops in that city.  In this blog posting, I shall take you on a pictorial tour of the shop with me.

Note that I emphasis ‘scale model’ when I talk about hobby shops in Asia, particularly Japan, because there are numerous hobby shops/toy shops in Tokyo and many are tailored towards Gundams and sexy Anime figures, trains, etc.  In that sense then there are not too many really good shops for scale modelling.  However, there are some and Tamiya’s flagship store in Tokyo is one of them.

The shop is located in the Shinbashi (新橋) district.  It is a corner building right on Shinbashi 4E street.  See map below.  Since it is relatively close to Tsukiji Market, I planned my trip that day by visiting both locales.  It was a pleasant 35-40 minutes walk from Tsukiji Market to the hobby shop on a sunny day.  One could take the train there of course, but I didn’t want the hassle of switching train lines and I could use the walk to see the city.

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The shop normally opens from 12:00 to 22:00.  I got there too early and that afforded me time to enjoy a nice bowl of ramen beforehand.

I had great expectations for this shop as this is Tamiya’s flagship shop in Tokyo.  I thought I could visit this and see all the Tamiya stuff and happily die there.  The shop is undeniably clean and professional looking.   The staffs are in clean tidy uniform and very polite and professional.   Indeed this is a temple for the Tamiya brand.

As I walked in, my eyes are quickly affixed to the glass display cases filled with completed models; such ode to joy.  The first models to greet me were Tamiya’s latest wonder kit, the F-14A:  They were nicely finished.

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This shop only sells Tamiya or Tamiya related products.   Don’t expect to find GWH or Airfix here.  The shop is divided into two floors: The main floor is for scale model cars, ships, planes, armour, books, and supplies; while a basement is dedicated to RC cars and tracked racing cars.

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Downstairs to the RC and tracked cars floor
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Tracked cars section in the basement.  The kid is wondering why this man is taking a picture of me???
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RC cars in the basement

The main floor for static display models are well stocked, as far as I can tell for aircraft, with all the Tamiya kits in production at this time of writing.  I would have to assume this is also true for the cars, motorbikes, ships, and armour kits.  The aisles of shelfs are set spaciously apart with ample pot lights illuminating the products.

As far as price goes, I decided not to buy any kits in Japan unless I’m desperate for it because Japan has a 8% VAT tax, and I noted that, for example, the new 1:32 F4U-1D kit is selling for ¥12580 ($153 CDN, incl VAT at exchange rate) but I saw the same kit in Hong Kong selling for $110 CDN with no tax!  

I was most impressed by the ample nice display cases of finished models to entice and show off the finished Tamiya products.  Aside from having a good selection of kits and supplies, a good model shop should always have sufficient good quality built models on display.  This shop has plenty to spare!   The model displays are professionally set up by marketing people with neat and cute commentaries and sometime with photos of the modeller that built the models.  The armour and figure models are particularly well done. I think it is a wonderful touch for them to display a finished model next to the new kits that they are selling.   A testament to the etiquette of the Japanese people when a beautifully finished model is displayed openly on a shelf and it is not touched or damaged by the customers.  I can imagine what it would be like if Mr. Bean was in the store…..

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Open display of a finished 1:48 F-14A next to the kits and a new book on building the Tamiya F-14A.
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A sign of good marketing to display a finished product next to the kits for sale.  No, Mr. Bean is not allowed in the store please.

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Another fine example of good product marketing display. Yes, it took much of my self control to not pick up this car kit when I saw the finished product.

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Take note of this series of How-To books. Too bad it is all Japanese writing. Some interesting skills are shown in there.

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Spare parts such as figures are bagged and sold.
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Spare decals for some kits are for sale.
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Nice display for bikes and neat signature display for the ships
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A nice touch when the modeller’s photo and profile is shown professionally next to the display.

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I enjoyed this trip in the Tamiya store in Tokyo.  It set another high bar for me on what a professional model shop should look like.   I got to see some fine models done by Japanese modellers.  I was tempted to buy a model but I know the limit of spare space in my lugage.  It was just as well I didn’t as I have more hobby shops to visit on this trip.  So, if you are ever in Tokyo, do make a trip to visit this store.  Just explain to your wife (or partner) that ‘..but its on the way to Tsukiji Market, Honey Bunch.’

Wayne Hui

 

 

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